The consumerization of IT brings companies like HP and RIM into competition with Apple for enterprise customers, which brings sex appeal into the equation for enterprise vendors in a big way. Leo Apotheker, CEO of HP, told the BBC “I hope one day people will say ‘this is as cool as HP,’ not ‘as cool as Apple.'” That would be a pretty big shift for both HP and for Apotheker. Before joining HP, he was the CEO of SAP, a company that’s practically the antithesis of sexy.

But Apotheker isn’t alone in the quest to make the enterprise sexy. Last year CEO Aaron Levie authored a guest post at TechCrunch called “Enterprise Software Is Sexy Again.” Levie wrote:

Palantir is like the Jack Bauer of business software, helping to prevent terrorism and predict the spread of infectious diseases. Fortune 500 companies use to collaborate on billions of dollars in transactions, streamline national advertising campaigns, and help build new space shuttles (seriously, space shuttles). Cloudera is helping big businesses solve their biggest data challenges. Jive is building a meaningfully large business by bringing social into the enterprise, and just raised another $30M to do so. Zuora is reinventing customer subscriptions and payments, and has quickly grown to manage more than $1 billion in subscription revenue. These companies – along with Workday, PBWorks, Asana, Rypple, Salesforce, and dozens of others – are tackling big problems and even bigger markets, placing a premium on innovation, and building cultures around product execution rather than pure sales. And by doing so, they’re making enterprise software sexy (yes, I’m going to use this word a lot in this post, prepare yourself).

Levie makes a good case as to why so many smart people are starting enterprise startups instead of consumer startups today, and why the enterprise software space is more interesting now than it was a few years ago. But here’s a question: is this really what enterprise decision makers want?

Photo by Shereen M