Martin’s Weblog

I Never make Predictions and Never Will: IT Predictions For 2009

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future I see network effects creating exponential growth in certain areas and it is on these areas I have focused on below.

Cloud Applications Get Very, Very Good

Google Apps became serious in 2008 and improved as the year passed – they demonstrate the potential of on-line applications with new abilities that come naturally from being on-line (collaboration, web integration and data lookup), platform neutrality (work on Mac, Linux, Microsoft) and are free!

In 2009 Microsoft will be releasing some form of on-line application – the probable result will be to validate the model and expand the market. Microsoft’s activities will be influential and important to bring the cloud to the awareness of mainstream users. The next version of Office is expected to have “cloud additions” like Office Live – which allows you to store and share files in the cloud but you still need local Microsoft application software to use them -Software plus Service (Microsoft software plus Internet service). This approach is useful -Microsoft will be able to sell software (and this would be a compelling upgrade) and the “normal” Office user will get cloud access within the comfort zone of their familiar Office environment – the common Microsoft extend and embrace strategy. More interesting will be the browser based Microsoft office that is due out in 2009 although Microsoft say it will offer “light editing” of office files many expect it to be a very slick operator.

We need competition in the cloud but the scale and resources required needs major investment and infrastructure – competition in this area really needs to be among the really big companies (apologies to Zoho who have a very extensive and nice cloud suite). The competition between Google and Microsoft will be good for cloud applications and the expectation is that Google have major improvements planned as a response to Microsoft’s moves.

Although Google apps are already very good my expectation is that by the end of 2009 cloud applications will be very, very good.

Lifestreaming Becomes Mainstream

During 2008 Twitter achieved its billionth message (tweet) went exponential and was adopted almost everywhere e.g. in  Government, Politics, business.  Like many major developments Twitter is relatively simple and this is what has driven its growth – it is easy to start, easy to use, easy to use in different ways and is highly extendable, for example the Twitter API carries 10 times the traffic of the visible Twitter site – this is used by 3rd party twitter user interfaces but also for systems interfaces – e.g. to feed into Facebook. A suggestion of what of what to expect is the way web sites and blogs are now embedding twitter streams and for a change Twitter themselves even produced Twitter badges to assist with this. Increasing participation is speeding up the Internet and simple lifestreaming systems like twitter give people a foot in the door and an important presence in a “Global Village” of 1.5 Billion that is growing at 20% per year. Whenever I come across someone I expect them to have Net presence – I expect them to have a Lifestreaming and a Blog. Network effects are important and as more people use Lifestreaming and Twitter in particular the more important it will become and the bigger it will become.

Devices Get And Use Senses

The Graphical User Interface (GUI) enriched and enhanced computing – it liberated us from the command line with a more natural mode of working and allowed “normal” people to work with computers. However, the very success of the GUI has blinkered our vision of other approaches.  As computers permeate our everyday lives and environments they need to be more responsive to our daily lives and environments. The Wii and the iPhone – both are less powerful in hardware terms than similar products but both have been wildly successful due to the new way they interact with the user and the environment and both have brought in a new set of users. The Google Mobile App for iPhone is already pretty amazing but even more suggests what will be possible. Consider the impressive list of interfaces already present on the iPhone – location (GPS), visual (screen, camera), audio (speaker, microphone), touch, tilt, proximity, vibration – we should expect further exploitation of these. Other manufacturers will be seeking to catch up and improve upon the iPhone – I think we will see some very impressive sensory applications for mobile devices in 2009 – I’m looking forward to be able to talk to and listen to the net e.g. “Phone – is there a traffic problem around here” and have it search traffic reports in my location and respond “yes – burst water main 1 mile ahead” for example. Microsoft tag and Amazon’s iPhone application suggest some ways in which we can use sensors in our smartphones. 

The Web Gets More Programmable

With the web getting more participative information is generated at a higher speed and in greater quantities – tools to manage and cope are essential and those tools need to get smarter – this could be more a wish than a prediction but there are signs that smarter tools (agents) will become available to us. The “ecology” developing around Twitter gives some good examples. Twitter provides only a simple web interface but the Twitter API is heavily exploited by third parties to provide a huge range of applications based around Twitter. These applications indicate what can be done for users –  Twitchboard which listens to your twitter account, and forwards messages on to other internet services based on what it hears or Shozu which provides a system to integrate many of your services from your mobile.  The more adventurous user may like to try Microsoft’s simple MASH creator Popfly while more advanced users may which to try Yahoo Pipes, the Yahoo Application Platform, Google App engine  or Microsoft’s Azure to create their own applications like this Twitter search using Google App engine or this Twitter search using Microsoft Azure. By the end of 2009 I am expecting to see more people using RSS, Integration services and even programming services.

Netbooks Go Massive

Small used to mean expensive but now small means affordable – the combination of economic problems and the need for mobility means that netbooks will be overwhelmingly popular – everyone I meet just loves them. The Asus Eee was like the punks who set a new fashion trend which was appropriated by the major fashion houses so that it became mainstream, now every manufacturer offers netbooks and there is now more of a continuum of models from the smallest to the largest so that the concept of netbook starts t lose meaning – is a 12in netbook really a netbook?

The Cloud Goes Massive

In the same way that mobile phones are given away as part of a network contract we see computers being given away as part of Internet contracts for what use is a computer without a network these days? With the Economic problems people will be choosing between computing (local compute power and applications) and networking – cloud computing is there at the right time to offer a solution with free (or relatively cheap) cloud services with free (or relatively cheap) local computing. Network effects will expend the cloud – as more people use it the more useful it becomes and the more people use it. Microsoft’s development of their Cloud services (Live), Office and Windows 7 will all “legitimise” the cloud for mainstream users and expand the market further.

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January 11, 2009 - Posted by | ICT, predictions | ,

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