5. SSD Prices Fall, HDDs Gets Faster
Another trend you can count on in 2012 will be the availability of faster local storage at more affordable prices. Prices of Solid State Disks (SSDs) have been declining steadily and are also increasingly being offered as options on laptops. Moreover, Seagate in November launched its second generation Hybrid Hard Disk (HHD), which is a standard hard disk drive paired with built-in SLC-based flash memory for heightened performance Â Seagate says the Momentus XT can achieve a boot up time comparable to SSDs after a brief "learning" period.
The availability of faster local storage will benefit small business in the form of workstations and laptops that just perform faster. Alternatively, businesses may also opt to prolong the lifespan of existing workstations or laptops with a strategic upgrade to an SSD or HHD.
6. Tablets, Tablets Everywhere
If you've thought that you've seen enough of tablets this year, wait till the next generation of tablets lands in 2012. You can get the full scoop on what to expect with tablets in 2012 a quick roundup would include the iPad 3, tablets based on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows 8 tablets and v2.0 of the BlackBerry PlayBook OS.
The onslaught of tablets goes both ways. For one, agile SMBs that successfully leverage tablets can bolster their competitive advantage and achieve greater work efficiencies. The obvious challenges though, would be the associated headache of trying to manage so many disparate platforms and the risks inherent to developing for such rapidly evolving devices.
7. BYOD Goes to Smaller Businesses
BYOD, or "Bring Your Own Device," is a term used to describe the use of personal devices in the office. BYOD will become an accepted business practice in 2012 for small businesses, even as the arrival of more powerful smartphones, tablets and ultra-thin laptops trigger an avalanche of such devices into the workplace.
This is a mixed blessing for SMBs as employees start using their favorite duo (or trio) of Wi-Fi gadgets at work. While an IT-savvy workforce is certainly better than a tech-illiterate one, one downside may be the potential overloading of wireless networks as the density of wireless devices increase beyond what the network was originally designed for. Moreover, administrators may find themselves badgered with support requests that may not necessarily be work-related.
8. Small Business Finds Apps on the Cloud
It is entirely possible for businesses to set up an online presence without having to purchase a single hardware server today. After all, services such as online storage, B2B services, web hosting, email, collaboration, even productivity suites (Google Apps, Office 365) can be purchased online with nothing more than a credit card.
Moving forward, we expect startups and SMBs to ride hard on this trend as a means to circumvent traditional infrastructure and hardware barriers, making use of online services so that they can concentrate on their primary focus of doing business. We would have used the word "cloud computing" too, except that these businesses won't care what it's called by then.
9. Gigabit Wireless Starts replacing Ethernet
Two organizations are known to be working towards gigabit wireless at the moment, with limited product shipments expected to arrive in 2012. The Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig) operates on the 60GHz band and supports bus protocols such as PCI Express and USB; the IEEE 802.11ac operates on 5GHz and can provide throughputs of more than 1Gbps and backwards compatibility with 802.11n. For now, research by ABI Research predicts that IEEE 802.11ac will emerge as the dominant Wi-Fi protocol by 2014.
While the effect of gigabit wireless on large enterprises or established businesses is debatable, expect SMBs to prefer wireless as their primary connectivity option due to the convenience and the comparatively modest needs of smaller businesses. Given the prospect of future upgradability, the arrival of 802.11ac may also prompt organizations currently adopting a "wait and see" posture to finally deploy 802.11n. Given that gigabit wireless may well be adequate to meet the needs of most SMBs, its arrival may well result in businesses replacing wired Ethernet with wireless in 2012.
10. Windows 8 Triggers Big Changes
Despite being a singular product, there is no doubt mind that this hotly anticipated operating system will trigger a wave of change across the entire PC industry. Expected to be released in the second half of 2012, Microsoft has given the assurance that Windows 8 will not require new hardware. Indeed, the use of advanced memory management techniques and memory deduplication could well see Windows 8 running on slightly older hardwareÂa boon to SMBs looking to keep their IT budgets down.
Windows 8 will work with both traditional desktops as well as tablet devices, and will be available in x86 and ARM versions to facilitate the use of devices based on power-efficient ARM-based processors. Though it is too early at this point to tell the effect that Windows 8 desktop will have on SMBs, it is evident that Microsoft has incorporated its business-management smarts into Windows 8. Specifically, administrators will be able to make use of group policy and PowerShell to manage Metro-style apps on Windows 8Â allowing for a level of fine-grained control not available on competing platforms.
Paul Mah is a freelance writer and blogger who lives in Singapore. Paul has worked a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry, which includes programming and heading IT departments. He now writes a number of regular columns about technology and lectures on IT. In his spare time, Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones and networking devices. You can reach Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @paulmah.
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This story, "Top 10 Small Business Tech Predictions for 2012" was originally published by CIO.