Year-End Technology Thoughts

Tuesday Dec 23rd 2014 by Rob Enderle
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2014 brought a lot of changes to the technology industry, but 2015 (and 2016) could bring even more.

We are approaching the end of 2014, and there are a huge number of changes coming in 2015. For my last piece for this year, let’s talk about the year that was and the year that is coming.

SecOps Was Born

A new category of enterprise software linking security and operations was born this year. The cause was the increase in unusual and very damaging attacks on the enterprise. This showcased a huge problem: right now IT and Security don’t work well together. The attacks are driving a change, forcing the two groups to cooperate much more closely in order to better prevent the kinds of problems that Heartbleed and the Sony hack created.

While BMC is leading in this category at the moment, I expect it to broaden to other firms quickly and lead to deeper alliances between systems management software companies and security companies over time.

The PC Came back to Life

We spent most of the first part of the decade talking about the death of the PC, but in 2014 the PC came back with a vengeance. And tablets weakened, surprising pretty much everyone. Largely driven by Dell Lenovo, HP, Intel and Microsoft, suddenly what was dead was undead. Life and revenue flowed freely as people decided the tablets they had were good enough, and the PCs they had needed to be replaced.

Phablets Went Mainstream

Large phones, which had always been kind of a bad joke prior to this year, went mainstream in 2014 with the help of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus launch, which validated the segment. Samsung was also clearly a major early driver of this size change, but it took Apple getting on board to make it real.

IBM + Apple

Speaking of Apple, one of the most surprising alliances in the year was between Apple and IBM. The companies had partnered badly in the past, and Steve Jobs had a deep and well-publicized hatred for IBM. Tim Cook had a very different view, and they have already launched ten applications.

However, real benefits likely won’t result until Apple builds hardware that better meets IT and IBM security requirements, and IBM Cloud services start hosting Apple Cloud services. These moves should highlight the true power of this relationship.

Subject Matter Expert CEOs

Both AMD and Microsoft demonstrated the power of switching to subject matter expert CEOs. This helped AMD pivot to provide more customized processors to a vastly larger number of customers.

At Microsoft, the change was even more pronounced. The firm quickly moved from appearing like it was standing still and churning to competing heavily again. They are moving quickly to reverse many of the bad decisions that were made over the last decade.

It is interesting to note that both CEOs' predecessors actually set the stage for this success prior to their departure but likely won't get the credit for the huge improvements in both firms expected this year and next.

We should remember this lesson this time.

2015

Looking ahead, I think there are some rather interesting things coming.

Blend of Physical and Electronic Terrorism

Up until now, physical and electronic terrorism have been very separate. The people that attacked electronically stole information and defaced websites but generally didn't blow folks up.

However with the Sony hack escalating to physical threats likely sourced out of North Korea, there is a very high likelihood that physical and electronic attacks will happen more in concert going forward. This will force tighter integration between physical security, IT and operations to mitigate these threats.

Head-Mounted Cameras

While Google Glass almost killed the segment before it was born, we will likely see more vertically focused offerings in 2015, particularly for law enforcement, which has received massive funding for projects like this. Right now, many cameras are placed on their chests, but these don’t show what the officer sees. In a shooting incident, chest-mounted cameras might miss what actually happened.

In addition, the ability to get instruction or visibly share problems via head-mounted cameras will make workers from techs to manufacturing line employees far more productive.

Invasion of the Robots

I think 2015 will be the year robots start to move broadly across markets. From self-driving cars to manufacturing line robots and even more advanced robotic systems for the home, we will likely start to feel we are up to our armpits in these things.

Advances in defense technology are rolling out autonomous platforms like drones relatively quickly as well. I expect we’ll have our first major robotic catastrophe either next year or in 2016 as a result of not really being ready for this robotic invasion.

3D Printing

3D printing is already moving very rapidly, but even though you can now buy 3D printers in Best Buy and Home Depot, they are mostly going to geeky buyers in small numbers. (Home Depot is reporting significant dissatisfaction with this technology and returns.)

In 2015, we should see this technology move more strongly to manufacturing lines and into fast prototyping environments.

Thin Clients

Chromebooks from Google and Dell are the biggest drivers of this technology now. They will likely get one additional driver in Microsoft, which will more aggressively respond to the Chromebook threat in 2015, while HP slowly backs out of this market due to the separation of their client and server businesses. Dell is expected to emerge as the strongest end-to-end player, but firms like Mainframe 2 and Amazon Web Services should also strengthen to provide centralized services. They will likely be joined by Microsoft as they more aggressively position Azure for this opportunity.

Wireless Everything

From a much greater focus on wireless connections to TVs and monitors to the rapid spread of resonance charging over a distance, 2015 should represent the first year we truly have solutions that are "wireless." Intel is the most aggressive driver of this change now, but they will be joined by others as products that have this capability will enjoy a huge competitive advantage.

Wrapping Up: 2015, A Year of Massive Change

A lot happened in 2014, but it will be overshadowed by the massive amount of change expected in 2015.

One of the biggest changes is that I believe Carly Fiorina will enter the presidential race, forcing both parties in the U.S. to focus more on tech issues to respond to the threat she represents. If she can use technology as effectively as President Obama did, she could be a strong advocate for data analytics, which has been flooding into the market this year and was already identified as one of the primary reasons for the wins in the last two elections.

It'll be an amazing year. But I bet, as powerful as 2015 will be, it will be overwhelmed by 2016. We certainly live in interesting times.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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