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Still no hoverboards: 11 big tech predictions for 2013 and beyond

Geeks are a funny breed. They’re always moaning about the fact that the future they were promised in their favourite sci-fi shows has pretty much failed to materialise. Occasionally they do so while Skyping their friend overseas on a millimetres thick, ultra light smartphone. On the other hand those self-same smartphones can be incredibly fragile, smashing into pieces if they fall the wrong way.

The point is, the future doesn’t always go the way even the best minds think it will. I don’t think there’s a sci-fi writer out there who included drop tests as one of the ways people would decide which company’s super fancy communicator to buy.

The same is true for the way technology affects business. Predicting what’s going to change your office environment over the next few years is no mean feat, but tech research company Gartner’s given it a bash anyway.

The company says that its predictions for 2013 and beyond are “the most compelling and critical” from across its research areas and address the trends and topics that underline how little control tech companies have over the tech forces that control them.

1. Through 2015, 90% of businesses will skip Windows 8
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt to bring the touch interface to its flagship product to counter gains by Apple. Microsoft had to modernise, and its approach is to push companies to the new OS as quickly as possible. That US$1.5-billion advertising campaign isn’t just aimed at the average person on the street, you know.

However, most are not yet prepared for this change, and Gartner predicts that they will want to wait for more stability before proceeding.

While Microsoft as a technology company can make these changes at a more advanced pace, its customer base might not be able to. “The market will take time to mature”, says Gartner and most companies will sit on the sideline for now.

2. Three of the top mobile companies will be Chinese by 2014
Mobile phone penetration in emerging markets has resulted in a changing of the guard in terms of the leading manufacturers. The openness of Android creates new markets for companies that previously did not have the necessary software expertise and engineering capabilities.

Android and iOS will continue to dominate, with other ecosystems struggling to gain traction, and, with most companies committed to Android, it has become difficult to stand out from the crowd.

The result is that the traditional mobile phone players are getting squeezed, being unable to compete with Apple and Samsung at the high-end and struggling to differentiate from the likes of Huawei and ZTE, which are using the same Android platform for their models.

Chinese mobile companies have the opportunity to leverage their strong position in the domestic Chinese market for entry-level smartphones and expand to other regions, because this is not just an emerging-market phenomenon.

3. Big data demand will reach 4.4-million jobs globally by 2015
The demand for big data is growing, and companies will need to reassess how ready they are to respond to this opportunity. Jobs that are filled will result in real financial and competitive benefits for organizations.

An important aspect of the challenge in filling these jobs lies in the fact that companies need people with new skills — data management, analytics and business expertise and non-traditional skills necessary for extracting the value of big data, as well as artists and designers for data visualization.

4. By 2014, the European Union will drive legislation to protect jobs, reducing offshoring by 20 percent through 2016
The ongoing financial crisis has been particularly harsh on Europe. With little expectation of a short-term recovery, Gartner reckons the European Union (EU) will start trying to protect jobs in its member states by 2014.

The impact of this protectionist legislation would be a net reduction of offshore investments by 20% through 2016. Opportunities will likely be created for companies to invest further in lower-cost parts of Europe, or in areas within their domestic location, where costs may be lower.

5. By 2014, most Western tech hires will come from Asian companies
An increasing number of successful Asian companies — particularly from China and India — are enjoying double-digit growth rates and will substantially grow their geographic footprints, making significant investments in major Western markets through 2015.

Consequently, these organizations will be responsible for major hiring in the tech space to support their growth at a time when Western companies will still be coping with the impact of the economic crisis.

Exacerbating the disparity between the hiring practices of Western and Asian organizations will be the increased use of industrialized IT solutions, which will further reduce the IT staffing needs of Western firms.

6. By 2017, 40% of your company’s contact information will be leaked onto Facebook
Facebook is one of the top five applications installed on smartphones and tablets, and many organizations are being pressured to permit interlinking with Facebook and similar products, because those products provide a high degree of leverage for new contacts.

While many companies have been legitimately concerned about the physical coexistence of consumer and enterprise applications on devices that interact with their infrastructure, there has been little discussion about the underlying technologies that permit transfer of information between the two. These interactions are difficult to track, and the technologies to control the transfer are more difficult to build, deploy and manage.

7. Employee-owned devices will be infected with malware twice as often as company devices through 2014
Corporate networks will become more like college and university networks, which were the original “bring your own device” (BYOD) environments. Because colleges and universities lack control over students’ devices, they focus on protecting their networks by enforcing policies that govern network access.

Gartner believes that enterprises will adopt a similar approach and will block or restrict access for those devices that are not compliant with corporate policies. Companies that allow people to use their own devices should establish clear policies that outline which employee-owned devices will be allowed and which will be banned.

In the BYOD era, security professionals will need to diligently monitor vulnerability announcements and security incidents involving mobile devices and respond appropriately with policy updates.

8. Software spending will increase 25% through 2014 as objects get smarter
Previously “dumb” operational devices or objects, like a vending machine, medical device, marine engine or parking meter, now have software embedded in them, and sensors are being linked to the internet to create and receive data streams.

This machine-to-machine communication has the potential to trigger significant new software costs for four reasons:

  1. Because of the amount of software like light databases or operating systems embedded within large numbers of devices
  2. Because of the traditional software companies starting to charge license fees, in certain circumstances, if the devices even indirectly hit their applications
  3. Because companies that specialise in getting your tech operations up and running are getting away from hardware sales and into annuity software sales
  4. Because the people buying and paying for this may not be tech-savvy, are not experts when it comes to buying software, and may make expensive mistakes signing license agreements with hidden, or not so hidden, costs and risks.

9. By 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as to change the way they do business
Seventy percent of business transformation efforts fail due to lack of engagement. Gamification addresses engagement, transparency of work, and connecting employees’ actions to business outcomes.

Companies apply feedback, measurement and incentives — the same techniques that game designers use, to keep players interested — to achieve the necessary engagement for the company to change properly. Companies across a range of industries are already finding gamification effective, and Gartner predicts that the worldwide market will grow from US$242-million in 2012 to US$2.8-billion in 2016, with corporate gamification eclipsing consumer gamification in 2013.

10. By 2016, wearable smart electronics in shoes, tattoos and accessories will be US$10-billion industry
Okay, this has to be the coolest, and possibly the scariest, of the predictions so far. The majority of revenue from wearable smart electronics over the next four years will come from athletic shoes and fitness tracking, communications devices for the ear, and automatic insulin delivery for diabetics.

A neat side effect of this is that companies get a ton of information about the people using these devices. It does however have the potential to go too far.

Gartner reckons that companies should start looking at how the data from wearable electronics can be used to improve worker productivity, asset tracking and workflow. If that doesn’t sound a little dystopian to you, here’s a list of real life super-villain lairs for your consideration.

11. By 2014, up to 20% of the top 100 IT services providers will have been displaced
A Nexus of Forces, including cloud, big data, mobility and social media, along with continued global economic uncertainty, will accelerate the restructuring of the nearly US$1-trillion tech services market.

By 2015, low-cost cloud services will cannibalize up to 15% of top outsourcing players’ revenue, and more than 20% of the large companies which outsource not investing enough in industrialisation and value-added services will disappear through merger and acquisition.

Author | Stuart Thomas

Stuart Thomas
Stuart is the editor-in-chief of Engage Me Online. After pursuing an MA in South African literature, he spent five years reporting on the global technology scene. Intrigued by the intersection of technology and work, he joined Engage Me as the editor-in-chief. He is a passionate runner, and recently ran... More
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  • I’m very interested in where you get the data to substantiate your predictions. For a lot of business in SA that means a HUGE restructure and way they think to fundamentally change the way they do business. I would say for some (I guess they would fall into your % that disappear) it’s too much to soon.

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