What is Happening?

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is the big tech news this week. As usual, the focus in most media and analyst coverage has been on the latest end-user gadgets, with a side interest in how Microsoft, Google, and others are planning to enable and support those.

There’s been relatively little coverage and insight regarding how what we see at CES will affect enterprise IT, IT markets, and IT providers. Saugatuck believes that the well-established consumerization of IT trend over the past years means that the trends and vision of what’s considered impactful at CES will affect enterprise IT markets within the next 24 months.  In short, core CES trends, especially as regards usage of technologies – not specific gadgets, not specific vendors – are a leading indicator of enterprise IT and business change.
Why is it Happening? 

Saugatuck analysis of this year’s CES introductions, rollouts, announcements, and demonstrations indicates four core usage trends that are most likely to shape enterprise IT and business over the next 12 to 24 months.

i-domination in tablets. No significant competitors have emerged to reduce apple’s dominance of tablet markets. Many tablets and makers have rolled out new and consistently-improving capabilities, but none have been able to make a real dent in Apple’s ability to shape the marketplace, to negatively affect Apple’s developer and partner ecosystem, or wean Apple users away from their tablets. This means that at least through 2012 and likely through 2013, Apple will continue to be the de facto standard setter for format, UI, developer ecosystem, and networking. Apple should be expected to increase and improve the business task functionality of its tablet line, from iCloud to messaging capabilities and so on.

Impact on enterprise IT and markets: More tablets, especially more Apple iPads. We can expect to see enterprise IT organizations standardizing on iPads as a means of simplifying and streamlining user governance, especially in BYOD environments. Net impact: More market power for Apple; although the company continues to insist that it is not, and does not want to be, in the business of enterprise IT. However, Apple tends to respond well and quickly to customer demand, so that stance should adapt quickly over the coming months. Meanwhile, this adds complexity for developers, ISVs and services providers serving enterprise customers. Middleware (and associated services providers) should see increased opportunity.

Clamshells. The established “clamshell” PC formats – notebooks, laptops, and the so-called “ultrabooks” promoted by Intel – will prolong and prevail for at least another few years in enterprise IT, while helping to promote Cloud IT.  Regardless of the moniker used, the clamshell/portable format remains extremely useful and familiar to users, providers, supporting ecosystems, OS providers, Cloud-based services providers, and business IT organizations.

Impact on enterprise IT and markets: We will see greater portability and improved reliability due to more solid-state, low-power hardware in the emergent generation of clamshell devices, which should reduce enterprise IT service/support requirements, as well as drive greater reliance on Cloud-based apps and storage. So we can expect to see more enterprise Cloud use to satisfy end-user computing, communication, storage needs. This will drive greater enterprise awareness of Cloud availability and reliability needs and challenges; which should help enterprise IT groups develop and refine Cloud governance. As a result, the use of the traditional clamshell PC format will help drive the continued, gradual shift away from traditional, on-premise IT for new capabilities.

Touchy, touchy. Touch-based/gesture-based input will gain more influence over designers and developers of apps and UIs, leading to significant revision of OSes and ecosystems. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this; Apple sets the example in tablets and smartphones, while Microsoft leads by example with Kinect in entertainment devices. But as good as they are, current examples are still leading-edge; there is much yet to be understood and refined.  The physical and logical distance between users and computing devices will continue to diminish at an accelerated rate. Punch cards and paper tape to direct keyboards took decades; keyboards to mice is still in transition; keyboard+mouse to voice is turning into a limited value proposition; touch and gesture removes all of the above and improves certainty of input.

Impact on enterprise IT and markets: By YE 2014, OS developers and UI developers will develop and refine a range of combined input types while consumers push more toward non-contact/limited contact, gesture-based interfaces. OSes will therefore become even more complex; OS development will require more skilled developers; and interacting with OSes will require more development skills by ISVs and more middleware, both in its traditional form, and increasingly as a Cloud-based service.  All of this is leading to more need and desire by OS providers to strengthen their ISV partnerships (e.g., long-term contracts, more emphasis on proprietary technologies, and other types of lock-in attempts). For enterprise IT, more variances will be coming, requiring more vigilance and more powerful-yet-flexible governance – especially for those enterprises espousing BYOD policies (read “Mobilization in the Cloud: Facing Bring Your Own Device Policies in the Enterprise”). BYOD may yet turn out to be a fad that grows to unmanageable proportions.

IT ubiquity. These days, CES for business users is about mobile/wireless devices. The aspect of mobility has rightly influenced much if not most of the media and analyst coverage of IT over the past few years. Saugatuck sees this as encouraging, but ultimately limiting. There is a tendency to compartmentalize various types of IT in order to make them more understandable and conform to budgeting practices. But the core concept/theme/result of “mobility” really is “ubiquity” of IT – the same technology, services, and capabilities regardless of user and asset location.

What is typically considered “mobility” today is really wireless communication+wireless devices+Cloud IT+UI+location services. The focus on mobile devices, device OSes, apps, and so on is more a means of compartmentalizing and attempting to manage a vast and potentially threatening concept.

Impact on enterprise IT and markets: Traditional, centrally-oriented management practices will begin to make a comeback between now and YE 2013. The current fragmentation and dissipation – the dissociation of IT from business and business users - are very likely to lead to a backlash movement emphasizing centralized communication, standardization, governance, and responsibility for all forms of IT (read “Free-Range Knowledge Work Spotlights IT Dissociation and Future"). That may be in the form of renewed and improved IT asset management; it may be in the form of improved and consolidated IT provider management; it will likely include these and several other core IT management disciplines. But enterprises of all sizes are likely to find that the cost-oriented, tactical policies and practices that they put in place today – BYOD, departmental app responsibilities, user-centric networking and messaging – very quickly and significantly increase the complexity of strategic IT management and therefore enterprise IT cost (read “Emerging Cloud Strategy: Offloading Applications to End Users”).

Today’s emerging “hybridized” environments will give way to jury-rigged environments. Providers of IT management services, systems and environments will see significantly-increased opportunity, especially those that can deliver Cloud-based integration across multiple types of environments.

An extended version of this Research Alert originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.