2012 Tech predictions from IDG editors around the world

What is 2012 likely to bring to the tech industry and tech users? IDG—the publisher of Macworld, PCWorld, InfoWorld, Computerworld, Network World, CIO, CSO, ITworld, and many other tech publications around the globe—asked a selection of its editors to pick their key tech-related story of 2011, as well as to gaze into their crystal balls and predict a key trend or development for 2012.

Here are the editors’ individual picks and predictions, in no particular order. The death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the rise of social media as a tool of protest topped a diverse group of nominees.

Simon Jary, publishing director, IDG U.K.

Most significant story of 2011: Tech patent wars. Although public patent disputes used to be the preserve of small-time patent trolls, 2011 has seen all the major players in the mobile sector go to war with each other in the courts, suing and countersuing, slinging mud, and attempting to rub out competitive products through the courts. It’s ugly and will end up costing the consumer and likely hindering innovation from newcomers.

2012 crystal ball: More blurring of the lines between laptops, tablets and smartphones, and between consumer and enterprise tech. Apple will lose more of its nice-guy sheen, even though its new boss isn’t as aggressively vindictive as the last.

Maryfran Johnson, editor-in-chief, CIO Magazine and Events

Most significant story of 2011: Mobility, without question. Whether it’s the influx of consumer devices into the enterprise or the development of mobile apps to do innovative things for their businesses, CIOs are all about mobile these days. When you look at the big 5 IT trends that have dominated this past year (mobile, social, consumerization, cloud, and big data), just about all of them hook into the mobility drive from one aspect or another.

2012 crystal ball: Ever greater attention to big data and how companies can use analytics tools to mine the data for customer insights, business opportunities, or cost savings.

Bob Brown, online executive news editor, Network World

Most significant story of 2011: In the interest of choosing a development that’s less mainstream but in the sweet spot for Network World’s audience, I’m going with the emergence of OpenFlow. The big Interop 2011 show could almost have been called the OpenFlow show given that it served as one of the first significant exhibitions of OpenFlow switches and controllers, including those shown off in a lab at the event. The software-defined networking technology is designed to enable users to define flows and determine what paths those flows take through a network, regardless of the underlying hardware. OpenFlow stems from an open source project borne of a six-year research collaboration between the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. OpenFlow has momentum but is far from a sure thing or the only game in town, with heavy hitters such as Cisco still weighing their options.

2012 crystal ball: Apple explicitly goes for the enterprise market. Lots of stories were written in 2011 about how Apple almost accidentally has emerged as a huge force in the enterprise over the past few years as employees pressure IT to support their Macs, iPhones, and now iPads. Apple, meanwhile, has at least publicly barely acknowledged any focus on the business market. I expect that will change with Tim Cook in charge.

Fredrik Agrén, publishing director, IDG Sweden

Most significant story of 2011: The top story of 2011 is the much-longed-for rebirth of the music distribution business—via the music service Spotify (which is co-owned by some of the giants of the music industry: Sony, Universal, Warner, EMI, and others). Finally we’re able to listen to our favorite music digitally—conveniently and legally! Now we just need some competition on the market to lower prices and widen the music library.

2012 crystal ball: The next big thing of 2012 will surely be the smart TV. While we’re holding a 4-inch smartphone in our hand and browsing the 10-inch tablet in our lap, of course we’d want a 50-inch smart TV on our wall. There are already a handful of fantastic smart TV sets from Samsung, Sony, Philips, and others—and as soon as their ecosystems of apps and services are complete, we’re going to see a change of TV habits in our living rooms.

Brian Carlson, editor-in-chief, CIO.com

Most significant story of 2011: Egypt shuts down the Internet. For years, the Internet has been touted as the Wild West of human relations and interaction, a cyberspace of virtual anarchy out of reach of conventional methods of suppression and repression by world powers. On Jan. 27, 2011, that myth was put to rest when Egypt, in response to widespread dissent and in an attempt to squelch growing protests, shut the Internet down, cutting the populace off from connectivity to the rest of the world, as well as shutting down all mobile and text services.

2012 crystal ball: Apple loses its sheen. I will buck the trend here (and potentially be vulnerable to assault) and state that I think 2012 will be the year that starts the decline of Apple as the emerging king of computing. With the maturation of HTML5, apps as a primary driver of mobile tech will be put in jeopardy as a new standard starts to truly emerge to provide major disruption. I also think the cult of Mac will see a backlash too, as people start to feel the confines of Apple’s walled-garden ecosystem, its hipper-than-hip marketing strategy, and the premium prices of its products. No, I don’t think its revenue will go anywhere but up for the time being, but its status of bleeding-edge vendor will start to degrade in the hearts and minds of the educated tech consumer.

Daniel de Blas, director, IDG TechStyle, Macworld España, and iPhoneWorld

Most significant story of 2011: The death of Steve Jobs has undoubtedly been the biggest story of 2011. His death could mark a turning point in the history of Apple. The company has had one success after another in recent years with Jobs at the helm, but there is no guarantee that the new Apple will continue on the same path without him. On the other hand, Apple has a chance to leave behind some of the bad habits of Jobs, like his stormy relationship with the press.

2012 crystal ball: Among the trends I most clearly see is the total disappearance of optical discs like DVDs or Blu-ray and the decline of regular hard disks in favor of solid-state memory, which is getting faster, with higher capacity, and cheaper every day. Another trend is the unstoppable decline of movie theaters. The big screen is moving to homes and we’ll see growing competition among content providers like iTunes and Netflix. Game consoles are going to become media centers (with movie rentals, communications, apps, and TV on demand), and the TV manufacturers will compete to offer gaming consoles built into the TV. Finally, we will see a great popularization of cloud services for consumers and applications that work with data that are not on the device.

Ken Mingis, managing editor for news, Computerworld

Most significant story of 2011: The rise of social media in connection with protests worldwide. We first saw this in 2010, as protests broke out in Iran. But the use of social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube really helped shaped the course of events in the Middle East—especially in Egypt. That’s what prompted Egyptian authorities at one point to disconnect from the Internet, a stunning development when it took place. Social media allowed protesters in Egypt and other nations to keep the rest of the world informed about what they were doing, and helped shape world opinion about a number of crackdowns.

2012 crystal ball: We’re going to see an acceleration in 2012 of a tech trend that’s been bubbling along for a couple of years now: the BYOD (bring your own device to work) movement and the resulting need to manage all of these different devices. As more workers bring their own iPhones, Android smartphones, iPads, and tablets to work, IT shops are having to figure out how to support them all—and how to keep corporate data secure in the process. Managing mobile devices is going to be an increasingly important part of what IT deals with in 2012. My prediction: It’s only a matter of time before some big-name company loses important corporate data because of the failure to secure these personal devices.

Galen Gruman, executive editor, InfoWorld

Most significant story of 2011: The iPhone replacing the BlackBerry as the corporate standard mobile device, in terms of new and replacement devices. iPhones are now the top-selling smartphones in business. And the implications go far beyond an individual product’s sales. First and foremost, it represents that the “consumerization of IT” phenomenon is both real and powerful. The iPhone is not an IT device, it’s a user device that has enough IT-oriented capabilities to evade IT blocks against it. We’ll see that same shift occur in other “bring your own tech” areas, such as Macs, cloud services, user-selected apps, Windows 8 tablets, and more in 2012. Second, the iPhone’s preeminence changed the expectations and opportunities for mobile and remote workers—the idea of a pocketable computer is now cemented, and businesses have rethought smartphones as a new kind of computing device that makes employees more productive and more capable in all sorts of new contexts.

2012 crystal ball: I believe we’ll be talking a year from now about the seismic shift in the makeup of the industry’s leaders. I believe we’ll see HP, Dell, Cisco, and certainly RIM greatly reduced in stature and importance. RIM may not even make it till this time next year. I don’t at all believe HP or Dell will die, but they will become legacy companies that, barring a wholesale reinvention such as what IBM did to regain importance, we won’t be thinking so much of. Cisco will retreat to its own legacy market, having overextended in the last two years in an attempt to be more than a niche powerhouse. On the software side, Adobe is in the same camp. EMC VMware may be as well, but I think it will be more like Cisco: not a shrinking power like Adobe but a local power that retreats to its strong niche. Microsoft will either join them or, if Windows 8 succeeds in reinventing it as a mobile-to-desktop continuum powerhouse, pull an IBM and once again be a real driver of positive technology change. Apple will still provide the key inspiration for our collective future, but Microsoft will be the bigger driver of it actually happening in terms of volume and reach.

Jason Snell, editorial director, Macworld

Most significant story of 2011: The death of Steve Jobs. What else could it be? Apple’s rise to prominence is the biggest story in the tech industry of the past decade. Steve Jobs’s companies created the first mass-produced personal computer, redefined the personal computer interface, created the idea of the computer-animated feature film, changed how we purchase and consume music, altered the telecommunications industry forever, and finally made tablet devices a success. He’ll go down as perhaps the most notable person in the history of this industry, and his passing forced us all to reflect about his influence.

2012 crystal ball: Android fracture. I think more companies will attempt to do what Amazon.com has done and use Android as a basis for products but not involve Google. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a wave of Android-based tablets and smartphones from companies other than Amazon that are integrated with Amazon’s media services and app store.

Radan Dolejs, editor-in-chief, Computerworld Czech Republic

Most significant story of 2011: I believe the most significant trend for this year was the rise of cloud technology, both public and private. We saw here in the Czech Republic many companies starting with this technology. Also, main telecommunication operators announced that they will open cloud services for public in the year 2012.

2012 crystal ball: I think the most visible trend for the year 2012 will be mobility. It will drive productivity in the enterprise. Price will be the key for the year 2012.

Georgina Swan, editor, CIO Australia

Most significant story of 2011: Without doubt, it was the death of Steve Jobs. His impact on the IT landscape was profound and incomparable, and the industry is richer for it. It may seem strange—and perhaps a bit macabre—that the biggest IT story of 2011 was of somebody’s death. But it wasn’t just about the death of an IT visionary—it was about Jobs’s life, his achievements, his drive, and ultimately his legacy. If you want a poster child for the consumerization of IT, it’s the iPad. Enough said.

2012 crystal ball: I believe the trend toward mobile technologies still has some way to play out in the enterprise; organizations are, at this stage, just beginning to understand the implications these technologies will have on the workforce in terms of productivity. The undercurrent of the mobile trend is the consumerization of IT, and once CIOs understand how best to enable their organizations in this regard, we will begin to see some very innovative business implementations.

Matt Egan, editor, PC Advisor, IDG U.K.

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