What is 2012 likely to bring to the tech industry and its users? IDG -- the publisher of InfoWorld, Computerworld, Network World, CIO, CSO, ITworld, PC World, Macworld, and other tech publications throughout the globe -- surveyed its editors to gaze into their crystal balls and predict a key trend or development for 2012, as well as select their key story for 2011. The death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the rise of social media as a tool of protest topped a diverse roundup of nominees.
Here are the editors' individual preductions for 2012 and their pick for 2011's top story, in no particular order.
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Simon Jary, publishing director, IDG U.K.
Most significant story of 2011: Tech patent wars. Although public patent disputes used to be the preserve of small-time patent trolls, 2011 has seen all the major players in the mobile sector go to war with each other in the courts, suing and countersuing, slinging mud, and attempting to rub out competitive products through the courts. It's ugly and will end up costing the consumer and likely hindering innovation from newcomers.
2012 crystal ball: More blurring of the lines between laptops, tablets and smartphones, and between consumer and enterprise tech. Apple will lose more of its nice-guy sheen, even though its new boss isn't as aggressively vindictive as the last.
Maryfran Johnson, editor-in-chief, CIO Magazine and Events
Most significant story of 2011: Mobility, without question. Whether it's the influx of consumer devices into the enterprise or the development of mobile apps to do innovative things for their businesses, CIOs are all about mobile these days. When you look at the big 5 IT trends that have dominated this past year (mobile, social, consumerization, cloud, and big data), just about all of them hook into the mobility drive from one aspect or another.
2012 crystal ball: Ever greater attention to big data and how companies can use analytics tools to mine the data for customer insights, business opportunities, or cost savings.
Bob Brown, online executive news editor, Network World
Most significant story of 2011: In the interest of choosing a development that's less mainstream but in the sweet spot for Network World's audience, I'm going with the emergence of OpenFlow. The big Interop 2011 show could almost have been called the OpenFlow show given that it served as one of the first significant exhibitions of OpenFlow switches and controllers, including those shown off in a lab at the event. The software-defined networking technology is designed to enable users to define flows and determine what paths those flows take through a network, regardless of the underlying hardware. OpenFlow stems from an open source project borne of a six-year research collaboration between the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. OpenFlow has momentum but is far from a sure thing or the only game in town, with heavy hitters such as Cisco still weighing their options.
2012 crystal ball: Apple explicitly goes for the enterprise market. Lots of stories were written in 2011 about how Apple almost accidentally has emerged as a huge force in the enterprise over the past few years as employees pressure IT to support their Macs, iPhones, and now iPads. Apple, meanwhile, has at least publicly barely acknowledged any focus on the business market. I expect that will change with Tim Cook in charge.
Fredrik Agrén, publishing director, IDG Sweden
Most significant story of 2011: The top story of 2011 is the much-longed-for rebirth of the music distribution business -- via the music service Spotify (which is co-owned by some of the giants of the music industry: Sony, Universal, Warner, EMI, and others). Finally we're able to listen to our favorite music digitally -- conveniently and legally! Now we just need some competition on the market to lower prices and widen the music library.
2012 crystal ball: The next big thing of 2012 will surely be the smart TV. While we're holding a 4-inch smartphone in our hand and browsing the 10-inch tablet in our lap, of course we'd want a 50-inch smart TV on our wall. There are already a handful of fantastic smart TV sets from Samsung, Sony, Philips, and others -- and as soon as their ecosystems of apps and services are complete, we're going to see a change of TV habits in our living rooms.
Brian Carlson, editor-in-chief, CIO.com
Most significant story of 2011: Egypt shuts down the Internet. For years, the Internet has been touted as the Wild West of human relations and interaction, a cyberspace of virtual anarchy out of reach of conventional methods of suppression and repression by world powers. On Jan. 27, 2011, that myth was put to rest when Egypt, in response to widespread dissent and in an attempt to squelch growing protests, shut the Internet down, cutting the populace off from connectivity to the rest of the world, as well as shutting down all mobile and text services.
2012 crystal ball: Apple loses its sheen. I will buck the trend here (and potentially be vulnerable to assault) and state that I think 2012 will be the year that starts the decline of Apple as the emerging king of computing. With the maturation of HTML5, apps as a primary driver of mobile tech will be put in jeopardy as a new standard starts to truly emerge to provide major disruption. I also think the cult of Mac will see a backlash too, as people start to feel the confines of Apple's walled-garden ecosystem, its hipper-than-hip marketing strategy, and the premium prices of its products. No, I don't think its revenue will go anywhere but up for the time being, but its status of bleeding-edge vendor will start to degrade in the hearts and minds of the educated tech consumer.