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Forrester outlines top tech trends – from now till 2018 February 7, 2013

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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As decision-makers get blindsided about how and when to use emerging technologies, Forrester analyst Bryan Hopkins recently provided some helpful insight into what’s next in his blog.

Grouped in four major blocks, he outlined the top 15 major trends in tech that will be shaking up business models over the next five years.

It is easy to fall into the crystal ball-gazing trap, especially when you are talking about what will happen in technology between now until 2018. But a clear thread can be identified across Hopkins’s predictions.

In the end user computing group, advanced collaboration and computing tools will continue to be of major importance to companies worldwide. This is crucial because of the increasingly dispersed nature of businesses and the war for skilled personnel – you need to get the right people to work effectively together and also retain as much as possible of their knowledge when they move on.

The sensors and remote computing technologies theme refers to the external, customer-facing side of technology. Here, the Promised Land is that of smart machines performing the collection and processing of data, then contextualising it to generate the nuggets of gold that can inform brands on what to offer to consumers, where and how.

But that information doesn’t just appear by magic. So tools that provide advanced analytics capability as outlined in the process data management topic outlined by Hopkins  – that is, digesting and making sense of structured and unstructured information quickly and cheaply – will be very useful to companies focusing on understanding their audience.

Finally, there needs to be a robust platform holding that glue of knowledge together. So, as described in the analyst’s infrastructure and application platforms topic, big data platforms to handle large volumes of data, elastic storage capability and everything-as-a-service will continue to be the talk of the town for the years to come. Are you ready?

Read Bryan Hopkins’s blog entry on emerging trends here.

Crystal Ball

 

Photo by Justin Glass licensed under Creative Commons

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Samsung v Apple: The fight goes on August 31, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Hardware, Software.
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Who would have thought that intellectual property law could suddenly become so interesting? Two of the biggest tech brands in the world – Samsung and Apple – are slugging it out in courts across the world.

An American court awarded Apple over $1bn in damages when it declared that Samsung had infringed several key aspects of proprietary software and technology design.

Subsequently a Japanese court awarded Samsung victory in a battle over the way their phones synchonise data with personal computers. It’s going back and forth as the giants argue over design issues and who is copying who.

Of course intellectual property needs protection, but the real loser at the end of all this is going to be the consumer. Take cars as an example. You can go out and buy a Ford, VW, or GM vehicle and be able to drive it immediately. You don’t need to spend a day learning how it all works before you are familiar with the controls.

Isn’t this analogous to mobile phones now? They are complex devices, but there are many basic controls that are the same; settings, web access, email, apps. I just moved from Android to an iPhone and it took me a couple of days to become familiar with the environment – even though I use several other Apple products. What if I move to an Android phone in two years? Will I have to learn everything again to get it to work?

We need phone companies to innovate and not just to copy each other, but the consumer will end up paying all these damages. It’s time the phone companies started talking to each other and pooling technologies in the same way DVD and similar technologies are shared between manufacturers.

A slight difference (phones)

 

Photo by Tomi Tapio licensed under Creative Commons

Fighting piracy requires carrots, not just a big stick May 10, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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The Pirate Bay (TPB) is a Swedish website that links to online copies of music, films, and software – anything that can be easily copied and distributed online. It is possibly the single largest library of illegally copied intellectual property in the world and has been resistant to the authorities for many years, largely because they don’t store the content themselves and the links use very strong cryptography to mask the exact location of copied material.

As the law enforcement authorities have failed to stop sites like TPB the UK courts (after an action raised by the British Phonographic Institute) decided to tell Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to just block access – preventing all but the most determined users from accessing them. This week, Virgin Media became the first UK ISP to stop their users from accessing TPB.

It did not go well. The Anonymous hackers collective attacked Virgin Media’s website and brought it down on May 9th for over one hour. Four other British ISPs have vowed to block access to TPB and BT is about to decide on their position.

The ISPs are in a difficult position as they are being forced to censor their service – preventing access to a particular site – yet they have always managed to stand aside from these debates in the past, arguing that they just provide the infrastructure and can’t be expected to police what people do online.

The bottom line for organisations like the BPI is that piracy will only end when the legal route to owning movies and music is easier than the illegal. Services like Spotify and Netflix are now making on demand legal renting of content far easier than searching for illegal copies. Perhaps they should be focusing on making the carrot, rather than the stick, a lot bigger, because banning access to a single pirate site is like putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.

Pirate deck at Club Earl

Photo by Earl licensed under Creative Commons

Iceland goes Open Source March 21, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, IT Services, Software.
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The Open Source software movement has always suffered an image problem because people brought up to respect copyright and trademarks struggle to understand the concept of how intellectual property can be free.

Advocates of Open Source argue that free generally means freedom rather than free of cost – the software itself may be free, but users will always need to pay for installation, maintenance, upgrades and customisations. It is never entirely free.

Open source has long been in the mainstream for those who specify and design technology systems. WordPress is a free content management system – often used for blogs – and yet brands like CNN, Reuters, Sony, VW, and UPS use it as the basic framework for their websites.

But there are also Open Source operating systems and office tools – replacing the need for licensed products such as Microsoft Windows and Office… Excel and Word for example. These have not really taken off in the enterprise because everyone works using those formats – you want to use Word and be able to send a document to anyone else.

But if the Open Source tools can recognise those file formats and work in just the same way then perhaps the end is in sight for expensive licenses in the enterprise? The government of Iceland certainly thinks so. As a cost-cutting move they have just ordered all public bodies to ditch licensed products from companies like Microsoft and Oracle and to migrate to free solutions instead.

Iceland needs to save cash, but if an entire government can plan for a migration across all departments with just a one-year time frame for migration then just imagine what most companies could achieve too…

dancing  Auroras
  Photo by Álfheiður Magnúsdóttir licensed under Creative Commons

Switching to the cloud March 15, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Hardware, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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The cloud causes a great deal of confusion.

There is little consensus over what the term really describes. Data centre vendors will tell you how you can buy storage from the cloud, with servers switched on and off effortlessly and remotely. Software vendors will tell you that it is all about access to centralised software via the web, allowing you to use complex software without installing or maintaining a single package. Security vendors will tell you that it is an accident waiting to happen.

In many ways, the cloud is really a bit like the computer system represented in Hollywood blockbuster ‘the matrix’ – though without the Neo sunglasses.

The concept is that services should be accessible remotely without the customer needing to understand or care about the exact resource required to deliver it. It should also be possible to pay for only the services you use – for example, just paying for the storage you actually use rather than paying for a server and paying someone to maintain it.

The point is that you don’t need to understand the cloud as a new business concept to use it because consumers inherently understand how it works. When I switch on a power socket at home, I expect electricity to flow. I have no idea how many people worked in the power company to ensure that happened, but it happens and I pay only for the power I use.

When I turn on a tap, I get water and I similarly have little understanding of how much effort goes into ensuring that this tap produces fresh water, but it does. I also pay only for what I use. Apply these concepts from the home into the world of business and suddenly it looks a bit silly to buy banks of servers that are redundant 99% of the time, tying up capital in the equipment and needing to spend on facilities to house it all and people to maintain them. Or buying software that needs to be installed, maintained, upgraded, and paid for whether users are actually using it or not.

When the business users or technology services start thinking about the cloud in the same way they think about their utilities at home, then they will understand not only what it is, but also the immense potential.