2007: Top Software Trends--Vista, Virtualization
Many of the software trends that percolated in the industry in 2006 will gather more steam in 2007, but several stand out as contenders to change the game for the market in the new year. Below are some of the key software trends to watch for in 2007.
Just when you thought it was over, the chatter surrounding Microsoft's long-delayed Windows client update has only just begun. 2007 will be a crucial year for the OS, which will finally make its mainstream debut to consumers at the end of January. Microsoft, its hardware and component partners and Wall Street will be keeping a keen eye on customer adoption of Vista to see if it really was worth the wait. 2007 also may be the year Apple Computer's Mac OS could gain more mass appeal among users that in the past might have bought a Windows PC, giving Vista its first real competition in ages. The competition can be attributed to two things. One, Apple now offers Intel chip-based PCs that are less expensive than previous Apple computers and thus a more viable option for the average PC user. Secondly, more consumers seem to be catching on to the fact that the Mac OS is -- and has always been -- more cutting-edge, attractive and just so much more fun to use than Windows.
Software As A Service (SAAS)
As Google and SAAS pioneer Salesforce.com continue to be financial successes, other companies begin sending out software that has traditionally been sold in packages to customers over the Web. Microsoft may soon be joining the fray, and in fact is steadily building out its Web-based service business under the direction of Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie. Indeed, many believe Vista will be the last packaged-software version of Windows as Microsoft eventually will begin offering new versions of the OS over the Web. Keep an eye on less packaged software and more SAAS offerings from other traditional players in 2007 as well, including Oracle and SAP AG.
Enterprises will continue to adopt this software, which enables more than one OS to run side-by-side on a single server. Nearly every major hardware and software vendor -- from IBM to Intel to Microsoft to virtualization giant VMWare -- has a vested interest in virtualization, and expect its use to become more pervasive in 2007. However, as that happens, virtualization -- along with related sever technology that contains multiple processors -- will change the game for how software and hardware is priced, setting the stage for new pricing models across the industry.
Business Intelligence (BI)
Giving enterprises more insight into the factors that affect their business is becoming an increasing focus for enterprise software companies, which is why business intelligence itself is a growing market. With Microsoft gradually building out its business intelligence portfolio, pure plays like Business Objects SA and Cognos are getting nervous that their partnerships with the vendor are about to be cannibalized. Unfortunately for them, they are probably right, and by the end of 2007, the competitive landscape in BI will look different than it does today.
Windows Vista won't be the only major software package to hit the streets from Microsoft in 2007 -- a new and improved version of Office is expected to be on retail shelves at the end of January. But as Microsoft repositions its revamped worker productivity suite as a business intelligence and collaboration tool, keep an eye on online competitors from Google and others to see if they begin loosening Office's stranglehold on the market. The new partnership between Microsoft and Novell also will be a factor in this space, as Novell plans to support Microsoft's Office document format in its version of the open-source OpenOffice suite by the end of January. This will allow users of OpenOffice to better send and receive files from Microsoft Office users, making the key open-source alternative to Microsoft Office a more viable option for the mainstream user.
Service-Oriented Architectures (SOAs)
SOAs have been making "technology to watch" lists for several years running, yet the IT architecture, which is based on the idea of linking independent applications as services in a network to create custom composite applications, is still in its earliest stages of adoption. Expect enterprise companies to continue getting their feet wet by adopting SOA projects to solve specific needs in their businesses, and expect companies such as IBM, SAP, BEA Systems and Microsoft to continue to trumpet their software products as the best ones to use as the underlying infrastructure for those projects.