Many people are making technology industry predictions for 2013, but I’m going to describe something that I see coming that is bigger than just 2013. I’m not sure exactly when it will come to fruition – maybe this year, maybe 2014, but it’s really a sea change. In fact, what we see now is kind of like the water receding at the beach before a tsunami. Let me explain…
There have been personal computers in business for around 30 years now, and in all those years, people have been trying to get those same computers into their homes and personal lives. But now, today, it’s upside-down! People have smart phones and tablets that they really like and they are trying to get them into their businesses. In fact, a whole industry has emerged around BYOD (bring your own device) and mobile management solutions to help make it possible. Why? Because markets won’t tolerate a vacuum – and that is what we have. The ideal smartphone/tablet solution for the Enterprise is missing, gone. It used to be the RIM Blackberry, even in 2012 as sales were declining, it still was the perfect Enterprise-centered solution. But RIM’s position of superiority was not sustainable indefinitely, as shown by the introduction of the iPhone and iPad – these set the new standard in usability and ecosystem (for the consumer). And so the vacuum was created, and the BYOD and other mobile device management solutions are just big Band-Aids for the problem created by the vendor.
What is this vacuum? It is the large chasm between Apple and the needs of Enterprise business – a huge void into which much effort has gone to span that gap by 3rd party vendors and consultants. What about Google and Android? Sadly, they have landed on the same side of that chasm as Apple and offer little to satisfy the needs of Enterprise business. I was at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in 2012 and saw many sessions and many vendors striving to fulfill the mobile management needs. This was such an enormous topic of business, but there was one vendor distinctly missing from the “world’s most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT Executives” – Apple Inc.! They were not present at all.
Let me tell a story from 20 years ago – some will remember this well. Around 1990, Macintosh computers ruled the Enterprise business, at least in the engineering world. They had all the cool apps and the networking solutions – AppleTalk went everywhere. But despite the users’ happiness, the costs were a problem and Apple would not strike any volume deals. Companies wanted to give every employee a Mac, but they just couldn’t afford it. This was another vacuum created by Apple, something that would soon be filled by a rival competitor – the Windows PC. In 1993, Microsoft announced that it would support TCP/IP (an Enterprise protocol) for its native Windows networking instead of its non-routable (and Enterprise hostile) NetBIOS protocol. Suddenly, Windows 3.1.1 was fully networked between Windows clients and NT 3.5 Servers – and the vendors were ready to deal. And so the first wave of Mac replacements came through in 1993 and 1994, but the real fall of the Mac came with Windows 95. By 1995, most Macs purchased up through 1990 heyday were pretty old and needed to be replaced, but businesses made volume deals with hardware vendors on Windows PCs, not with Apple, and so the wave came in and the sea changed.
I like my iPad and iPod – really I do, but I see this same sea change coming again with Windows 8 tablets and smartphones. In-house software development at large companies wants to be able to re-use its code, and if they can develop for the Windows desktop PC and also for the tablet and phone with one solution and skillset, then that is what they will choose. In 2013, industry will really test-drive the Windows 8 tablets and phones, but I suspect they will be satisfactory for the price. Microsoft is gearing up for this new wave in 2013 – they are marketing an Enterprise solution which services Windows 7 on the desktop/laptop and Windows 8 on the tablet/phone – all managed through common Enterprise tools. They are offering the ultimate lower cost of ownership and the big companies are going to bite. So when this wave will come in, the iPad and iPhone will diminish and eventually will be limited to predominantly the same homes and businesses where the Mac computers are found today.