8 tech trends to watch for 2012

2012 may be the year the tablet market gets a reality check, the cloudgets personal, Ultrabooks and Near Field Communication get a biggerpush, Windows 8 finally sees the light of day, and Research in Motionis restored — at least temporarily — to some of its former glory.
Those are some of the predictions and prognostications we’ve gatheredon the technology trends most likely to grab headlines, snare some ofyour IT budget dollars, and impact the way you run your life and yourbusiness in 2012.

One common thread is that the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenonwill play a significant role in driving nearly all of these trendsforward next year.

Tablet reality check
“2012 will be the year of mass (tablet) adoption,” says KristaNapier, senior analyst in IDC Canada’s emerging technology and digitalmedia practice.

Though tablets already have deep traction in the consumer space,they’ll gain even more as they get cheaper next year, she says.

Tablet adoption will also be fuelled by the BYOD trend, she says, asmore CEOs and CIOs using Apple Inc.’s iPad in their personal lives takethem to work too. As a result, many businesses are doing trials oftablets to see if they’re suitable for larger scale enterpriseadoption, Napier says.

BYOD will fuel design changes in tablets as well.

“We’re starting to see tablets adding keyboards to be more enterprisefriendly,” says Alon Kronenberg,associate partner and mobile solutions practice lead at IBM Canada.

He cites as an example Lenovo Group Ltd.’s ThinkPad tablet, which comes withan optional keyboard and digital stylus pen in addition to the tablettouch screen.  

Although the tablet market will keep growing next year, consumers willgain a better understanding about what they are best suited for, saysLeyland Brown, vice-president and general manager of the personalsystems group at Hewlet-Packard Co. Canada.

“In 2012 there will be more clarity around when do I buy a tablet andwhen do I buy a workhorse PC. People will see the tablet for what itis, which is an ultraportable device for consumption,” Brown says.

In an effort to appeal more to enterprise, many tablets will addgreater security features in 2012, Napier says, a trend we’re alreadyseeing with tablets that now allow users to control access to anycontent they deem business oriented.

E-readers like Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire will be big sellersthis holiday season, especially since they’re priced at around only$200, Napier says, but they probably won’t make a long lasting dent insales of tablets like the iPad because e-readers don’t have as muchfunctionality and versatility.

“They’re dedicated devices that do one thing really well,” says Napier. 

What will dominate the next round of the tablet wars?

“There needs to be a focus on content, not just hardware. That’llreally help determine a winner,” says Napier.

Apple is still out in front with iPad, she says, because the deviceoffers multiple ways to access, use and consume content, all of whichApple can charge money for on top of the iPad price itself. Thatcontent-based strategy will always generate more revenue than justselling the tablet as hardware alone, says Napier.

Ultrabooks make a move
Toshiba Corp., LG Corp., HP and Lenovo have already launched their own Ultrabooks, the super thin,lightweight laptops that pack powerful Intel chips but also boast afull keyboard and longer battery life than most tablets and laptops.

But can Ultrabooks carve out a significant market niche next year amidall the tablet frenzy? HP seems to be betting they can. Though HPscrapped its TouchPad tablet less than twomonths out of the gate, it just unveiled its first business Ultrabook,the Folio, for $900. Yes, that’s waypricier than a tablet but HP claims the battery lasts nine hours. AndUltrabook prices are expected to come down now that Intel is pumping $300 million intocompanies that will develop new Ultrabook features and technologies.

“So (Ultrabook adoption) is going to depend on how much importancepeople put on thinness and portability and battery life,” says HPCanada’s Brown.

Many observers see Ultrabooks as possible rivals to tablets in theenterprise space because they have full keyboards but are stillincredibly thin and light. The dividing line between tablets andUltrabooks will get even foggier next year, however, if Asus TekComputer Inc. delivers on its recent promise to make an Ultrabooktricked out with both a full keyboard and a swivelling touch screen.Asus plans to unveil a model of the device at Computex Taipei in June2012.

Windows 8 debuts
The debut of Windows 8 next year could throw aninteresting wrench into all predictions about tablets and Ultrabooks.

Microsoft has lost a lot of ground as PCs and laptops have beenforsaken in droves for Apple iPads and Android tablets. Since Windows 8will add the Metro touch screen capability to the Windows PC operatingsystem for the first time, there’s a chance it could eventually gainMicrosoft a foothold in the tablet market.

Gartner’s expectations for that foothold aren’t very high, however.This fall it projected just 4.3 million Windows 8 tablets will be soldin 2012, understandable for a new launch that’s late to the game. YetGartner predicts that by 2015 Windows 8 tablets will capture less than11 per cent of the global tablet market, a distant third behind firstplace iOS (46 per cent) and second place Android (36 per cent).

Windows is still the leading PC OS, so it’s conceivable Windows 8 mightspark renewed interest in PCs.

“Microsoft’s keeping a pretty tight lid on Windows 8,” says Brown. “Itmay potentially reignite the consumer part of the (PC) market or maydrive a refresh on the consumer side.

But she says Windows 8 could fall short in the enterprise next year,since businesses that invested in Windows 7 a short while ago maynot feel like shelling out money again for Windows 8 in 2012.

RIM on thin ice
After the disastrous PlayBook tablet launch, BlackBerryservice outages, and accusations by some shareholders of executivebungling and apathy, RIM is probably glad to bid adieu to 2011.

The big question everyone’s asking is whether RIM will even still bearound in 2012, especially since its patents and bargain basement shareprice combine to make it an attractive acquisition target.

“We won’t see RIM disappear next year,” predicts IDC’s Napier.

She believes fire sale prices on the PlayBook this holiday season willboost sales of the units. And as RIM releases more apps for thePlayBook, that will encourage developers to make even more apps forthem and help expand their popularity, Napier says.
“(RIM’s) not going to disappear,” Kronenberg concurs. “They still havea very strong product and strong sales in markets outside of NorthAmerica.”
BlackBerry 10, RIM’s new unified OS forBlackBerry and PlayBook, could hit the market in smartphones in 2012.Although future BlackBerry and PlayBook models bearing BlackBerry 10 (just recently renamed from BBX after a trademark dispute) will be ableto run some compatible Android applications, which could endear thedevices to , the exact implications of the new OS are still up in theair.

In its mobile sector forecast for 2012, Yankee Group predicts RIM will hold its own insmartphone sales next year. But by 2014 Android phones, now thethird-place enterprise choice among phones, will gain enough sales atRIM’s expense to move up to an even share of the that market with RIMand iPhone, Yankee Group anticipates.

Cloud will get personal
The cloud will be back in 2012, and this time, it’s personal.

Yankee Group sees cloud computing migrating from theenterprise to the consumer next year and expects one in fiveprofessionals with three or more devices to adopt a personal cloudservice for online storage, backup and synching.

“(We) anticipate the market will start with solid adoption among mobileworkers and then expand to all mobile users,” Yankee Group predicts inits 2012 mobile forecast.

Apple will touch off the consumer cloud migration with iCloud, but aspersonal cloud grows more popular, providers that offer cloud servicesfor more than one OS – including Google Inc., Dropbox Inc. and majorwireless carriers – will win the biggest share of the personal cloudmarket over time, Yankee Group says.

In the enterprise, SMBs will embrace cloud more fullynext year, Brown says, as an option that offers them flexibility ofscale.

“The cloud gives (SMBs) the ability to dial up and dialdown” depending on the ebb and flow of their needs and revenueintake at any given time, Brown says.

She also sees BYOD driving cloud service adoption, especially onlinebackup for all of the data on mobile devices doing double duty at workand home.

NFC piques more interest
Near Field Communication has beengenerating buzz for about five years now but the more recent push byGoogle could finally move NFC from concept to mainstream reality.

“You’ve got Google’s mobile wallet now and ifanyone has the capacity in terms of penetration it’s them,” saysKronenberg.

Widespread use of NFC for retail payments “might not happen in 2012 butthe notion of having a mobile wallet of receipts and coupons on yourphone has huge potential” next year, he says.

While some researchers have predicted widespread consumer use of NFCwithin two years, Gartner researchers threw cold water on that thissummer by saying the tipping point is more like four years away. Theculprit? Not security fears but force of habit. Shoppers are so used topaying with cash, debit or credit cards that they’re simply in no hurryto start paying for stuff with their smartphones, Gartner’s Sandy Shentold this year’s NFC World conference.

BYOD brings changes everywhere
“The BYOD trend is just going tocontinue once the floodgates open. When executives go in (to work) anduse their tablets, there’s no reason not to allow employees to do thatas well,” says Kronenberg. “We’re going to start seeing more people,especially customer facing workers, using tablets as their primarydevice.”

“Now they’re looking at how do we secure that (activity),” he adds.“How do you manage security and ensure corporate information stayssecurely managed versus the personal information on that (tablet)?”

Bringing in some sort of BYOD policy is “top of mind for most CIOs” in2012, a concern driven overwhelmingly by the popularity of iPads,Kronenberg says.

“We’ll see more policies developed around it for sure,” says IDC’sNapier.

In an IDC survey taken in August, over half of the 204 Canadianexecutives and IT professionals who responded still have no BYOD policyat their workplace. Of those that do, the two most popular securitymeasures are getting employees to sign some type of agreement and usingpassword protection.

“So it’s early days and there’s a need for more (BYOD) education,”Napier says.

In a recent Citrix Systems Inc. worldwide BYOD survey just 38 per centof IT managers reported having BYOD policies and tools in place tomanage and secure devices.

Large vendors like HP, Citrix and IBM Corp. have already gotten intothe game by launching mobile device security and management systems forenterprise. In 2012 we’ll see more wireless carriers and providersteaming up to offer similar BYOD enterprise services, Napier says.

Mobile device vendors will also increase their security features toappeal to CIOs grappling with the BYOD trend, Kronenberg says. He citesRIM’s new Mobile Fusion system, which allowsBlackBerry users to protect business data they store on personalnon-RIM devices (ie, Android and iOS phones) by locking and wiping themand setting their Wi-Fi and email settings using RIM’s BlackBerryEnterprise Server.

Kronenberg points out that RIM competitor Apple has given its own nodto the BYOD trend by beefing up iOS 5‘s security features (forexample, the forwarding of corporate email to a personal account cannow be disabled in iOS 5). This makes employees’ personal iPads morepalatable to enterprise IT managers wary of security risks, he says.

One sure thing to come out of BYOD next year is that the trend willforce many businesses to support more than just one operating systemfor their internal IT needs, Napier says.

“Due to BYOD you can’t ignore it. They have to move to support multipledevices.”

Christine WongChristine Wong is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow her on Twitter,and join in the conversation on the IT BusinessFacebook Page.

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