Tech Most Likely to be Ignored in 2009

In the article "Technology in 2009", I look at some of the emerging technology trends that I think will be important and will get a lot of attention in 2009. But along with these technology trends, there are also going to be important technologies that should receive attention in 2009

Future techIn the article "Technology in 2009", I look at some of the emerging technology trends that I think will be important and will get a lot of attention in 2009. But along with these technology trends, there are also going to be important technologies that should receive attention in 2009 that are likely to be ignored.

Anyone who casually watches the pharmaceutical industry can easily get confused about its priorities. It often seems as if there is a lot of effort going towards finding cures to sexual dysfunction, sleeping disorders and other similar problems, while much less effort is being put into curing the many deadly and widespread diseases.

But the technology sector isn't free from this same kind of out-of-whack priorities. Just look at everyone, from small startups to huge and established players, jumping on the social networking bandwagon, while important technology problems such as security get very little attention in comparison.

This can be a huge mistake. While sexy and heavily hyped technologies get a lot of attention, they often aren't addressing a serious problem, especially for enterprises. Given the current economic situation, vendors should really be looking at innovating in the areas that companies have to spend on instead of shiny new toy technologies that most businesses will decide they can easily live without.

This isn't to say that no one is working on innovating in these technology segments. As always, there are interesting startups trying to push the envelope. However, unlike Web 2.0, most of these technology markets aren't in an area where a small startup can make a big impact. What is needed to move these technologies forward is for the big players to innovate and not become comfortable and stagnant.

So in counterpoint to my article on the emerging technologies that will become important in 2009, here are some technologies that should be seeing innovation and improvement, but will most likely stay static with little activity towards advancing them.

Security

It often boggles the mind. Every week we see news about how malicious hackers are becoming more effective and dangerous in their ability to compromise systems and steal data. There's a constant flow of warnings about new and serious holes in browsers and operating systems, and about worms and Trojans designed to take advantage of these holes.

Given this, one would expect to also see lots of news about the innovative and exciting new security technologies being developed to combat these problems. However, these types of stories are few and far between.

For the most part, the security tools and applications that companies use to protect themselves haven't changed much in the last five or more years. Most companies still follow the basic cycle of firewall, access control, patching and anti-virus.

New security products in the last few years have been minor upgrades, easing management and boosting integration with enterprise systems, but for the most part not introducing new capabilities to fight the new tactics used by the bad guys.

What we need is a Security 2.0 type of wave, a radical rethink of how companies protect their systems and data and stop the bad guys in their tracks. But right now, there is little on the radar to suggest that 2009 will see anything other than minor improvements in security.

Computer Hardware

Look at the PC on your desk or the laptop in your bag, or even the servers in your datacenter. Outside of faster processors, more memory and bigger hard drives, are they really all that different from their 1998 counterparts?

The answer is no, not really. Like automobiles, which for all of their perceived advances haven't really changed in more than 50 years, the basic PC architecture is remaining the same, with just regular minor improvements on the fringes.

Of course, PC makers like it this way. They can put out regular "improved" versions of their products and make some cash off upgrades without taking too much risk. In their eyes, a radically new computing architecture would scare people.

But they shouldn't feel safe. As many have pointed out, the classic PC is in real danger of being supplanted by mobile devices.

If PCs are to survive as a core piece of the computing landscape, they will need to change and innovate in radical new ways, pushing themselves well beyond the capabilities possible for mobile devices. Some major company needs to scrap the entire motherboard, processor, memory and hard disk paradigm and get to work on the future of computing.

Or they can just continue to release a new product that's slightly faster and bigger than the last one.

Internet Infrastructure

Everyone remembers the classic browser wars of the mid- and late 1990s. However, many people forget that there was an equally important and high profile war being fought to run the infrastructure of the Internet.

Along with every release of new browsers, there was a battle going on between Apache and Microsoft's IIS to be the engine that ran the Web. At that time, an entire industry grew that was focused on building the application servers that would run the interactive Web.

But when was the last time there was an important and innovative new web server release? Or a massive change in the way servers do anything on the Web?

Unfortunately, the servers that run the Internet are quickly becoming the plumbing that many people have referred to them as. They chug along and serve Web pages and applications without changing in any real way.

This is especially notable given how much change and innovation we've seen in Web browsers in the last year. The latest browsers are pushing forward with many new and radical capabilities that will change the way the Web is viewed and interacted with.

But one wonders how much more could be done if the servers underneath the Web were changing in a similar way, rather than focusing on security patching and small integration improvements.