First came the heavy adoption of Apple's mobile platform by consumers whose heavy use of the devices for business tasks forced the IT operations at their companies to support them. Android was the next mobile platform pushed onto IT and now comes Windows 8, Microsoft's latest effort to keep its PC empire intact and gain market share in mobile devices.
For Gartner, the arrival of Windows 8 makes the "mobile device battles" its top technology trend for 2013. Gartner announced its list of Top 10 tech trends at its annual IT/expo in Orlando this week.
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The battle among mobile device vendors for the attention of consumers is forcing IT managers into increasing heterogeneity.
Tom Minifie, CTO at a software vendor he asked not to be named, said developers at his company have built Apple and Android mobile apps for employees, including a smartphone tool that can separate workplace and personal communications. Minifie said the company has no immediate plans to support Windows-based mobile devices. Officials will first watch to see how adoption goes.
He noted, when asked, that the decision isn't a chicken and egg problem. A lack of apps shouldn't deter users from adopting Windows-based devices if they want. He referred to the past history of employees at the company who bought Apple and Android devices before they were supported by IT. "They still went out and got them because there were compelling devices for personal use," he said.
Gartner also predicts that on legacy devices "90 percent of enterprises will bypass broadscale deployment of Windows 8 through at least 2014," said Peter Sondergaard, who heads up Gartner's research operation.
David Cappuccio, an analyst at Gartner, said that the Windows 8 forecast is not a ding against Microsoft.
"Every group of employees has different needs," said Cappuccio.
Salespeople or some executives may want a tablet, other workers may only need a smartphone, and in some cases they may be using their personal device. "We can either force standardization," said Cappuccio, "or you can open things up and let people let people do what they want within reason."
David Cearley, an analyst at Gartner, unveiled the researcher's 2012 Top 10 list, which represents strategic trends the company believes will impact IT over the next several years, on Tuesday.
The list follows:
One: Mobile devices
By next year, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. Does this mean mobile devices will replace PCs? Yes and no, says Gartner. Some IT departments may only need to support mobile devices for specific workers whose jobs require them while the rest continue to use PCs. But, Gartner adds, the rise of mobile devices does signal the end of Windows as the single corporate platform.
"By 2015 media tablet shipments will reach around 50 percent of laptop shipments and Windows will likely be in third place behind Android and Apple," wrote Cearley, in his report. "We believe the net result is that Microsoft's share of the client platform (PC, tablet, smartphone) will likely be reduced to 60 percent and it could fall below 50 percent."
Two: A long-term shift from native apps to Web apps as HTML5 becomes more capable
Gartner did note that native apps won't disappear and "will always offer the best user experience and most sophisticated features."
Three: The personal cloud replaces the notion of personal computer
The cloud will house all aspects of one's life, Gartner says. Because it's so vast, and capable of marshaling infinite resources, "no one platform, form factor, technology or vendor will dominate" it, Gartner says. It also means that IT will have to support almost everything.
Four: The Internet of Things
Everything will connect to the Internet, including cameras, microphones, augmented reality, buildings and embedded sensors everywhere. In many cases, it's here already. The Internet of Things will lead to new products, such as usage-based insurance or tax policies. It will also raise new questions, such as whether a robot interacting with an ERP system is a named user for the purposes of software licenses.
"We are at a point where it is no longer a stretch to imagine that much of what and who we interact with will be connected to the Internet," said Cearley.
Five: Cloud computing
As cloud adoption expands, IT departments will have to create "cloud services brokerages" to serve as a central focus for managing access to external services.
Six: Strategic big data
It's becoming more economical, thanks in part to low cost servers and CPUs, for organizations to tackle big data projects. By strategic big data, Gartner believes that users will be moving beyond isolated projects and incorporating big data analysis in more and more of what they do.
Seven: Actionable analytics
Actionable Analytics is, in some respects, a distinct subset of its sixth trend, Strategic Big Data. Low cost processing is making it possible "to perform analytics and simulation for each and every action taken in a business." Most analytics today focus on looking at historical analysis; the next step is predicting what might happen.
Eight: In-memory computing
In-memory Computing, says Gartner, can be transformational. It allows hours-long batch processes to be squeezed into processes that only take minutes or seconds. In-memory Computing will become a mainstream platform over the next year or two, as users seek more real-time analytical queries. It may pay for itself through improved efficiencies, such as fraud detection.
Nine: Virtual appliances integrated ecosystems
They won't kill off physical appliances and their security advantages, but virtual appliances will gain an increased place in IT operations.
Ten: Enterprise app stores
Enterprise App Stores will turn IT departments into market managers, providing governance and even support to "apptrepreneurs." App store markets will become the "anchor point" for users to get everything they need.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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This story, "Gartner's Top 10 tech trends for 2013" was originally published by Computerworld.