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Big changes ahead for tech in 2011

At this time of the year it is usual for those who write about technology to forecast the major changes they see in the coming year. Sometimes these predictions are useful, but most often than not they are based on underlying trends already apparent, and not on any huge insight into what is going to be hot.Not many people predicted the iPad or Wikileaks, for example. TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld got it right last year about 2010 being the year of the tablet computer. He also predicted geolocation devices would come into their own, as I did, but we can put that prediction off until next year, or 2012.There are many smart phones and other devices with the ability to use GSM networks or GPS to locate where you may be at any given time, but usage has not progressed much beyond that of the common vehicle locator.Geolocation will come to the fore when people start trusting companies and social networking sites enough to leverage location for interacting with others. Mapping companies also have to provide affordable maps that provide accurate information about sidewalks, stairs and building interiors, for example.Cloud computing was also supposed to be a big game changer in 2010, allowing businesses to move to a new and more efficient IT model. This forecast is underway but has not quite happened in the kind of mass adoption predicted.Perhaps the hot topic for next year will be the issue of net neutrality. It's a phrase you better get used to as what is happening in the US will affect your ability to use the internet, or rather your pocketbook. The US telecoms regulator has recently indicated that it plans to allow a two-speed internet, at least on mobile devices, where providers will be allowed to charge extra for certain high-bandwidth sites.The Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org), which monitors internet regulation, privacy and digital rights, now says its 2010 prediction on the issue was curtailed by events - and the courts.“It seems we overestimated how much the Federal Communications Commission would be able to accomplish,” the EFF stated on December 27. “Last week, a year after receiving the first round of public comments (in which EFF participated) on the Net neutrality rules proposed by the FCC in 2009, the Commissioners approved a final set of regulations by which the FCC determines to govern the internet…We'll be watching to see what 2011 holds; it seems likely that the new Congress will have something to say as well.”The EFF has a lovely animated review of 2010 and will release its predictions for 2011 soon.If you have the cash, you can always pay the $500 or so for one of Gartner's reports on trends. That's the cost of just one of the 2011 prediction reports, which promise to highlight “how the use of technology is changing and how those who use that technology must also respond to change”.An outline of one of the reports forecasts that business leaders will demand “greater visibility of the linkage between IT investments and business results”. There are quite good outlines of the reports available on the site (www.gartner.co).However, Gartner promises deeper insights, much deeper, if you want more than the free outlines and a webinar. The consultancy's 2011 predictions span 66 market, topic and industry areas, with 300 predictions in total.Whew. I think I will stick with the free and their surprising “strategic planning assumptions”, for which you will mostly have to wait for 2015. Watch out for:l A G20 nation's critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage.l New revenue generated each year by IT will determine the annual compensation of most new Global 2000 CIOs.l Information-smart businesses will increase recognised IT spending per head by 60 percent.l Tools and automation will eliminate 25 percent of labour hours associated with IT services.l Most external assessments of enterprise value and viability will include explicit analysis of IT assets and capabilities.l 80 percent of enterprises using external cloud services will demand independent certification that providers can restore operations and data.l 20 percent of non-IT Global 500 companies will be cloud service providers.l Companies will generate 50 percent of web sales via their social presence and mobile applications.l 90 percent of organisations will support corporate applications on personal devices.l 80 percent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets.l 10 percent of your online “friends” will be nonhuman.Looking forward to a 2011, and human friends.See you in 2011 and I hope all the trends go your way. Stay safe and private.Send any comments to elamin.ahmed[AT]gmail.com