Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends for 2012

Everything from mobile devices and applications to servers and social networking will impact IT in ways companies need to prepare for now

The technology that makes up many of the systems in the IT world today is at a critical juncture and in the next five years everything from mobile devices and applications to servers and social networking will impact IT in ways companies need to prepare for now, Gartner vice president David Cearley says.

GARTNER: 10 key IT trends for 2012

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For example, enterprises will need to invest capital to improve network capacity and reliability. They will also need to improve wireless governance to improve wireless manageability and service levels, Cearley told attendees of the Gartner Symposium IT/Expo this week. At the annual presentation of Gartner's popular Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends presentation, Cearley offered the following as examples of the way the tech world is changing:

• 30 billion pieces of content were added to Facebook this past month

• Worldwide IP traffic will quadruple by 2015

• More than 2 billion videos were watched on YouTube ... yesterday

• The average teenager sends 4,762 text messages per month

• 32 billion searches were performed last month ... on Twitter

So what issues need to be on IT's radar screen for 2012? Here's a look at the top 10 tech trends and the implications of those issues according to Gartner:

1. Media tablets and beyond: Bring-your-own-technology policies at work has become the norm, not the exception. With that come security and management challenges that IT needs to address. By 2015, media tablet shipments will reach around 50 percent of laptop shipments, and Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Android and Apple. The net result is that Microsoft's share of the client platform, be it PC, tablet, or smartphone, will likely be reduced to 60 percent, and it could fall below 50 percent, Cearley says.

The implication for IT is that the era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is one of a variety of environments IT will need to support. In the smartphone arena, prices will fall to $75 for entry-level devices in 2012 with faster two- and four-core processors, and with bigger, brighter, higher-resolution screens, plus 3D, HD video, and more sensors like gyros, compasses, and barometers driving greater features into high-end devices. While iOS dominates the tablet market today, Gartner says it expects iOS/Android will dominate the market with 80 percent of tablets shipped by 2015.

2. Mobile-centric applications and interfaces: Here touch, gesture, and voice search is going to change the way mobile apps work in the future, Cearley says. By 2014, there will be more than 70 billion mobile application downloads from app stores every year. By 2014, at least half of the tools optimized for app store application development in 2010 will have been acquired or will have ceased to exist.

3. Social and contextual user experience: According to Gartner, context-aware computing uses information about an end-user's or object's environment, activities connections, and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end user or object. A contextually aware system anticipates the user's needs and proactively serves up the most appropriate and customized content, product, or service. The tipping point here could be technology like near-field communications getting into more and more devices. Some interesting facts here: By 2015, 40 percent of the world's smartphone users will opt into context service providers that track their activities, with Google, Microsoft, Nokia, and Apple continuously tracking daily journeys and digital habits for 10 percent of the world population by 2015, Cearley says.

4. Application stores and marketplace: The key here is the rise of enterprise application stores that can develop specific apps for users. This will let IT manage and control certain apps. But embracing the idea of user choice might be a difficult concept for enterprise IT to embrace, Cearley says. Enterprises should use a managed diversity approach to focus app store efforts and segment apps by risk and value. Where the business value of an app is low and the potential risk, such as the loss of sensitive data, is high, apps might be blocked entirely.

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