Gartner cites social networking technologies, web mashups, multicore and hybrid processors and cloud computing are among the ten most disruptive technologies between now and 2012. The industry analyst defines a disruptive technology as one that causes major change in the accepted way of doing things, including business models, processes, revenue streams, industry dynamics and consumer behaviour.)
At the Gartner Emerging Trends and Technologies Roadshow in Hong Kong, Gartner Fellow David Cearley named the top ten disruptive technologies 2008 to 2012 as:
- Multicore and hybrid processors
- Virtualisation and fabric computing
- Social networks and social software
- Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
- Web mashups
- User Interface
- Ubiquitous computing
- Contextual computing
- Augmented reality
He said that business IT applications will start to mirror the features found in popular consumer social software, such as Facebook and MySpace, as organisations look to improve employee collaboration and harness the community feedback of customers.
'Social software provides a platform that encourages participation and feedback from employees and customers alike,' he said. 'The added value for businesses is being able to collect this feedback into a single point that reflects collective attitudes, which can help shape a business strategy.'
This remains to be seen. Clearly social networking provide a conduit for interaction with customers and suppliers, but that doesn't mean the mechanisms are in place to collate and analyse the feedback, much less act on it - many organisations can't answer an email within three days. This has the potential to turn into a trendy box ticking exercise with little value.
Multicore processors are expanding the horizons of what's possible with software, but single-threaded applications won't be able to take advantage of their power, Cearley said. Enterprises should therefore 'perform an audit to identify applications that will need remediation to continue to meet service-level requirements in the multicore era.'
By 2010, Gartner predicts that web mashups, which mix content from publicly available sources, will be the dominant model (80%) for the creation of new enterprise applications.
'Because mashups can be created quickly and easily, they create possibilities for a new class of short-term or disposable applications that would not normally attract development dollars,' said Mr Cearley. 'The ability to combine information into a common dashboard or visualise it using geo-location or mapping software is extremely powerful.'
According to Gartner, within the next five years, information will be presented via new user interfaces such as organic light-emitting displays, digital paper and billboards, holographic and 3D imaging and smart fabric.
By 2010, it will cost less than US$1 to add a three-axis accelerometer - which allows a device, such as Nintendo's Wii controller, to sense when and how it is being moved - to a piece of electronic equipment. 'Acceleration and attitude (tilt) can be combined with technologies such as wireless to perform functions such as 'touch to exchange business cards,'' said Mr Cearley.
According to Mr Cearley, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) who see their jobs as 'keeping the data centre running, business continuity planning and finding new technology toys to show to people' will not survive. Instead, they will have to think beyond the constraints of conventional, in order to identify the technologies that might be in widespread use a few years from now.
Gartner recommends that CIOs establish a formal mechanism for evaluating emerging trends and technologies, set up virtual teams of their best staff, and give them time to spend researching new ideas and innovations, especially those that are being driven by consumer and Web 2.0 technologies.
'The CIO then needs to act as a conduit from the business to the technology. He or she needs to see how it might be possible to use these technologies to solve a problem the business has identified,' Mr Cearley said.
This is a big ask for CIOs when the US and western Europe look to be sliding towards recession. Inevitably, they are more likely to be looking to squeeze everything they can out of todays' operations and getting the best staff to experiment and research new ideas at a time could well be seen as "finding new technology toys to show to people" by beleaguered top management.