E-business stays on track and other predictions

Despite an apparently slowing economy, technology development will continue its rapid pace. E-commerce, wireless, hosting and ASPs, security, and privacy will remain touch points for the coming year. InfoWorld editors polled their sources to forecast the top technology and e-business trends.

Enterprises get connected

High on the enterprise to-do list will be improving links with customers and business partners. Next year will see more focused business-to-business initiatives, from tightly coupled supplier communities to full-blown trading exchanges. Expanded e-commerce efforts will blur the lines between b-to-b and business-to-consumer e-commerce.

Wireless becomes ubiquitous

Ubiquitous broadband wireless access will not be a reality next year, but it will come a step closer. AT&T Wireless has been quietly buying up the 1900MHz PCS (Personal Communications Services) broadband spectrum and will be able to offer almost nationwide coverage in early 2002. “At this point we believe we have sufficient spectrum in virtually all our markets to begin our 3G [third generation] network launch,” said Jim Grams, vice president of technology development at AT&T Wireless. As all handhelds get built-in wireless capabilities using packet data technology, PDAs will become official members of the corporate family. Analysts are predicting that next year nearly half of all developers will write to wireless applications and technologies.

CRM mantra continues

As companies began the long march to becoming customer-centric, they began demanding that the once stand-alone components of a CRM (customer relationship management) strategy – SFA (sales-force automation), campaign management, customer contact systems – not only become part and parcel of a unified offering but come from one vendor. Hence 2000 saw a spate of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships. For the coming year, businesses will test their strategies, which incorporate phone, e-mail, and online interactions as well as a layer of analysis to provide the enterprise with a single view of the customer.

Privacy issues pervade Internet boom

Reacting to consumer outcry over perceived privacy threats, Congress in 2001 will almost certainly devote a great deal of time to the issue of Internet privacy, including addressing perceived invasions of online privacy by the government. Radically affecting the privacy debate in 2001 will be the discussion of issues surrounding wireless devices. “There is a lot of fear that technology being developed could be misused, even if there was a good purpose behind it,”predicted Ari Schwartz, policy analyst at Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

Microsoft, Justice Department battle on

The software giant’s appeal of a federal judge’s guilty verdict and proposal to break the company into two separate entities is before a federal appeals court and probably will be heard in February or March. The U.S. Supreme Court likely will be the final arbiter of the antitrust case. Most observers say the case probably won’t be affected by George W. Bush’s ascent to the White House.

Web hosting gets automated

Hosting outfits will introduce services that appeal to the larger business customer. “The biggest thing I see is managed hosting and automation of the provisioning process,” said Melanie Posey, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass. Companies such as Exodus, Genuity, and Digex will continue honing standardized solutions and let corporate customers help themselves to the hosted solutions they seek. The hosting space is expected to continue thriving, even with the downturn among dot-coms.

Security issues remain paramount

The transition from Internet as technology to Internet as business model must be reinterpreted in the new year to determine what the new security risks will be as underlying technology changes, said Frank Prince, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. “The possibility that the operating environment of wireless devices like cell phones will become known enough and generic enough that it will cause realistic security concerns for a broad range of the population is very high,” said Prince, who predicts that intrusion detection will garner much attention in the upcoming year.

ASPs consolidate

The ASP (application service provider) market suffered some lean times during the last 12 months and retrenched through acquisitions and partnerships. Despite increased education efforts for customers and IT vendors, the implosion of the dot-com arena – a key customer base for ASPs in early 2000 – forced many ASPs to rethink their business focus and migrate toward large enterprise customers. “Most people [who] were talking about ASPs for small to medium businesses [have] come to find out large companies were most interested in ASPs,” said Amy Mizoras, senior analyst at IDC.

Content management is king

Data management will undergo a fundamental shift in the coming years as it broadens to become content management, meaning support for more data types from a variety of sources, including heterogeneity among competing databases, IBM officials said. Vendors will also continue to pack more into the core database engine.

Linux maintains momentum

The good fortunes of Linux, at least on low and midrange servers, should continue in 2001, especially with the Version 2.4 kernel now available. The open-source operating system made substantial inroads against Microsoft’s server versions of Windows in 2000, claiming about 24 per cent by year’s end, according to IDC. Most expect Linux will gain at least a few more percentage points in 2001.