Sunday, 19 September 2010

The future?

One of my most keenly anticipated talks at any Gartner conference is that from Nick Jones, their mobile and technology futures expert. A great speaker and very knowledgeable. That said, there's something I thought he got quite wrong in this talk, but we'll come to that later...

Some key points from his talk:
* Mobile is critical, don't ignore it.
* The next generation of workers will have different expectations and will work in different ways. They will demand more autonomy and more input in the choice of technology, expecting to be allowed to connect anything.
* Location independent work and more use of teams and collaborative tools will also increase.
* There will be less device centricity and the expectations of technology will be driven by the consumer space. We will have to accommodate it because they will use it anyway.

Interestingly this is what we are seeing in Universities now and have been for some time. We are dealing with a very mobile population, who already turn up with any device running any operating system, and will use any software that they can. But present at this conference were CIOs from all sectors, where they are not so liberal at the moment.

Nick also talked about connectivity which he termed the fallacy of the Cloud. Cloud computing will only really be useful when networks are free, fast, have unlimited bandwidth, have no latency and are everywhere. This is not the case at the moment, and although they are improving but they are nothing like the wired world yet. This will take time as nothing in the network space happens quickly. Again, this mirrored the Digital Britain discussion I had at the roundtable on Tuesday.

In terms of mobility, smart phones are apparently taking over the world. There are a number of operating systems, and some predictions you can make about them. Android is growing in market share, the iPhone is staying strong, Microsoft is low and may never get back into top 3, and Symbian has no presence in North America so may find it difficult to compete. With smart phones come App Stores, which can be used for business purposes and distribute apps, but there are some risks and education and care are needed.

As usual Nick gave a good overview of what technologies we might expect to see in the next 5 to 10 years, and these included Epaper signage, 3D displays, cleaning and delivery robots, indoor navigation, and more technologies using voice. Voice controlled search, emotion detection, voice controlled applications and voice over wifi.

So as users demand more choice of devices, we have to look at different support models. In brief they are:

Control orientated. We tell users what device they can have, we guarantee service levels, put in place metrics and security. This model is going to decrease over time.
Choice orientated. Users can have a bigger choice of devices, but smaller number of applications. Eg mobile email and web
Innovation oriented. Users have the autonomy to create new processes and deliverables on any device they choose
Hands off, or bring your own IT. Let users use what they want or their own personal devices.

All good stuff, and the different models of support are things that we're all looking at.

So, what did I disagree with? Well, Nick was rather scathing about tablets, and iPads in particular, offering the opinion that they would only ever serve a niche market, would never be used in an enterprise way, and wouldn't replace laptops because they didn't have the functionality of a laptop to handle spreadsheets for example, and had a "crippled" operating system. Well, I beg to differ, and this is no Mac vs PC argument. They may never become ubiquitous, but they will replace laptops for many people, mine already has. I can type and read documents, handle spreadsheets, annotate PDFs, get my email and calendar, access all of our web based enterprise systems, with one notable exception which hopefully is about to be fixed :-)

It fits in my handbag, so I don't have to lug a briefcase around, and the screen is big enough to do everything i want to, but the absolute killer for me for the mobile life I increasingly lead? The battery life. It can easily last 10 to 12 hours of heavy use. The last two conferences I've been to I haven't had to look for power sockets, or sit by the edge of the room, or stop taking notes by lunchtime because my battery's flat. Yes, there's some stuff that needs improving, but I wouldn't write them off and there's nothing crippled about the operating system.


George Credland said...

Did they have any views of how use of vendor specific app stores sits with the run anywhere ideal? Whilst most modern software segregates the user interface from the application logic there's a clear overhead if applications require multiple front ends to suit specific devices.

I'm also happy using my iPad. The main drawback is trying to view documents and take notes at the same time due to the "one application at a time" nature of the device. Its not usually a problem unless leading the meeting and taking minutes in which case I use a paper notepad for notes.

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