There’s change happening.
Oh, I know, “change is the only constant, et cetera, et cetera.”
But I’m talking about profound change, not just in technology, but also in how technology affects us and how we interact with or through it. It’s the cultural and social change that is brought about by technology and which, at the same time, influences how technology is employed.
This change is the constant we refer to, and it happens in a continuum rather than the discrete and identifiable fits and starts of technology innovation, so it’s less obvious. In fact it’s only when we stop and examine what’s been happening over an extended period that we recognize it for what it really is – an exercise that, for me, was prompted by the recent IDC Directions conference.
IDC Directions is an annual conference presented by market research firm IDC to review and forecast the important trends in the IT industry. This year IDC is celebrating its 40th anniversary, so its annual conference was an ideal opportunity to review the industry’s last 40 years and speculate on the future.
Forty years ago, IBM launched the S/360, a machine that many of us cut our teeth on and one that is hard to reconcile with the PDAs, cell phones, game consoles and other computing devices that proliferate today. Difficult back then, before data networks, to imagine the networked environment of today that seems destined to connect everything to everything else.
The products have changed dramatically, but as IDC so clearly illustrated through its conference, the context has also changed. The contextual changes are more difficult to spot, but they are the changes that will most affect our businesses.
In the ’60s and ’70s the products themselves were the technology issue. Today, the services the products make possible are becoming the issue. Mobile phone companies make some models of phone available for free (after the rebate) in order to make money from the services they can then sell. And as the cost of other computing devices drops, a similar model is shaping up.
With the proliferation of networked devices, and many more to come as a result of technical developments around RFID and intelligent networked sensors, data volumes will grow and even the direction of the flow of data will change, creating the need for significantly different architectures than in the past.
The last 40 years of IT have been an interesting ride, and it’s only getting faster. If you visit www.idc.com you’ll find a whitepaper – downloadable for free – entitled 40 Years of IT. It offers an interesting perspective on some of these contextual changes.