by Mike Altendorf

iPad legitimises the netbook

Feb 22, 2010
Data CenterIT StrategyMobile

I know what you are probably thinking. It’s a little late for me to be pontificating on the tech trends that we are likely to see emerging into the mainstream in 2010. After all, it’s February and the biggest technology announcement of the year has probably already been made. But there is method in my madness. January proved that technology still has one major hurdle to overcome before it can be considered truly valuable… it needs to conquer the British weather. Thanks to the snow I would say that in any meaningful sense, this year started on 1 February. So back to the technology. Where else can you start but with the much-heralded release of the iPad. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “the last time there was this much interest in a tablet it had commandments on it.” But does this really herald the start of a major new technology trend? It has had mixed reviews but I think a lot of commentators have missed the point. The iPad is not the start of something new, it is Apple once again legitimising something that already exists – be it in not quite such a desirable form. The iPod wasn’t the first digital music player and the iPhone certainly wasn’t the first mobile phone, but both revolutionised an existing category – we can expect the iPad to do the same. What the iPad effectively does is legitimise the netbook. And that brings me on to the first of the major trends that I see emerging this year. The netbook has been around for a while as a limited (in terms of size and ability) version of the laptop, but the launch of the iPad will see this category really take off with the development of lots more sleeker, sexier models designed for users that require access to lots of different applications but aren’t really heavy users of any. These people are email-driven and will want their applications delivered by the internet as and when they need them. Many are senior managers who spend a lot of their professional lives either travelling or presenting and so require high-end graphics and high-speed access. I also believe that 2010 will be the year that the mobile really comes into its own as a data device. Last year we saw mobile email really take off – the BlackBerry became as popular in the 11am coffee mornings as it already was on the 8.15 to Paddington. Proof that mobile email has really gone consumer. This year data consumption will move up a gear. IDC is predicting that 2010 will be the year that the number of mobiles accessing the internet across the globe would eclipse the number of PCs going online. Over one billion mobile devices are expected to be online this year, sparking what I believe will be a new battle for dominance in the mobile operating systems space.

Here the big four will be looking to dominate. Apple has created momentum with its developer platform and App Store and up until now the only thing really holding the market back has been the speed of the network that underpins it. There are still opportunities for less well known players in the mobile marketplace however – companies such as ACCESS that focus on providing simple to use, flexible solutions that work well in developing markets may well gain market share as the big players fight among themselves for dominance in the high-end devices. This wouldn’t be a proper predictions piece if I didn’t mention cloud computing but this year I would bet good money on us seeing some real progress in this space – both for consumers and for businesses alike. The likes of Google and Microsoft are already setting out their ‘platform as a service’ stalls, focusing on offering customers virtual platforms on which to build their own apps. EMC, IBM, Fujitsu and Oracle see cloud-based infrastructure solutions as the way forward and I predict we will soon start seeing telcos and service providers entering the fray. Initially they will focus their efforts on the consumer but they’re unlikely to stop there. SMEs then corporates will soon follow. The last trend I would like to mention is what I am calling ‘intelligent utilities’. When I talk about utilities I am not just referring to water, gas and electric; I am talking about those services that we depend on day-to-day, like transportation and healthcare. Up until now most consumers will have heard a lot of talk but seen little action. This is largely because a lot of what has been developed has been the infrastructure rather than the interface with the consumer. This year I believe we will finally see projects such as the CfC’s electronic patient records programme and the smart metering initiatives really starting to gain momentum and delivering real benefits to the consumer.