Tech Trends 2010: Predictions for the Year Ahead

We asked six IT industry observers to offer their predictions for 2010 and to speculate on who will be the winners and losers in the coming year. Here are their thought-provoking responses.

Swamped by Personal Tech

PC sales in the corporate market have been very slow for some time. In fact, the average PC is nearly five years old. In the meantime,e-readers, smartphones, netbooks and consumer laptops have flooded into the market at aggressive price points. By the end of 2010, IT is likely to feel a bit overwhelmed by the growing number of employees at all levels who want help getting their personal tech to work with corporate resources.

-- Rob Enderle, principal analyst, Enderle Group

An End to Net Freebies

The Internet was a noncommercial environment for the first 30 years of its existence, establishing a core nonprofit ethic. 2010 will be the year this sort of "dumb" free will transition to "smart" free. Vendors will always have free "tastes," but they will increasingly position their best offerings behind caps, subscriptions and/or micropayments. Broadband services are likely to introduce caps of 50GB per month, after which extra charges will apply. Print media may first go bankrupt; then, eventually, the supply of high-quality content will be so restricted that users will gladly pay subscriptions.

-- Bo Parker, managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Center for Technology and Innovation

Facebook-Weary

We will see social networking fatigue, but savvy users will continue to use platforms to build their personal brands. For most people, updating Facebook gets tedious, and your "friends" really don't care which Hogwarts faculty member you are. Twitter takes a lot of work, although it can be a great personal brand-builder, with enough effort. LinkedIn is improving, mostly because of its Answers section; users can become well-regarded authorities in their subject areas by investing an hour or two per week posting thoughtful questions and responses. Plaxo? Please stop pestering me. You're too far down my social networking depth chart for me to spend any time with you.

-- Mike Dover, co-author of the upcoming book Wikibrands: How to Build a Brand in a Customer-Controlled Marketplace

Privacy Dies

Ten years ago, the privacy industry was booming. In 2010, we are on the cusp of having privacy voted off the "things we care about" island. Senior management will continue to be consumed by core issues of cost, value and brand differentiation. Sadly, the self-referential privacy community has not successfully translated its message into the language of business. More damaging to the long-term survivability of the privacy profession is the failure to understand and meaningfully engage the semi-nonexistent privacy concerns of next-generation leaders -- the millennials.

-- Thornton A. May, Computerworld columnist, longtime industry observer, management consultant and commentator

Slow to Staff Up

IT hiring will not pick up noticeably until late next year, and more likely 2011, despite GDP upturns and recovering stock prices in our nation's third straight year of economic instability. Expect the length of the tail on this staffing lag to be much longer than previous recoveries, with volatility punctuating IT pay levels and specialty skills demand as employers struggle to recalibrate their IT workforces by striking the right balance between costs, agility and intense competitive market pressures -- which is a moving target.

-- David Foote, CEO and chief research officer, Foote Partners LLC

Socially Savvy

While the concept of a social networking guru might seem quaint by 2013 (do you have a photocopier guru in your office?), there is an opportunity in 2010 for people who really understand how to make social networking happen within the enterprise. While there are still a lot of carpetbaggers and "gee-whiz" cheerleaders playing in this market, I still find that there are a lot of people who don't have a basic understanding of social networking and are reluctant to ask for help.

-- Mike Dover

Seeing Into the Future

Superman's X-ray vision will become a reality. Well, not quite, but close. The University of Utah has developed a way to look through building walls using a network of inexpensive radios. Fire departments will use these to find people inside burning buildings. Police will use them to track down criminals. Shopping malls, subways, sports arenas and other public places will use these systems to determine how individuals move around public spaces.

-- Bart Perkins, Computerworld columnist and managing partner at Leverage Partners Inc.

The Winners of 2010

IT Workers Who Breathe Social Networking

Social media may have started out as a fad, but it's quickly winning serious corporate converts. The search will intensify in 2010 for IT specialists who can engage audiences in their company's messages, products and services. The skills sets in demand will be technical but also heavily business- and consumer-focused, with many industry- and situationally specific flavors.

-- David Foote

Amazon Outpeddles eBay

Amazon.com's stock hit an all-time high in October, and yes, that includes the company's highs during the dot-com bubble. It's successful because of the clear attention paid to the corporate mission (acquiring customer service darling Zappos will only help here) and tremendous management science -- its collaborative filtering engine gets better and better. And finally, its superior vendor platform that requires sellers to provide more information and a higher-level of quality than eBay. As a result of this, Amazon offers much more security for the buyer.

-- Mike Dover

The Losers of 2010

Oracle Gets Ousted?

In off-the-record, libation-enhanced conversations with CIOs, when you mention the word Oracle -- they see red. In 2010, we may see another instance of Oracle firing its entire sales force as an apology to the industry for customer abuse. In 2010, CIOs have choices, and when possible, Oracle will not be one of them.

-- Thornton A. May

Big Companies That Lag

As the recession ends, midsize companies will increase IT spending faster than large companies. In 2009, most companies cut IT spending dramatically. New IT capabilities were deferred in favor of virtualization, ITIL and other internal efficiency efforts. As the economy improves, executives in large companies who have always believed that IT is too expensive will be unwilling to allow spending to increase significantly. Smaller organizations won't have a choice. Many of their cuts harmed service levels or critical business programs.

-- Bart Perkins

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