Trends for 2011 and Beyond

 Posted by on Dec 22, 2010  Add comments
Dec 222010

Every year the Cutter Trends Council attempts to come up with the biggest trends for the next 12 months. Unfortunately, this is an almost-impossible task, akin to forecasting the stock market for the next 6 or 12 months. Long range trends, on the other hand, are much easier to forecast. For example, there were a number of economists and brokers who forecast the recent recession (the one we’re still in) but hardly any were able to accurately forecast that it would occur in the early Fall of 2008.

What is true of forecasting economic trends is also true of Business-IT trends. It has been clear for decades that the retirement of the “baby boomers” in North America would cause a lot of problems in great many large (and small) organizations, but what no one could have accurately predicted was that the deteriorating economy and the critical demand for certain classes of older workers would keep them working long beyond what had been the norm.

But even though the Cutter Trends Council won’t nail exactly when our trends will kick in, we’re going to give it a try—here’s mine.

Trend No.1 – In 2011, there will be a serious interest in redesigning the Internet and Internet security and large enterprises everywhere will have to starting thinking about how this is likely to affect them.

It has been obvious for a long time now that Internet security was going to be a major worldwide problem. As we all know, the original Internet had been designed for the kinder, gentler world of the late 1960s — all we had to worry about was nuclear destruction. The original Internet was conceived as a research project, not the backbone of the most critical international computer/communication infrastructure for literally billions of people.

When (1) the Internet was coupled with (2) a generation of limited operating systems created for enormously limited personal computers, (3) communication networks were pushed beyond their limits and (4) an increasingly sophisticated worldwide community of dedicated hackers exploded, what resulted was (5) a security environment resembling a giant Rube Goldberg machine. As threats became more serious, computer/network security experts predicted a whole range of dire consequences — and they were spot on. What wasn’t clear was when the problem would become so serious that people in positions of power would begin to take the problem seriously. As it turned out, that year was 2010.

Over the last 9 months, we have been able to peek under the cloak of Internet Secrecy only to find that there are massive holes everywhere. In 2010, there were numerous events that caused the world to pay attention:

  1. the attack by hackers on strategic sites in the US,
  2. the “flash crash” of the electronic stock market,
  3. the Stuxnet worm attack on Iranian nuclear facilities,
  4. the rerouting of a significant percentage of all Internet traffic to Chinese Internet sites, and
  5. the WikiLeaks retaliation

The cumulative effect of these events has finally evoked serious responses from a number of powerful organizations around the world, including the US Government, the US DoD, Google, and the Indian Government/IT industry. Recently, each of these organizations has expressed its intention to create more secure Internet designs and more secure operating environments.

My prediction is that in the next year or two we will see industry and government groups around the world begin to create much more sophisticated security environments. I predict that the confidential work that has been going on in secret for some time will become more public, and more and more thought leaders will admit that the current approach cannot be fixed.

Trend No. 2 – Google’s Cloud-based Operating System will begin to push individuals and organizations away from the current PC-based work environment

There is a tendency to over-emphasize the short-run and minimize the long-run impacts of important technologies. That is clearly true of net-centric computing. Net-based computers have been seriously proposed for over a decade, but have never really materialized. Now, Google’s Chrome-based netbook entry promises to be a game changer. Google developers have already proven that they can develop serious operating systems with their Chrome browser and Android operating system. Now they are moving toward cloud-based computing for billions of people around the world.

Google’s Chrome OS vision is perhaps best understood by examining the differences between Chrome OS and the operating systems commonly used today, says Sundar Pichai, the vice president of product management for Chrome OS (and the related Chrome Web browser). Those differences come from a single design decision about the relationship between a person and his computer, Pichai says.

Operating systems today are centered on the idea that applications can be trusted to modify the system, and that users can be trusted to install applications that are trustworthy,” he says, “it turns out those are bad assumptions.’

In contrast, Chrome OS assumes that applications and users can’t be trusted. And it has just one application: the browser. “There’s a cascade of things that happen when you make this core assumption,” says Linus Upson, a Google VP of engineering working on the project, from making it easier to protect against malware, to reducing the need for users to act as administrator for their own system.

(Excerpted from MIT Technology Review.)

Clearly, there a great many organizations that have a major stake in the current PC-based operating environment, especially Microsoft. However, the increasing power of network-based computing environments coupled with 4G/5G wireless networks and the long-term problems with Internet and current computer security systems has created an environment where radical new approaches are increasingly seen as necessary.

In the end, instead of “cloud/network computing” being a major security problem, cloud-based workstations may, in fact, be a serious improvement over the current Windows and Linux operating systems that run on most desktops and laptops. With the Chrome-based netbooks, Google proposes to create an operating environment in which there is complete isolation between the operating system and user functionality. The move to network computing is likely to catch enterprises by surprise, and be difficult to avoid.

Trend No.3 – New technology will enable the personal use of Supercomputers on the Cloud

The Cloud has been talked about by many as the future of IT operations. While most of this talk has been about using the Cloud to replace traditional enterprise computing, one area that has not been discussed much is the use of the Cloud to deliver supercomputing capabilities to the desktop.

Recently, however, Gamestring, a company devoted to supporting sophisticated multiplayer gaming on smartphones has demonstrated a tool called Adrenaline, which makes it possible for lightweight smartphones to become serious gaming platforms by streaming video from supercomputers to iPhones and Androids. This same technology, which couples “thin clients” with high speed wireless, promises to give everyone everywhere access to the most sophisticated computing engines from their desk, home, or airport lounge.

In the ancient era of timesharing (the 60s and 70s), the value proposition was “buy the smallest part of the largest (most powerful) computer available”; this is clearly a trend again, one that can put supercomputer power on very low power computers with high bandwidth communication.

Trend No. 4 – Apple will introduce a netbook (and call it something else)

The Apple iPad, as everyone knows, has been a great success. In the few months since its introduction it has sold millions and changed how millions of people interact with wireless computers. Again, as has been so often the case in the recent past, Apple has created a whole new market segment. However, while the iPad is pretty cool as an e-book reader, it doesn’t have a keyboard. Whenever I see someone with one on the road, they prop it up against something or use a special carrying case to awkwardly type on it. If there’s one thing that I have proven to myself, it’s that virtual keyboards don’t work all that well for real work.

Now, Apple already has the MacBook Air, a superthin, superlight device that has a keyboard, a cool screen, and solid state memory. Sooner or later, Apple (aka Steve Jobs), is going to create a notebook/netbook that is something like the Air with a rotating touch sensitive screen. (Perhaps like the Dell Duo or the Lenovo IdeaPad, which allow their devices to be used as both a netbook and a pad computer.) I predict that these devices will be the workhorses of the “teens”. This will result in a rush to create the thinnest, most lightweight device possible. My guess is that Apple will come up with a category-buster here again, but no one should overlook the Google Chrome Internet OS-based netbooks/tablets.

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series, compiled at the Cutter Consortium website.]


Ken Orr

Ken Orr is a Fellow of the Cutter Business Technology Council and Government & Public Sector practice and a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Data Insight & Social BI, Business Technology Strategies, and Business & Enterprise Architecture Practices.


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