Will cloud computing finally stick and can the iconic iPhone keep its crown?
Looking into a crystal ball and putting your money on the ones to watch in the technology space can be hit and miss. But if we abide by Occam’s razor, the principle that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, then the picture becomes clearer when it comes to the hardware, software and services businesses should be investing in this year.
What could be simpler than knowing that people like to communicate, business is becoming more mobile and saving money is of the essence in 2009?
All paths lead to cloud computing – hailed as the darling of last year, but hopefully the workhorse of this one. The technology world was abuzz with cloud computing for the past 12 months, but it did seem to be all talk and little action – why was this the case and why will this year be the year of the cloud?
When it comes to trusting a hosting provider with your data, or using web-based applications for your productivity, the switch can seem daunting, but the recession will move firms out of their comfort zone and encourage them to trust, says Ed Byrne, general manager of Hosting 365.
“Simply put, cloud computing is putting server space on the web in a scalable way. The standard metric is most of the time only 15pc of servers are utilised, while the rest goes wasted because scaling up to 100pc usually only happens at certain times, like Monday mornings or near Christmas,” explains Byrne.
Server utilisation in the cloud is much better in terms of cost saving because you can use it like electricity and scale up when needed – a kind of pay-as-you-go model for business needs.
“Years ago, before access to the national grid, many businesses and homes had their own generators. Cloud computing versus having your own servers is analogous to this. What a massive amount of overkill.”
What will make 2009 the year of the cloud, says Byrne, is that the economic downturn will give businesses a reason to switch over for cost savings and, in time, trusting the cloud with data will be accepted.
“The Eighties, with IBM, were about the PC and the early Nineties were about software with Microsoft, then came Google with the web. The fourth base will be cloud computing and it will be mainstream by 2011.”
What of green IT? Byrne says that it could be an also-ran this year, but for the cost-saving benefits of going carbon neutral – another knock-on effect of the downturn.
In terms of the more social side of the web, Paul Excell, chief customer innovation officer for BT, says that this will be the year that social networking really evolves beyond the casual user, with Facebook and beyond purely connections-based networks such as LinkedIn.
“It is going to be about a corporate kind of Facebook, where colleagues can share information at work without having to use something like Facebook, and the next generation of 20–30 year olds expect to be able to do this type of stuff because it comes naturally to them,’ says Excell.
He explains that networks like BTtradespace.com will also create a new kind of online business culture.
Social networking will also continue to evolve beyond these sites as innovative platforms such as micro-blogging service Twitter go supernova.
What first began as a specialist site with technology influencers, such as Tim O’Reilly, is slowly giving rise to a new form of customer relations. With big companies including Dell engaging in this way, 2009 will be about service with a tweet.
However, while online collaboration and cloud computing continue to grow, the one big trend there is no escaping is the rise of the iPhone and in particular its iTunes App Store, which has already had over 300 million application downloads since its launch last July.
“This is impacting on the trend to converge and get data on to any device, it is something you will see more of this year. The iPhone and App Store has shown how relatively simple and straightforward it is to do this.
“This will drive a need for more cross-platform applications and an ease of mashing up these applications,” says Excell.
Beyond this, as more and more business productivity moves online, trust will again play a strong role in technology that will make waves this year.
“A lot of businesses will be focusing on the security and trust side of things – making sure everything is trustworthy and honing in on customer service,” says Excell.
“As people and firms consume and produce more data that is web-based on mobile devices tracking will become increasingly important.
“As much as society relies on law and order, the same goes for the internet with trust and security, and the businesses that will succeed are the ones that are known to be trustworthy.”