The Dawning of the Age of Mobility

Every 15 years, a big technology shift changes IT forever. Mobility will define the next era

John Gantz, a senior vice president with IDC, a global IT research company (and a sister company to CIO’s publisher), has a theory about predicting change in the information technology business.

It goes like this: Roughly every 15 years, there’s a new wave of technology that hits a tipping point. The technology in question becomes commercially viable and then defines what the IT industry does for the next 15 years. Gantz has identified four distinct eras. The first was dominated by mainframes, which became widespread in the 1950s. Next came minicomputers, which gained popularity following Digital Equipment’s launch of the PDP-8 in 1965. Personal computers followed, getting commercial traction by 1980. And in 1995, Internet computing exploded.

The pattern suggests that some technology should have reached a critical mass in 2010 and should be now in the early phase of defining our jobs in the IT business.

Until recently, my bet was on what CIO magazine editors, in our most recent State of the CIO survey, labeled “technology as a service,” a catch-all term for various forms of cloud computing. In fact, when asked to choose among forces that are changing the CIO role, survey respondents picked technology as a service more often than other selections, including the next-generation workforce, ubiquitous data, social media, and the consumerization of devices.

But as I was prepping for a recent speech about enterprise mobility, I had an epiphany: The next 13 years of our lives in IT will not be driven by technology as a service.

Rather, all things mobile will define us. Look at that list again from the CIO study. Mobile technology underlies every one of the five forces that are influencing IT.

The next-generation workforce—as well as the workforce you already have—wants access to data and applications from anywhere, wants to collaborate with colleagues and customers easily, and wants to use smartphones, tablets and laptops to do it.

So dust off (or download) those Who albums. You will be whistling the tune “Goin’ Mobile” a lot in the coming years.

Do you agree? Send me your thoughts via email, or get in touch with me on Twitter: @gbeach.

Gary Beach is the publisher emeritus of CIO magazine. Email him at gbeach@cio.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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