Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tech Upheavals in 2009

Technology is on the verge of change, yet again. There are new developments brewing in many areas, but these particular changes are related to telecommunications and computing. Most have been brewing throughout 2008, but look for a breakout in 2009 that will surprise those who haven't been paying too much attention. See if you agree with these game changers of note:

1. Wireless Broadband Replaces DSL and Cable - Low cost wireline services from the telephone and cable companies are getting increasing competition from wireless carriers. Ubiquitous cell towers are now equipped with broadband data channels that offer similar speeds for slightly higher monthly rates. This year look for a wholesale invasion from WiMAX and LTE higher speed broadband on frequencies that penetrate buildings. Smaller installations may not even need an outside antenna.

2. Cellphones Replace Laptops - The laptop case replaced the briefcase as business processes started going more and more electronic. The natural evolution of this trend has been toward smaller and lighter mobile PCs. Do you really need a floppy disc drive? A CD or DVD burner? A huge screen and keyboard? Wait! Maybe you don't need a laptop or notebook computer at all. Smartphones such as the BlackBerry devices, iPhone and the family of touch screen designs by Samsung can handle business documents, access Web pages and exchange messages. Plus they work as telephones too.

3. Copper Replaces Fiber - If you wanted reliable high speed connections for medium and larger businesses, SONET fiber optic solutions were your only real option. You might only need a fraction of the fiber's capacity, say DS3 at 45 Mbps, but you still had to pay the construction costs to bring in and terminate the fiber bundle. Now bonded twisted pairs are capable of providing Ethernet service from 1 to 50 Mbps up to a few miles from the nearest carrier POP (Point of Presence). In major metro areas, that service radius includes many office buildings, warehouse and retail stores. If you can get fiber optic service levels, at least the lower speed ones, at dramatically lower costs than fiber optic services, why pay for fiber construction at all?

4. Fiber Becomes Infrastructure - While Ethernet over Copper works its magic for many individual businesses, savvy office building and industrial park developers are seeing the wisdom of installing fiber optic communications as a selling point for their facilities. The incremental cost is trivial in greenfield construction and easily affordable for retrofits where there are many tenants needing high speed broadband. You can treat the fiber optic service as a utility or even a profit center when you select a competitive service provider that is hungry for market share.

5. Internet Replaces Software - Cloud computing started out as a curiosity in 2008, but has picked up steam to the point where companies are starting to wonder why they put up with constant software upgrades, security issues, and the costs of running their own server farms. Why not outsource the server farm to a cloud computing operator who takes care of those messy details and just charges you for what you use for processing and storage? Indeed, why not just use the business software you need and let somebody else worry about keeping it up to date? Lower cost high reliability Internet connections and increasing number of computing and SaaS (Software as a Service) providers may get this idea to the tipping point in 2009.

Think these ideas are too radical? Maybe the timing seems ambitious, but technology changes have a way of picking up steam as they gain acceptance. The demand for higher business productivity with more and more limited staff will also help speed the adoption of new technology. We'll be exploring these and other tech upheavals as they present themselves and become readily available at attractive pricing. But don't be surprised if these five upheavals turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg in 2009.

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