2006: The Real Breakout Year

Opinion: Mobile apps, SOAs and technology rebuilding all hold promise.

What will be the top IT trends in 2006? I know it is a bit premature to outline what will happen in 06 just as the year is getting under way, but here goes.

The confluence of location, identity and mobility. Each year the prognosticators have been saying "this is the year" for—pick one—GPS and computing, RFID and computing, or mobility and computing. But Im picking 2006 as the real breakout year. The behind-the-scenes database work to build sufficiently robust systems to keep track of a companys inventory, shipping containers and delivery systems is well along at many big companies. In addition to the Wal-Marts of the world being able to track sales and inventory down to the product level, new Web services companies will be offering these capabilities to SMBs (small and midsize businesses). Security also is a big driver in this market, and the behind-the-scenes work has been moving along here as well. This year, companies will finally see manufacturing and inventory systems actually tied in to the physical product.

Corporate applications become truly mobile. In this issue, Labs Technical Analyst Michael Catons CRM reviews include a look at sales and work force applications delivered via wireless phones.

This is a change from software that used to work on PDAs and notebooks via synchronization. Applications from companies such as EConz and Sendia are designed from the ground up to work on the wireless-phone network.

Joining those sales applications will be financial, project management and a range of corporate software designed from the start for mobility.

The cell phones where the data will be viewed are due for a new round of larger and sharper displays, keyboards designed beyond thumb-based response, and security, with the data never residing on the device but on the host system at corporate headquarters.

As corporate applications become more friendly to VOIP, and voice-based inquiry and response, the phone will become the mobile workers primary communication tool.

Service-oriented management. While last year was a year when vendors talked a lot about SOAs (service-oriented architectures), Web services and service-based applications, little has been said about the management process for bringing those services to the corporation. Services have too often been seen as an either-or situation where, for instance, a Salesforce.com-hosted CRM service replaces a traditional CRM system running at a customers site.

The management aspects of melding hosted service offerings and a traditional technology infrastructure are substantial. Services sort of snuck up on CIOs and technology management; this year, these managers will understand how to evaluate, budget and implement services into the overall corporate environment.

Rebuilding the technology radar. This is in direct opposition to the IT-doesnt-matter philosophy. Take all the topics in this column, including location-aware systems, mobile applications and new services, and add in topics such as micromachines, nanotechnologies, open-source software, new display technologies, multicore processors and energy usage. What do you have? You have managers faced with many technology choices that can truly change how their companies operate and interact with customers.

Making the right choices requires those managers to rebuild the technology early-warning systems that have languished. The ability to choose between product upgrades or new services, in-house versus outsourced capabilities, or maintaining an existing infrastructure versus a wholesale replacement all are topics that can make or break a company.

If you look at the race between Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to see which can offer the most robust service in the shortest time, you can get an idea of what is required to be a technology competitor this year.

The winner will be the company that can offer the broadest range of services, often built from a combination of existing services. What holds true in the competitive arena for the big technology vendors also holds true for your company this year.

eWEEK magazine editor in chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at eric_lundquist@ziffdavis.com.


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