Dec 28, 2011 (04:12 AM EST)
Best Tech Predictions Of 2012

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

The start of the new year also marks the start of prediction season and 2012 is no different. Here's my commentary on the best tech predictions of 2012--and a few of my own thrown in for good measure.

1. Mobile Zaps Digital Divide, IBM Predicts

IBM is a smart company, smart enough to hedge its bets and stretch its predictions out to five years in the future. I mean, who will remember? It made five predictions. The top IBM prediction in my opinion is: "Mobile: The digital divide will cease to exist."

IBM writes: "Mobile devices are decreasing the information-accessibility gap in disadvantaged areas. In five years, the gap will be imperceptible as growing communities use mobile technology to provide access to essential information. New solutions and business models from IBM are introducing mobile commerce and remote healthcare, for example. Recorded messages can be transmitted to quickly deliver valuable information about weather and aid to remote or illiterate users who haven't had ready access before."

My take: Smartphones are due to leave feature phones in the dust, as location awareness, payment systems, secure identity features, and multimedia capabilities make the smartphone the essential technology driver to erase the digital divide. The build-out for smartphone infrastructure is taking place at a feverish pace, and will indeed erase that divide in five years.

2. E-Commerce Squeezes Traditional Retail, Andreessen Predicts

Mark Andreessen has become one of the visionaries of Silicon Valley. He recently shared some predictions for 2012 with Cnet. While his misses seem to me as numerous as his hits, his prediction that the physical retail store model is going to take a beating in 2012 was already evident at the end of 2011--as local retailers howled at Amazon's efforts to show how it could beat the price of the local store, while you were standing in the checkout line.

Here is Andreessen on the retail revolution, as interviewed on Cnet, "I think 2012 is the year that retail--retail stores--really starts to feel the pressure. And I don't say that because I don't like retail stores. I loved going to Borders. I thought it was a great consumer experience. And I was a huge fan of Tower Records.

"But the economic pressure is huge as e-commerce gets more and more viable and as these category killers emerge in the super-verticals. If I own mall real estate or retail stores in cities, or if I own chains like electronics chains, I'd be concerned. ... I think electronics and clothes are going to be a real pressure point. Home furnishing is going to come under pressure. It's going to get harder and harder to justify the retail store model."

My take: Andreessen could be right here. The big box stores killed off the smaller retailers by having inventory and pricing systems that the little guys couldn't match. And now the e-tailers can take that model of big inventory, tied with real-time pricing, and combine it with home delivery to challenge the big box stores.

3. Hybrid Tablets Shine, Bajarin Predicts

Among Tech.pinions' 2012 predictions, my favorite was from Tim Bajarin, who predicted the return of the combo tablet and notebook.

His prediction:"Ultrabook-tablet combo devices will become a big hit. Ultrabooks with detachable screens that turn into tablets could be the sleeper hit of 2012. Also known as hybrids, the early models of this concept used an illogical mixed operating systems; Windows when in PC mode and Android when in tablet mode. But by the year's end, both Windows 8 for tablet and Windows 8 for laptops will be out and these hybrids will be completely compatible. I expect to see solid models of this type of hybrid by quarter four."

My take: Really? I don't think this makes sense, but Tim does know his stuff. He is putting a lot of faith in Windows 8 to revive a model that really crashed and burned a few years ago. But I am of the group that, instead of ditching the laptop once I also started carrying a tablet, simply added a little more weight to the bag. Maybe an easily convertible laptop/tablet could work. I would like to give it a try.

4. Social Rip And Replace Fails, Fast Company Predicts

Fast Company's take on the social network over-simplifies with this prediction: "Social business will take off in 2012, but companies will struggle to adopt. Management consultants will champion 'digital transformation' initiatives a la Y2K in order to help companies change business processes and worker behavior. But the real gains will be made where companies can find ways to adopt social and collaboration tools without making workers change their daily work habits. This evolutionary approach to social business adoption will trump 'rip and replace' methodologies being promoted by some social business software vendors … including one that recently went public."

My take: I like the Fast Company prediction, as it presents an evolutionary approach to creating a social business that can actually be implemented in a company. Too many "revolutionary" changes have the ring of the paperless office predictions of 1975.

And now here are three 2012 tech predictions from me:

1. Tablets will change the way you work. Instead of sitting around a darkened conference room, surreptitiously doing e-mail while enduring PowerPoint torture, you will hold meetings at a moment's notice. These gatherings can include in-person and remote workers, discussing and swiping at the tablet's contents in a communal manner, rather than the meetings of old that felt like a college lecture.

2. Mobile development happens from the ground up. A new development environment will drive new markets, competition, and companies. The days of taking existing applications and trying to mobilize those applications are numbered. New applications which are designed for mobility from the ground up and utilize location awareness, payment systems, and access to big data driven decision-making systems will force companies to restructure around the idea of mobility as the norm.

3. Welcome to consultant nation. The definition of an employee is changing. The pace of business operations will require CIOs in particular to quickly assemble groups of highly qualified employees and contractors to deliver new corporate capabilities. The ability to find, hire, and create high performance groups on the fly and then manage those groups will challenge the traditional development and performance models.

Eric Lundquist,
VP and Editorial Analyst, InformationWeek
elundquist@techweb.com