Seven Technology Predictions for 2012 and Beyond

2011 was a remarkable year, what with the extraordinary weather patterns, more than the usual worldwide political turmoil, and national apprehension over the delicate state of our economy. During times like these, people tend to increase their need to communicate, to give and get information, to reach out to their friends, family, community, and the world. It’s all about information flow. As 2012 begins, my predictions for technology are all about communication and the information stream. Technology in 2012 and beyond will significantly shift and enhance the exchange of information for people and for enterprise organizations.

1. Corporations adopt social networking as a primary communication tool.

No longer just for the younger crowd, the impact of social media will continue to increase. The act of social networking and its corresponding sites is comparable to the introduction of email in the business environment a decade or so ago. It is truly amazing just how quickly a ground swell can be raised over a social event. Just look at how rapidly the November 5th, Bank Transfer Day was organized — or the mounting support for the Occupy Wall Street movements. Far beyond keeping in touch with family and friends, social networks have been influential in organizing popular social and music events, exposing on-the-scene political riots, and helping release people who were incarcerated overseas.

Business executives, employees, and home users keep in contact through Facebook or other social sites, blurring the line between work and social boundaries. In many cases, these social networking sites are used to share insights, news, results, and other information that would normally be on a bulletin board or mass e-mail. Many companies today actively pursue social networking collaboration technologies to further their communication reach at much reduced costs. In some cases, you may receive a discount by “Liking” a business.

2. Death of the laptop?

The laptop will never truly disappear, but for many business users, a tablet will more than suffice. After all, the majority of work done on business laptops is accessing and reading email, using business applications, and playing Angry Birds, and not necessarily in this order. Today you can control many household appliances and services through your smart device — even going as far as locking your car. You can use your smart device as a virtual wallet, it can serve as your boarding pass for aircraft — who knows, and maybe the smart device may spell the end of our wallets as well!

3. The “To the Cloud” movement continues.

“To the Cloud” — that is going to be THE mantra this year and will certainly be more pervasive and louder in the years to come. The cloud solutions advantages are many — reduced infrastructure costs, ease of growth, and providing a consistent experience for local and remote users. In cloud computing, businesses pay for only the resources that they consume. Businesses that host services and applications in the cloud improve overall computer utilization rates, as servers are running at or near full capacity from clients connecting remotely.

4. The need for virtualization skills will grow exponentially.

Virtualization means moving multiple physical servers to a virtual machine environment. Virtualization vendors such as Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft make it possible for companies to improve the efficiency and availability of IT resources and applications. Virtualization is being adopted by companies of all sizes as a means to reduce costs through consolidation of servers and lower cooling requirements. This is one area that is going to be very interesting to watch in 2012 — especially due to the dynamics among Cisco, Microsoft, and VMware. There is no doubt that the demand for skills in this arena will grow exponentially.

5. The days of owning software are numbered.

You don’t need to look too hard to see that SaaS (Software as a Service) is the wave of the future. Just look at the model used by Blizzard and other game companies. You buy the game and then pay a monthly fee for the privilege of playing the game online as well. Now, carry this forward to the major software vendors. They must be dreaming of the revenue stream when customers no longer just buy the software but pay a monthly access fee. There may be an advantage from a user perspective. Instead of not buying a software package, they may be able to rent it for a period of time.

6. Real bandwidth to the household.

A New York Times report ranked the United States 26th in the world when it comes to internet access speed. According to a report from Pando networks, the US had an average of 4.93 Mbps speed to the household. In contrast, South Korea (#1) has an average of 17.62, Romania (#2) has an average of 15.27 Mbps, and Bulgaria (#3) had an average of 12.89 Mbps. As an example — Finland passed a law that entitles every person to a 1 Mbps connection (supposed to rise to 100 Mbps by 2015). The US is also increasing bandwidth available. This must be addressed if the US is to continue to compete.

7. The rise of streaming media.

What, pray tell, do you mean by streaming? Netflix had the right idea in streaming movies to the home. Now think about for this for other items as well. Streaming of TV to smart devices — you can watch your favorite show on the commute home. In those areas where cable is either not available (or does not provide the content at a cost that is acceptable), satellite TV and radio made huge inroads. The satellite streams the content to our TVs, computers, and other devices (including refrigerators).

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