The Big IT Consumerization Stories to Watch in 2013

In 2012, we saw smartphones and tablets become broadly accepted in the workplace, while new-breed enterprise services started making serious inroads against entrenched competitors. Now what? Here are the big stories we'll be watching in 2013.

Credit: IDGNS
Will smartphones turn into a three-way race?

Since 2009, the smartphone market has been a tale of two vendors: Apple's iOS and Google's Android have grown market share and built massive and powerful ecosystems, while everybody else has withered away. In 2013, Microsoft and RIM will make big pushes to reclaim some of their former relevance. Some carriers would like to see a third-party, but will consumers care? We'll be watching Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 closely to see.

The continuing evolution of Android.

In 2012, the Android ecosystem finally moved beyond its status as the low-cost second-fiddle competitor to iOS and began to show some real innovation. Google's Nexus 7 proved that a 7-inch tablet could be viable, spurring Apple to respond quickly with the iPad mini, and Samsung became the biggest smartphone company in the world thanks to flagship phones like the Galaxy S III. But Android still faces challenges like slow adoption of new versions and the threat of forks from Samsung and others. Plus, it will be interesting to watch if Google does anything with its Motorola purchase, or simply lets it wither on the vine.

Credit: Robert Scoble via Flickr
The coming shakeout in cloud storage and collaboration.

In 2012, it seemed like everybody wanted to be the Dropbox for the enterprise. Box -- whose CEO Aaron Levie is shown here -- has the most funding and momentum, but YouSendIt boasts more users, and tons of competitors like Egnyte, EMC Syncplicity, and Sugarsync are clawing and fighting for market share. Meanwhile, Dropbox recently passed 100 million users and could end up trumping them all if it gets serious about adding enterprise features. Or if some big enterprise company takes the multibillion dollar plunge and buys it.

Credit: Microsoft
Will Windows 8 and touch take off with consumers?

Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface tablet launched in 2012 with a maximum of hype and one of the biggest advertising campaigns the tech world has ever seen. But so far, despite lots of license sales, Windows 8 does not seem to be helping the PC market, which is still down from last year. In 2013, the test will be if consumers start buying Windows 8 tablets and touch-screen laptops, or if they stick with Windows 7 -- or competitors like the iPad. If the consumer market never warms to Windows 8, look for Microsoft to change tacks and make a big push for the enterprise, emphasizing Office, security features, and perhaps downplaying the new UI in favor of the traditional desktop.

Social tools provide a real alternative to email.

Over the last three years, we've seen a flood of new enterprise tools that attempt to bring Facebook-style social collaboration into the workplace. In 2012, Yammer made headlines when Microsoft bought it for more than $1 billion and began folding it into SharePoint, but there are plenty of other tools in the same vein, from big companies (Salesforce Chatter, IBM Connectoins) and startups (Jive, Huddle, Asana), all with slightly different areas of focus. In 2013, we'll see some of these tools make further inroads into the enterprise, where they'll gradually take their place alongside email. Others will die or be snapped up by big old enterprise companies looking to get some new social juice. 

Gamification goes mainstream -- or is proven to be a mere fad.

One problem with enterprise social networks like Jive, and outbound marketing tools like Moxie, is low adoption -- enterprises roll them out to yawns from employees. A new class of vendors like Badgeville thinks they have the solution: adding game mechanics like badges and peer recognition. The big consultantices are also on board -- CapGemini has added an entire gamification practice. In 2013, we'll see if gamification saves the enterprise from underutilized software, or if it turns out to be just another passing fad.

Mobile device management grows up

When iOS devices first started finding their way into the enterprise a few years back, IT panicked -- how would they control data and security on these previously unknown devices? A host of third-party mobile device management vendors emerged to help out. Fast forward a couple years, and a lot of IT departments have turned to Exchange ActiveSync to handle most types of device management, while a handful of MDM vendors like Airwatch, Good Technology, and MobileIron seem to be mopping up most of the rest of the market. In 2013, we'll be looking for further consolidation, like Citrix's recent purchase of Zenprise, as well as evolving approaches to mobile security such as containerization.

Will Google make a serious play for the enterprise?

Over the last five years, Google has added a lot of features to its cloud-based productivity suite Google Apps, and has rolled out new services like Drive (storage) and the Compute Engine (cloud-based compute power). Still, enterprise makes up less than 4% of Google's revenue, and the company readily admits it builds products for consumers first, then takes features over to the enterprise later on. Meanwhile, while Google has gotten some big wins, Microsoft Exchange and Office remain steadfast corporate standards. In 2013, we'll see if Google starts thinking enterprise first, with rapid product development and acquisitions of key enterprise startups, or if it remains a nice but relatively small side business for the company.

Time for Apple to blow everybody's mind again.

Some pundits think Apple has lost its mojo -- in 2012, it continued to focus on profitable revisions of existing product lines rather than big new projects, and it's had a couple high-profile duds with Apple Maps and Siri. The stock market seems to agree, and has shaved nearly 25% from Apple's value in the last few months. In 2013, it's time for Tim Cook and Apple to blow everybody's mind by revolutionizing another industry -- maybe TV, maybe something we can't imagine yet. Just look at the history: 2007 saw the iPhone, 2010 saw the iPad.