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peter sondergaard

The future of computing? It’s Minority Report: Gartner

Gartner is pretty good at predicting the future. In the first part of our interview with the company’s head of research, Peter Sondergaard, we tackled a few predictions but mostly we chatted to him about Apple, Facebook and the current state of innovation.

Gartner is a New York Exchange-listed information technology research and advisory firm based in United States. Gartner knows everything. It has predicted the future of pretty much all devices and all web experiences. So we decided it was worthwhile to ask Sondergaard to gaze into Gartner’s crystal ball and give us some inside information. Sondergaard is responsible for the management and direction of the global research organisation, which includes Hardware and Semiconductors, as well as Software and Communications.

In short he knows what’s what. Sondergaard is of the opinion that the future will look a little like Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report where a sheet of glass is a computer. He reckons the next big thing in the tech revolution will see physical devices, such tables and chairs, connected to the internet.

The Gartner boss also spoke about where some of Gartner’s predictions are today and how many times the company has been wrong. According to Sondergaard, “somewhere between 75 and 80% of the predictions that are generally accurate”.

Sondergaard believes that our web experience in 10 years time will be more 3D oriented, “something that has wearable technology and different metaphors of navigation” and more visual.

Memeburn: How do geo-fenced and mobile payment technologies affect business and how do you see these themes playing out in the future?
PS: I think we, right now, are in a massive battle of mobile payment systems and alternative transaction systems for money. I think you’re seeing it with what’s happening with the credit card companies who are actually trying to work together with the telecom operators and establish partnerships for this. I think you’re seeing it with Square, with Google [Wallet] and PayPal, creating alternative networks.

I think the fascinating part of this is that it starts to rock the foundation of our financial services system. You can imagine that there could be a place in the future in which what happened with Iran six months ago (which is you shut down the SWIFT system access to Iran), that might not be possible anymore. Because if you have a multitude of different payment systems that operate in alternative manners, you now have complete democratisation and with that also comes the unfortunate situation that you can’t control things as well as you have in the past.

I think there are always good and bad things that come out of this, but we are in a massive competitive battle over how the transaction flows of the money are going to happen in the future. The forefront of that battle is what’s happening on mobile payment systems on mobile platforms.

But in the back-end, you also have alternative methods of creating money – I’m an economist – so that just starts to question whether our calculations for GDP is correct. Because if you have barter networks and networks that create other sources and definitions of money that I can trade with, or I can trade with other people, then how do you assess the size of an economy? This is a fascinating space.

MB: We’ve seen seismic shifts on the web: the search revolution, the web 2.0 revolution, then the social revolution, and now the mobile and tablet revolution – each changing our online experience fundamentally. What is the next seismic shift in your opinion and where will it come from?

PS: The next thing – and this is not going to be a surprise – the next thing is actually the connection of physical devices to the internet (well, physical assets). So basically, table chairs, cars, airline engines, medical equipment, everything that has been using computers but in an isolated and closed environment will be connected to the internet and this is what will generate an unprecedented amount of data. I don’t think people can fathom the amount of data that will be created once it is such that every airplane that lands has every one of the two or four engines connected to the internet and we continually generate data from those engines when it’s up in the air.

So the internet of things is really the next step, then you have the internet of everything, because everything is connected. It’s this next phase that is fascinating because it actually generates whole new opportunities for revenue stream, because I can create different products. I can create value add on top of my product set because I can give you information that you never had that may be able to optimise what you’re doing. So that is really the next step.

Once we have that, then you start to integrate with the data, and what happens then is more on the software architectures on top of this, which is when you get to things like augmented reality, gamification in the systems, because you’re now talking about ‘how can I use the systems and how can I operate differently in the environment?’

MB: Gartner predicted that more Fortune 500 companies will opt for gamification apps by 2014. Do you have any stats on which companies have successfully done this?
PS: I don’t – you’ll need to talk to some of the analysts on this, because there are a series of companies. There’s the linear evolution of gamification that happens on people’s websites as they’re trying to get the consumer to use the device differently. That’s wave one of gamification: implementing it in how consumers use my products and you see this in the integration with social networks. This is what companies like Starbucks do in terms of integration between the social network presence that Starbucks has and the in-store experience. So it tends to happen sort of in the retail space.

You could argue that this is also what has initially spun off things like Groupon, although it’s not gamification, it is ‘we’re trying to get you to buy something and we’re creating a different experience.’ The next wave, which I haven’t heard any of the analysts have examples of yet, is where we redesign our enterprise systems because [of] the way we want to have people operate (instead of paying people more salary, because this could be the way). They have people play games. It’s the one thing people can do for free and they’ll even pay for it, even though they know they won’t win anything. That’s where we think the next wave is but that hasn’t happened a lot yet.

MB: Gartner predicted that context will determine who wins in the tech industry. Who do you think is winning the battle of context-aware computing?
PS: It’s too early. We’re still trying to establish how we can use location-based information and how to do that in an efficient manner that allows you also to be cognizant of the privacy rules that exist. That’s also why there isn’t a global market for things like this, because privacy rules vary across the globe. There is no leader in this space. The only thing that’s clear is that the large providers are lagging behind what are sort of smaller startups. IBM doesn’t have a mobile strategy, so IBM is not a leader when it comes to context-aware computing in any way or form.

MB: Given that it is so easy to publish and distribute content online, is media a good business anymore?
PS: Trust and integrity is the most important thing, and it’s something you can break. There are millions of people who will read magazines (that they all know are false) about what happens with celebrities… but I do think that trust that is created in the media industry around a brand is valuable because people will flock to areas that they trust and areas that develop and that have demonstrated integrity.

It’s funny, when I arrived, one of the other analysts and I were talking about CNN. CNN uses YouTube so they have no clue who actually filmed it… so anybody can actually be a journalist. But the question is do you trust it? I think therefore trust which can be embodied in a brand is still incredibly important, and likely even goes greater in importance over the next number of years.

Educating children on critiquing sources of information is actually increasingly important. The education system is structured around the fact that we use books that we know the people who wrote the book. But if you look at education today it’s done using the web and kids go out and search for things. We don’t actually teach them. I spend a lot of time with my son going ‘where did you get it from? Do you trust them? Do you think that this sounds plausible, that it could be right?’ I think that we need education and that will help the media as well.

MB: Given that the app experience is richer, faster and people are now bypassing the web for their “internet media experience”, is the web in decline? How will the web evolve?
PS: I think if you don’t have a presence on mobile-based devices you will likely not have presence for long. I think it’s that simple, because people consume things and they’re going to consume them on the go. That does not mean that we won’t actually then sit back at some stage and it may involve a big screen and have a more immersed experience. But we will always have to have the experience available on a device like these, and if it’s not there, then certainly the more sophisticated experience is not likely valuable.

It’s interesting, because I was in Silicon Valley a few weeks ago, and I met with a couple of the large game companies (Electronic Arts and Ubisoft) and it was fascinating because they were both saying that they have about four years to dismantle half of their business. Because half of the business – the number of people who work there – are all looking at how you distribute CDs to game consoles. And they know it is dead. Who wants to do that when you can play games [online]?

But the other important thing which is really complex for them is that they build a game platform experience that runs from that one to that one to your large screen. You can’t only have the large screen; you have to be present here [on mobile] as well. The sophistication of the games is now that you need to determine which part of the game you play here [on mobile] versus which part of the same game you play on large screens. That’s the forefront of design in games because you have to be present here [on mobile] but people also want to play on large screens and that’s really complex.

That’s a fascinating world because it also demonstrates the forefront of where we are, because large companies need to think the same way. Because in essence, this is how the people who will be employed by large companies in the future will think.

MB: What will the web look like in ten years’ time?
PS: I think the sort of tectonic plate evolution of the foundations of what we use means that there are some things that won’t be very different. They were not either 20 years ago. We had large enterprise systems and they were really slow. But I think the web is going to be something that is available to us everywhere. The usage metaphor is going to be very close to what we have experienced as kids in science fiction movies. It will be more 3D oriented, it will be something that has wearable technology and different metaphors of navigation and it will be very much driven around a visual experience of walking in an information-based environment.

I think with what you’re seeing with wearable technology and what we can do with that already today, you extrapolate out 10 years… I think it will be amazing. The forefront of what we can do today is determined by what we have in gaming environments, and if you look at what you’re doing on the Microsoft Kinect… what you’re doing there from a navigation-metaphor perspective, if you extrapolate that out with different devices that are now connected. That’s the usage experience that you will have – the web will be simple. The web needs to continue to be simple. It needs to be intuitive and it needs to be simple for the user, but it will hide the complexity of what sits in the back-end. And that’s been the strength of the web.

The last thing is that the connection of things that we have – every physical asset – ten years from now, any product that would cost US $500, would be connected to the internet. Any new product we could buy a couple of years out would start to get connected to the internet. So the experience of the internet changes completely when that happens.

MB: Should media companies be worried about basing their business model on banner advertising? Will it fade out in the future?
PS: I think that certain aspects of banner advertising will be viable over the next couple of years. I just think we evolve in sophistication in terms of how we advertise and integrate the whole aspect of promotional activities into whatever we do from a media perspective. The fascinating thing that will happen with marketing is the complete digitisation of marketing. Because once it’s digitised, you can measure it.

You can assume that there is some impact of a TV commercial in terms of people buying stuff. When it is such that it is completely digitised, we can measure whether or not it is effective. So what will happen is that organisations will grow more and more sophisticated in terms of what works and what doesn’t work. So right now we only have rudimentary tools to actually figure out whether banner advertising works, but as we start to get the contextual environments more and more mature, we will be able to look at the derived impact of things.

So this digitisation of marketing will revolutionise things, so it could question whether or not certain forms of marketing (like using banners) is as effective as other things like product placement inside an article, which you then need to decide whether that’s a good thing to do.

MB: Are we in the post-PC era and what will computers look like in ten years’ time?
PS: If you define ‘the PC’ as being a clunky piece of equipment of which part of it is under the table and part of it is on the table and part of it is a big clunky screen, then yes, we are in the post-PC era. We have disconnected the actual computational and storage aspect of things from the screen and the sheet of glass is now expandable or collapsible in the sense that it can be either a smartphone or a tablet or a screen that may not in fact look like the kind of screen we have. It could be your TV, we have shareable large screens. So in that sense we are in the post-PC era, and I think we will continue to evolve more sophisticated metaphors of interacting with that computational device and the screen.

Also, we will start to see how this moves from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional capability of navigation, which you start to see in some aspects of how organisations are using it. We’re not far from what you see in movies where people can move things around. I mean in essence you can do that today.

If you look at Minority Report, in essence you can take that screen and I could have an air mouse, and the screen would be a real sheet of glass. It will be very close to what you see in Minority Report. You can do even more sophisticated 3D based environments. We’ve seen that in some of the projection systems that exist today where you can project people in a 3D perspective in on a stage.

MB: Have you ever made any predictions that went wrong?

PS: A couple of times throughout the last 10 to 15 years, we have tried to do a snapshot. Keep in mind, it’s not that easy. You have to go back in a certain time frame and then you have to look forward (because most of them are forward-looking) and you have to determine what is accuracy. A prediction includes a period of time and a statement of what we believe will happen and some of the details around what that is.

Is it incorrect if you get it wrong by one year? I don’t know. What is the definition of something being correct? On average, it’s somewhere between 75 and 80% of the predictions that are generally accurate. However, you could even then start to parse down the definition of a prediction. The statement about Windows 8: one, you base it on a lot of historic information and you base it on a lot of well-known information on what the behaviour of companies is. The time frame is very short — it’s not like you’re stating something about Windows 8 in 2018, it’s now. You can also look at predictions that are short-term, predictions that are based on something that is 2017 or 2018 (something short-term) to likely narrow the likelihood of you hitting that prediction.

Bottom line: 75 to 85% is what we feel comfortable with, and is sort of in-line. It would be utterly wrong if they were all correct. I would stay if they were all correct then you’re predicting the known, and therefore there has to be something that could be incorrect.

Number two, the way we work with our clients is that they are continuously our clients, and therefore you can take something that we say that’s far-reaching, and then over time you can see how things narrow down into becoming accurate. When you take a snapshot in time, you’re looking at something that may have started here. Everything that we talk about with context-aware computing, six or seven years ago, was very far-reaching and the predictions then were not accurate. But I think that we would all agree that context-aware computing is here and happening and there are several phases of it.

Image: Axel Bührmann

Author | Mich Atagana

Mich Atagana
Mich started out life wanting to be a theoretical physicist but soon realized that mathematics was required. So, she promptly let go of that dream. She then decided that law might be the best place for her talents, but with too many litigation classes missed in favour of feminist... More
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  • Commander Jim

    Suuuure. So the PS3 can handle GTA Online no problem but Sunset Overdrive needs dedicated servers… right…

  • Phillip Moore

    you are right

  • Maxine Payne

    This is PR lies. The reason its console exclusive is because Microsoft commissioned them to make it. Which probably included a clause that they say crap like this when asked why its not multiplatform.

  • Holeybartender

    This game is Xbox One exclusive only because Microsoft paid them to be that way.

  • ALightningBoldt

    Obviously. Do you guys think Sony didn’t pay From software to make bloodbourne exclusive. Don’t be naive guys

  • Holeybartender

    Of course. I’ve known this about Sunset Overdrive since its announcement back when they were introducing Xbox One’s 8 player support. Its made exclusive specifically for this reason.

  • ALightningBoldt

    Exactly. Which is why I’m not sure what all the hoopla on this comment board is about?

  • Michael Jimenez

    PS3 can do that…I wouldn’t hype that up.

  • Commander Jim

    No, because Sony owns the IP.

  • ALightningBoldt

    Ok well replace them with another developer. That’s just how the world works. Also, Microsoft let insomniac keep the IP which I’m sure was a deciding factor when determining exclusivity

  • ed

    Whatever he needs to say to justify to failed gamble they took thinking the X1 would be the market leader when they began development.

  • http://freakytj.com/ Jack

    What’s cracking me up are all these comments; amazing how so many Internet dwellers are insiders and know the truth.

    All I’m reading in the comments are assumptions and speculations. Unless anyone here works for MS or Insomniac, no, you don’t know the reasons for SO being exclusive.

  • Michael Jimenez

    We’re saying the reasons Insomniac gives are BS.

  • Jack

    Can you give any factual supporting detail for the reason why?

  • Jonathan George Anaya

    To ALL you commentors who Know NOTHING about what you’re talking about:
    Sony DOESN’T HAVE the Online Infrastructure of Azure. FACT.
    Genkai comes close with the ability to stream content, However, it does NOT PROCESS INFORMATION on the fly for developers to utilize.
    Azure’s cloud-based server farm opens up calculations for physics and data crunching; it also allows for connections to it’s many locations.
    “Oh, but Sony has servers!”
    Really? Where where those servers back on the PS3? You were connecting ad hok to individualized PS3’s and using “host advantage” to manage multiplayer.
    MS has over 330,000 data centers that various world governments are petitioning against due to fear of privacy violations. But, MS sees it as a way to expand their business into cloud based computing (which is the FUTURE for enterprise and consumer needs)

  • You are flat out wrong

    Cos those servers really made a difference for TF and Forza 5.

    Just admit that your precious Azure is totally over-rated and nobody really cares.

  • John Doe

    He doesn’t understand what he is typing about. He’s just fanboying. PSN runs on dedicated servers. XBL runs on dedicated servers. All of these companies use them. Driveclub uses dedis. Everything Insomniac is saying are lies. The game even has a singleplayer mode and the servers don’t play a large role in the game. It is just marketting lies that Xbots are defending.

  • ALightningBoldt

    Drivataars aren’t innovative?

  • ALightningBoldt


  • ALightningBoldt

    Yes they do make a difference. So your comment holds no weight

  • Jonathan George Anaya

    All these Kids think that they are programmers because their Mommies bought them the Cheapest, Low Budget Next Gen console on market.

    Reality is: they don’t know what they’re talking about

  • You are flat out wrong

    You’d be an expert in now knowing what you’re talking about, Jonny.

  • demfax

    You’re constantly wrong and delusional.

  • You are flat out wrong

    Yes, da clowd made such a difference for Titanfall’s bad bot AI.


  • ALightningBoldt

    The minions were designed to be easy kills. They will kill you if you ignore them. They run from titans and call out enemy pilots’ locations if they see them. The cloud helps by running these calculations instead of console side. Also drivataars are great and create excellent a.I. in forza using the cloud

  • You are flat out wrong

    Ah yes, the “it’s supposed to be crap!!!” excuse. But I thought Azure’s power was meant to be revolutionary?

    All Azure does with Forza 5 is copy AI logarithms. Could easily be done on local hardware. Then again, Turn 10 probably couldn’t afford it looking crappier.

  • ALightningBoldt

    It might not be “revolutionary” but regardless of what adjective you use it is still useful. It can be used to free up resources for the console. They never said it would be fully utilized from the start. And the games that use it currently are the best racing game on current gen consoles and the best FPS on the consoles.

  • You are flat out wrong

    Useful for mockery? Definitely.

    By the way, Need for Speed Rivals and Wolfenstein are multiplat.

  • ALightningBoldt

    I own those games. I stand by my statement

  • You are flat out wrong

    Of course you do.

  • ALightningBoldt

    Well I do.and even if you don’t believe me look at the reviews of the games.they tell the same story

  • Michael Jimenez

    Ha and PS4 still for true gamers who just want a system and awesome games, without needing even more extra crap to “free up resources”. Still want SOD tho.

  • ALightningBoldt

    I have a ps4. Xbox one is just as much for true gamers as ps4 is. In fact I’d argue it has better games up to this point.

  • ALightningBoldt

    And yes the bots are supposed to be bad. If you spent more than an hour with titanfall you would see why and why they are in the game

  • demfax

    PSN could easily handle Sunset Overdrive’s 8 player multiplayer, or hosting a Titanfall game with AI running around, or processing Driveatar data. This isn’t magical secret sauce here.

    PSN is vastly improved and Sony is continually investing more into improving it.

  • ALightningBoldt

    Maybe it could, maybe it couldn’t. But it doesn’t..

  • John Doe

    Most of what you just stated is incorrect. You are highly missinformed LOL

  • ALightningBoldt

    The only thing he said that was incorrect is there are over 300,000 servers for Xbox live. Not 330,000 data centers. What else did he say that is incorrect?

  • John Doe


    First of all, he is comparing PS Now to Azure which is incredibly stupid.

    PS Now uses more processing power. It renders entire games for millions to play. PS Now is processing the multiplayer, matchmaking, and chat for those games all in the cloud as well. PS Now is the fastest gaming network in the world. Azure(or the 300,000 servers for Xbox) are for Xbox Live and dedicated hosting of multiplayer. It is only processing data for the game depending on what the game is. The game is running on your console. Totally different.

    Second, he states that PS Now doesn’t process info on the fly for developers to use which is incredibly stupid.

    PS Now can be updated to process whatever you want depending on the development tools and software. PS Now’s purpose is to run games that are allready developed.

    Third, he states that Azure allows physics calculations and data crunching.

    No shit !!! That is what every cloud is. All Azure is, are computers sitting in a remote location, just like PS Now and the servers Sony, Google, and Amazon use. Nothing special about Azure.

    Fourth, he types about server locations.

    So tell me how those server locations allowed Sunset Overdrive to be possible? LOL It didn’t. So tell me how those servers in Japan and Europe are helping people in the states? LOL They aren’t.

    Number five, he types about the PS3.

    Xbox 360 used peer to peer just like PS3 yet Microsoft made you pay for it. So I’m not sure what his point is. PS3 used dedicated servers for many things more than the Xbox 360 did.

    Number six, He states that Azure gives Microsoft a competitive advantage.

    Since when should gamers care about Microsoft’s business strategies outside of gaming? The point is that Azure does not give Microsoft an advantage in gaming because many other companies have dedicated servers as well.

    The guy doesn’t even know what dedicated servers hosting is and probably doesn’t understand that everything he typed doesn’t disprove that Insomniac is lying. You don’t need 300,000 servers to use dedicated hosting for multiplayer in Sunset Overdrive.

  • ALightningBoldt

    I agree it is stupid to compare the two because they do different things. I was assuming he was comparing XBL to PSN because that would make the most sense. Do you have any links to support the rest of your points? Especially the part about Now being the fastest gaming network in the world?

  • demfax

    PSN could easily handle Sunset Overdrive’s 8 player multiplayer, or hosting a Titanfall game with AI running around, or processing Driveatar data. This isn’t magical secret sauce here.

    PSN is vastly improved and Sony is continually investing more into improving it.

  • Jacob Kopta

    I have been playing titanfall since it launched and I rarely experience lag. C.o.d. Yes battlefield yes titanfall rarely!!!!! If u have not played you are missing out!!!! I can’t wait for sunset overdrive!.!.!.!.! It will be epic just like titanfall!!!!!!

  • Phillip Moore

    ive never experienced lag on any of those games maybe I have better internet I don’t know

  • me

    How much do you think Microsoft paid him to say that? Only possible on xbox when ps4 and pc are more powerful.

  • Living

    Yep, I’m sure there’s no way the more powerful PS4 could handle any of that. We all know the real reason. MS offered to let Insomniac keep the IP and maybe some other “incentives” and Sony Didn’t. For Insomniac’s sake I hope it blows up because they may find it won’t have been worth alienating their PS fanbase otherwise.

    It’d be better for them to just not comment on this anymore. Obviously they won’t come out and say MS offered them the better terms and when they lie and bs like this it just makes Sony fanboys and their former fanbase more upset.

  • Phillip Moore

    your so butthurt but its ok fella you will get over it

  • XboxONEorBUST

    Sony fanboys make me LoLz

  • Michael Jimenez

    Do you know what your name is?

  • Dr. NEGA

    well in that case SONY owned the rights of Insomiac games and they have 6 months to departure and form your owned company named… because the people who make this stupid game are arrogant pricks think they running the show..Excuse me its SONY money that make you great….