What appears ahead in 2009 and beyond in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector?
This is Part 1 of our review of ICT developments. The discussion is structured around the typical marketing lifecycle implemented by ICT vendors. This involves understanding the terms hype and spin and other terms we'll pick up in the conclusion in Parts 2 and 3.
Hype is where things often begin in ICT. It is ever-present in marketing and public relations in ICT markets. Hype is designed to capture attention, change views, and drive people into action, usually a purchasing decision. Most ICT hype gets hit by our delete buttons.
Spin is an accomplice of hype. Spin either uses concepts and terminology very loosely or bends them to suit the direction of the spin, even to the point of distortion. So if a new offering takes off then "me too" followers put a spin on their services and products claiming theirs too does something similar. There's a lot of legally acceptable puffery in a "me too" marketing mix.
New developments in ICT markets are often accompanied by hype and spin. The hype and spin is usually about claiming there is a new development.
Jumps in technical features, style or formats drive laggards and some competitors to lurch to hype and spin. Fearing being left behind market protagonists and late comers all seek to make a big noise on the bandwagon of a new development.
This bandwagon phenomena is very readably sent up in The New New Thing: How Some Man You've Never Heard of Just Changed Your Life, the Michael Lewis book about the 1990s rise of the Netscape Navigator browser.
So what ICT bandwagons are in town?
The cloud computing bandwagon arrived some time ago. The thought leadership press are listening. As a local non-IT media example, cloud computing was covered reasonably competently in late 2008 by Background Briefing, an ABC Radio National program in Australia.
As is often noted "Cloud computing comes from the cloud symbol on a network designers flowchart."
In 2008 we did substantial work for social media type websites which, like Facebook, host user data on a server in the cloud, ie on the internet.
To understanding the "cloud computing" term, the key point is that digital data is not stored on a local personal computer or say a networked office computer.Instead in clould computing it is stored externally, whether in Australia or another country. It might in future even be stored on servers on ships riding on the ocean.
A warning. Frustration will follow if you allow yourself to get too hung up about defining ICT terms like cloud computing. The hype and spin PR machines of the ICT sector work 24/7 to shape definitions to suit them.
Years ago an IT journalist friend warned me about being too proscriptive or holy in defining new developments in IT.
He said "The market will define itself, go with that." It's true, the ICT sector is devilishly slippery in the way it throws terms around with little definition. Not knowing this, years ago I fought against the tide to maintain a clear definition for the term "multimedia". I saw it as a responsibility, being at the time very active in and later National President of, the Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA).
There's a lot of wisdom in my friend's advice. I'm following it here. It makes little sense to seek clarity in definition of a term like "cloud computing". It's a moving feast and will probably fall victim to hype and spin sometime soon, if it hasn't already.
Enough on definitions. Here's facts - evidence of the rise of cloud computing for 2009 and beyond:
the escalating evolution of data centres, including in Australia
the increasing adoption of virtualization replacing in-house IT systems and staff to support them
the growth in online productivity applications (eg Google's Google Apps and Sun's OpenOffice)
the growth of other online applications music stores (iTunes), hosted email providers, hosted customer relationship management systems (eg Salesforce) and social media generally - all involve architectures built on cloud computing
the heating up of competition between browsers, with Firefox snapping at Explorer and in 2008 joined by Google's Chrome, not to mention Safari and hundreds of others creeping up behind. Take Firefox 3 as an example. When matched with add-ons in 2008 it becomes a multi-featured program, much like an operating system. I'm able to multitask faster than ever, eg monitoring downloads while making bookmarks which are rapidly synchronized across my office, work and mobile devices.
the dramatic escalation in web browsing time off web-friendly mobile devices (eg on the iPhone, Blackberry and other web-friendly mobile devices)
We'll continue the series in Part 2, taking up the opportunity with the iPhone and other smartphones. It's real. Yesterday, for example, I drafted two contracts for an iPhone application under development in Melbourne.
Update 21 January 2009: This three part series was written without being aware of the Gartner Hype Cycle. See its graphic below as at July 2008. Gartner is a prominent IT research company. Our series has a different focus and goes further in also discussing spin, buzz and habits.