Round Table: Our predictions for 2010

Jeff Jedras (Senior Writer, Computer Dealer News): The netbook market, which has been extremely hot this last year, I don’t see it having a strong future, especially with the continuing growth in the smart phone segment. I don’t think there’s enough differentiation between those two products for them both to continue the strong growth that we’ve seen. And I think you’ll begin to see a level of convergence happen between those two segments; we’ve already seen them getting similar with the launch of mobile-broadband-enabled netbooks.

Dave Webb (Editor, ComputerWorld Canada): You’re already seeing that: I just saw on Verizon in the States they an HSPA-enabled device.

JJ: Rogers has a model as well, I think.

Rafael Ruffolo (Staff Writer, ComputerWorld Canada): Really, is the price difference that much if you get a really bare-bones cheap laptop from HP than a netbook? We’re talking about maybe $100.

JJ: My (BlackBerry) Curve, which I got on a three-year contract, if I paid the full cash price, it would be around $400 or $500, which is the price of high-end netbook today. And you’re already beginning to see vendors like Rogers or Verizon in the States offer contracts on netbooks where you get it for free if you sign up for a three-year contract.

RR: Five hundred dollars is a whole new laptop, too, which does more than either of the two.

Brian Jackson (Staff Writer, People are not going to carry around three screens, right? They’re not going to carry around a laptop, a smart phone, and a netbook. They’ll probably carry around a smart phone (people are adopting that at a pretty fast rate), but the netbooks are just going to blend into the laptops, and people will probably settle around a 13-inch, 14-inch screen on a device that’s a little more feature-rich, with a faster processor and more storage capability. Even at the end of this year we’ve seen the manufacturers going this way with their products. A lot of them have even dropped this whole differentiation between netbook and laptop models and they’re just landing their main consumer products in the middle of those form factors.

DW: I’m going to disagree. I think 10 inches is the sweet spot because it’s not about being feature-rich. It’s about portability, which is why, yes, if I spend $100 more, I can get a full-featured laptop, but I’m not buying it for the full feature-set, I’m buying it for the portability, and I don’t think that your BlackBerry is adequate for my purposes.

JJ: Have you used a netbook on an ongoing basis?

DW: It is my favourite computer.

JJ: I used one for a month and thought it sucked. It was far too limiting in its capabilities; it was too small, it was uncomfortable, and the tradeoffs that I made for a netbook versus a laptop were just not worth it for the very minimal savings in price.

DW: Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree because I can’t fire you.

Kathleen Lau (Senior Writer, ComputerWorld Canada): I think we’re going to see a lot of business intelligence vendors try and rebrand and remarket what they’re offering, because already what we’re seeing is the term business intelligence getting a bit of a bad rap. People are saying business intelligence is a thing of the past; it doesn’t help businesses do what they need to do. The new thing now is business analytics and now these vendors are trying to sell business analytics as something that is a step up from business intelligence, and, funnily enough, in the past months I’ve heard these same vendors say it’s not business analytics anymore, it’s operational intelligence. So what’s the difference? Is there a difference?

RR: I was at the IBM business analytics show that they have, and they were really throwing out “business analytics,” and then a whole bunch of other buzzwords I’d never heard of and I got a headache from how many different words there were. I couldn’t keep track of them all.

JJ: I think this is a factor of all the consolidation we’ve seen in the BI market over the last four to five years. We used to have business intelligence vendors like SAP and IBM, and then there was a second tier of analytics vendors like Cognos and Hyperion. You’d have the BI, and then you’d also use an analytics suite to really make the BI something that you could use and digest. But I think that, with the acquisitions, you’re seeing all that kind of begin to emerge.

KL: If you really think about it, business intelligence was supposed to do all of that. It was supposed to give you the analytics and the insight into your business so that you could make real-time decisions. The definitions, to me, don’t seem to change all that much, and that was what I was predicting for next year, is that these vendors will now come up with new buzzwords that they say will be a step up from what they said before.

DW: Instead of calling it what it actually is, which near-real-time data-mining.

RR: So Kathleen’s prediction, basically, is buzzword overkill.

JJ: The problem with BI is that it hasn’t been useable or digestible by the end-user, and there was far too heavy a workload required by IT. There were whole departments that were in charge of creating reports. Over the last few years there’s been a big push by the BI vendors to make the information more digestible by people with less tech savvy, and it’s been moving much more to the departmental level rather than being an enterprise-wide play.

BJ: I’m going to predict that 2010 will be the year for technology legislation to be brought before Parliament, and we’ll be seeing a lot of updated laws that affect technology over the year. So, over the summer, we had the copyright consultations, a lot of talk about things like DRM and technological locks, and how that affects works that are on the Internet. Tony Clement is going to be under pressure to bring forward some legislation regarding those talks; we’ve also seen some international talks that are a little more concerning, like ACTA and the European Commission asking Canada to really crack down on copyright laws. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but the anti-spam law has also been coming through the process, slowly but surely; I think it just came out of a Senate vote and I think it’s going back to the Parliament committee in the New Year. So we’ll probably see that pass, too.

RR: Net neutrality was something that we were talking about, too, with the government.

JJ: Does anti-spam law at the national level really have any impact? Can’t they just move to another country?

BJ: I think that’s exactly what they hope will happen, because, apparently, I’m told, a lot of these spammers operate out of Canada because of lax legislation. So, if we can drive those guys out of our country, not our problem, right?

JJ: Can we afford to be losing those jobs, though?

RR: And it’ll still affect us. The spam will definitely still affect us. I’m just going to throw out some wacky predictions and we can all see them proved wrong over the course of the next 12 months. I think Apple is finally going to release the iTablet: this thing has been rumoured for years, and I think that it’s finally going to launch around the middle of the year, be overpriced, and there’ll be some buzz as it starts out, but it’ll fail. It’ll be something that they’ll just be ashamed of by the end of the year. It won’t be like the iPhone.

DW: I’m going to disagree, and I’m going to say what I told Fujitsu, which is that tablets aren’t going to get traction until Apple releases it, and when Apple does, the tablet market is going to change.

JJ: I’d disagree. The tablet form-factor is stupid. I don’t like it.

DW: Yes, the tablet form-factor is stupid, but when Apple releases it …

RR: I think that Bing, despite some of the traction that they’ve gotten, won’t even come close to catching Google over the next 12 months, and you won’t hear much about that.

KL: There’s already a lawsuit against them. An original company called Bing is suing them over the name.

RR: I think with EHR—electronic health records—a lot more provinces are going to start actually seeing them work out. I know that Manitoba is on the path to get something by the end of 2010, Ontario’s maybe by the end of 2110 … I think Novell might get bought. I don’t know who’s going to buy them, but it just seems like the company is not really moving with any direction. I could see them being snatched up—they have some valuable technology. They got PlateSpin as well.

DW: I’m going to break with my now three-year-long tradition, and not say that someone is going to buy Citrix.

Jeff: I will say it.

DW: Because I think they’re now too intertwined with Microsoft for them to be of any use to anybody except out of spite.  So dedicated to (former ComputerWorld Canada senior writer) Briony (Smith, who always claimed Citrix would never be bought) — no one will buy Citrix. I think there may be some virtualization backlash, I think, just because it promises savings and simplicity, and delivers whole new levels of complexity and cost.

JJ: You’re going to need the channel to help you manage virtualization and handle that level of complexity and make virtualization work for your business. The recovery we have this year, hopefully (knock wood), will be led by the SMB market. In Canada, they’re more agile, more nimble, and more able to start investing faster than the enterprises are. Virtualization is starting to become very big in the SMBs because it allows them to get enterprise-level applications and service that were out of reach through traditional on-premise software.

RR: I say, software-as-a-service: good. Cloud: bad. I think that a lot of SMBs, but also, increasingly, enterprises, are going to see the value in not having the hassle of managing certain applications. At the same time, they’re not going to want to be sitting side-by-side with a potential competitor somewhere out in the cloud. So whatever you want to call it — application management, software-as-a-service — I think that continues to gain traction and I think cloud is well over-hyped.


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