CHICAGO — In the next 10 years, new technologies -- such as small, wearable computers and touch-manipulated projections (think of Tom Cruise in the film Minority Report) -- will move from the research-and-development labs into the mainstream, Jackie Fenn, vice president and fellow for Gartner Group, told attendees at the recent Gartner Wireless Summit here. But while those technologies certainly have some "wow" factors to them, she warned companies to carefully assess each new "gee-whiz" feature to see which ones make sense to adopt right away and which can wait until they're better developed, drop in price -- or both.
Two of the technologies that are already getting some notice are cloud computing and social networking.
In cloud computing, users access virtual technology services, reducing the expense of owning all of the necessary hardware and software in-house. "As service provisions grow," Fenn said, referring to a critical aspect of cloud computing, "vendors must become or partner with service providers to deliver their technologies indirectly to users. User organizations will watch portfolios of owned technologies decline as service portfolios grow. The key activity will be to determine which cloud services will be viable -- and when."
It's unikely that users will completely abandon on-premises models, or that they will buy complex mission-critical processes as services through the cloud in the next few years, Fenn said there will be a movement to consume services in a more cost-effective way, according to Fenn.
While social networking is still largely a consumer application, some firms are finding that there are business and customer applications today. Some use LinkedIn, Twitter and similar applications to interact with customers. A still largely overlooked [by enterprises] social engineering platform, according to Fenn, is Facebook.
"Facebook offers a full-featured, general-purpose programming model akin to an enterprise portal," Fenn says. "This platform potentially allows applications to be built that meet needs of cross-organizational business processes."
The Facebook platform launched in May 2007, and there are now 25,000 applications and a crowded "ecosystem" of developers, vendors and investors, Fenn says. "Given all this, it is worth asking, ‘Where are the enterprise-oriented Facebook applications?' The barriers are not technical, but rather social and economic."
The current generation of Facebook developers are primarily part-time developers, students or others working at unrelated jobs, and don't know how to develop a Facebook application for enterprise use. Though some other Facebook users are full-time employees of Global 1,000 companies, their use of Facebook is at an individual level, to mingle and relax, rather than adopt a work-oriented mind-set.
WorkLight is a commercial intranet portal that is built on Facebook, which has yet to get market traction in the enterprise sector. Major technology vendors are adding Facebook-style features to their enterprise offerings, but these are still new.
Other technologies, like advanced robotics, gesture-based interfaces (think of Minority Report again), are much earlier in their developments, but could have benefits for some companies in the next few years, Fenn added.
Fenn urged firms to set up brainstorming sessions on cloud computing, social networking for the enterprise and other rapidly emerging trends to understand what they can mean for the business and the potential benefits that can be derived.
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