This post goes with the one from a few days ago about what gives a VAR a profitable edge. While I firmly believe a lot of a solution provider’s success with an emerging technology comes down to how they handle the evangelism process, there are several areas that have got my personal attention right now when I look several years into the future. These are the five game-changing trends I’m watching closely.
1. Wireless and Mobility: Surprise. Not. Actually, I am really surprised about how few VARs have adopted solutions that make use of smart phones. I know the model for getting the client devices isnt well-mapped into the traditional IT sales channel, but you risk being left in the dust if you cant accommodate these sorts of applications. Or, at least work with them. Some numbers to ponder: A couple of years back, one of the big research firms (either Gartner or IDC) predicted that mobile phone sales would surpass 1 billion by 2009. Well, they actually surpassed that number last year on growth of 16 percent. Even more intriguing: IDC predicts that 75 percent of the workforce will be in some way mobile by 2011.
2. Web 2.0: Like it or not, this consumer trend will mean a lot for collaboration, community and conversation between businesses and their customers, employees and business partners. More than half of enterprises are considering some sort of Web 2.0 deployment, according to Forrester.
3. Software as a Service: The blog that I’m creating this on is a service, as is the application I use to submit my hours for SWOTmg. SaaS is especially interesting to small businesses that havent been able to automate certain applications. The numbers: Gartner believes SaaS revenue will reach $19.3 billion in 2011, triple the 2006 mark. Many VARs are leery of this trend, for good reason: Many vendors including good old Microsoft are building massive data centers and taking sales direct. I get that, but there is still money to be made in customization and integration, especially for any company that is creeping into midsize stature.
4. 3-D Computing: I recently wrote a story about 3-D printing, something I have never heard of that managed to generate slightly more than $1 billion in revenue last year. When I step back to consider why, I see a richer picture. Although last years stories of Second Life and other virtual worlds have been bumped out of the hype-lines by green computing (see my next trend), the interfaces with which people expect to interact with technology are changing. Just look at the amazing iPhone screen. As for 3-D printers, they have all sorts of applications in manufacturing, where they could be used to create spare parts. Who knew?
5. Environmentalism: Some people still make fun of me for getting so excited about green technology, which I blog about regularly for ZDnet. <http://blogs.zdnet.com/green> But here’s one for you: Forrester just reported that half of all companies now use green criteria in their IT procurement process and that factors such as energy-efficiency or how easily a piece of equipment can be recycled. As a solution provider, how aware is your technical team about those criteria. Even if youre not pushing green IT services, the procurement thing will affect you. Will you have a plan for it?