5 Hot Trends for 2009

By Jeff Vance

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Columns like this are a bit formulaic. I know it, you know it, yet we all read them: “10 best movies of 2008”,  “10 best books of 2008”, “10 worst technologies”, and on and on. Heck, Fox Sports devotes half of its programming to those annoying Best Damn countdowns.


What most of us balk at when it comes to these lists is twofold. One, we usually disagree with many items on the lists, and, two, the writers rarely revisit them to see how they did (and, more crucially, to admit to their errors). I, for one, am going to buck that trend. Last year, I wrote 5 Hot Trends in 2008. Let’s look back and see how I did:


1. Data Leaks and IP Theft. The FEMA year-end data leak, the CEO subpoena attack, the Bank of Ireland data theft, the stolen Anheuser-Busch laptops that exposed the personal information of thousands of current and former employees—I could go on and on with this list—all prove that data leaks were a major security headache in 2008. I’m not going out on a limb when I predict that they’ll continue to be a big problem in 2009.  


Result: On the money.


2. Virtualization. While virtualization didn’t hit the critical mass I thought it would, it still proved successful. The down economy should make it even more so in 2009.


Result: Fairly prescient.


3. Software as a service (SaaS). Although many are still bullish on SaaS, I’d have to chalk this one up as a miss. Yes, SaaS has great potential. No, it didn’t get major traction in 2008. With the recession in full swing now (sound like fun when you put it that way doesn’t it), SaaS should see continued growth as companies look for ways to cut overhead.


Result: Miss.


4. The Mobile Workforce. There was a lot of movement with smart phones, with the iPhone clearly driving the trend, but not much buy-in from the enterprise. My guess is that the recession will slow this trend further in 2009.


I also discussed removable storage as part of the mobile workforce, and I got this part right. Multi-GB USB drives are ubiquitous and cheap, and they’re leaving most enterprises each night with oodles of unprotected, sensitive data on them. Several security vendors in 2008 made USB encryption and policy enforcement a standard part of larger security suites, while even the Vista operating system includes some basic removable data controls.


Result: Mixed.


5. Windows Vista. I said last year that Windows Vista was a headache IT managers would put off dealing with, that Microsoft would drag its feet on making it better, and that other vendors, particularly open-source ones, would take advantage of the muddle.


All proved to be true. I also noted that this would have to be resolved sooner or later. As of now, many IT managers are still punting. They’re holding on to XP and hoping Vista will get better. Microsoft has tried to spin the Vista-backlash through annoying, reactionary commercials, but the company is also set to release the new Vista, called Windows 7. Early reports are generally positive. It’s still Vista, but it’s faster, cleaner and more stable. This could very well be the tipping point to broad adoption.


Result: Visionary! J


With 2008 out of the way, let’s project ahead for 2009:


5 Predictions for 2009


1. The recession triggers high-profile mergers and acquisitions. Let me say right off the bat that most of my predictions will touch on the lousy economy. In economist speak, the recession should “drive inefficiencies” out of the tech sector. Expect a big name acquisition or two, with behemoths buying floundering companies on the cheap. Don’t be surprised if a behemoth or two get acquired as well or has to merge with another struggling mega-corporation.


I’ll go out on a limb and predict that something major will happen in the wireless space. Say, Verizon acquiring Yahoo!. Or Google acquiring a major handset maker or even a foundering carrier. Or maybe Microsoft will make some strange, head-scratcher of an acquisition that they claim will shake up the mobile space.


Whatever the case, the goal will be to make the mobile Internet experience a sticky and revenue-generating; one that appeals to a mass consumer audience.


2. Mobile gadgets under perform. While I think high-profile acquisitions will happen in the mobile space, I also believe that 2009 will be a bad year for carriers and handset vendors. People will hold on to those so-called “obsolete” handsets for longer than they would in a good economy. Features like cameras and MP3 players look superfluous to cost-conscious eyes; as will the expensive data plans linked to those features. The enterprise will drag its feet on subsidizing mobile devices for workers.


If any model is poised to take advantage of the bad economy, it’s pay-as-you-go. If the pricing gets better, the minutes last longer and the handsets themselves aren’t quite so crappy, this could be the bright spot in the mobile sector. 


3. Virtualization marches on. 2009 could be the tipping point for virtualization as a mainstream technology. For a more in-depth take on this, refer to this related story on CIOUpdate’s sister site, Datamation.com. Virtualization will gain IT dollars at the expense of other technologies for one reason: cost. Technologies that require high upfront expenditures but take time to generate ROI will be put on hold, while technologies like virtualization that promise immediate cost savings will enjoy broader adoption. Virtualization will also move beyond the server to desktops and storage in 2009, while getting its feet wet with mobile desktops.


4. Social networking slows down in the enterprise. More and more enterprises are cracking down on social networking sites for two reasons. First, these are the new time-wasters in the enterprise, and many businesses already block the URLs of Facebook and MySpace. Second, even productive, work-related collaboration sites pose a risk: data leakage.


Take a look at IBM’s Many Eyes, which is a tool designed to help people visualize complex data. It’s a compelling application, but if you punch in terms like “sales” or “income,” you’ll find data that probably isn’t meant for public consumption. The enterprise will need to think about and enforce policies that rein in social networking and Web 2.0. They’ll have to start training employees on how to protect IP. They’ll need to modernize acceptable use policies, and they must deploy safeguards to protect sensitive information. That said, the biggest risk to sensitive data will continue to be one of our most common communication tools: email.


5. Technology will spark the recovery. Many analysts, including Gartner and IDC, see the economy bouncing back in 2010, at least in terms of IT spending. That may be a bit too rosy, but I do believe that technology will play a significant role in the recovery. Make no mistake about it, we’re in for more dire economic news. This is one of those once-a-century catastrophes that will fundamentally change the economy. It already has. Who would have predicted a nationalized financial sector, after all?


Look for technology to play a role in bulked up regulatory agencies. Data mining won’t just be for selling to consumers any more, but for detecting fraud and looming market troubles. Look for technology to serve as the raw material for new economic sectors, such as renewable energy. Look for it to play an even more prominent role in the changing nature of work, in how we work, what is considered work, and how we go about our working days.


Jeff Vance is the president of Sandstorm Media, a writing and marketing services firm focused on emerging technology trends. If you have ideas for future stories, contact him at mailto:mjeff@sandstormmedia.net or visit http://www.sandstormmedia.net.