What 2006 holds in store for IT

Well, it's a new year. Whenever the family gathers by the glow of the high-definition display and the warmth of new high-tech gear fills our homes and offices, I know it's time to take a look at what's going to happen in the world of IT in the year ahead.

1. This is the year of Longhorn -- I mean Windows Vista. Yep, it's real, and it's coming to a desktop near you in 2006. Expect a quiet period in Q1 and then a major ramp-up in the spring. IT won't have seen anything like this since the arrival of Windows 95. While some folks are advising IT to ignore Vista until sometime in 2008, you do so at your own peril. Between Microsoft and its partners, there's likely to be close to a billion dollars spent on marketing this thing. By the time some IT folks get around to looking at Vista, they may discover that users have already taken matters into their own hands.

2. The tablet PC goes mainstream, really. I had this one on the list for 2005, but it turned out that the hardware just wasn't ready. Now, with the OEMs finally learning how to build machines that don't compromise when it comes to function and with Microsoft's Tablet PC mainstreamed into Vista, there's no reason for IT to hold back. Look for even more interesting designs to come in '06 that will change the way IT thinks about mobility.

3. Third-generation communications will become more important than Wi-Fi for many folks. After years of hype, the carriers are finally getting their 3G act together. Sprint, Verizon and Cingular all have stuff out there. Prices are getting better. Sprint, for example, charges only US$15 a month for wireless broadband used with a PDA/phone combo. Forget just reading and writing e-mail when you're on the road. You'll be able to get e-mail with attachments, stream satellite radio and watch TV, too. Battery life is better, so you can easily get through a heavy day of use without having to hunt for a coffee shop when you want to connect.

4. Web 2.0 will look a lot like Web 1.0 for IT. Although there's a lot of hype about Web 2.0, most of its benefits will be lost on IT. There's not going to be a sense of urgency for IT to hop on the latest technology bandwagon, and most of this stuff is going to be safely ignored. We'll continue to see consumer technologies outpace business stuff and eventually put more pressure on IT to think about how they can deploy those consumer products to help their companies make money.

5. Moore's Law will be relevant again. Windows Vista will change users' perceptions about the need for speed. More speed will now be justified for most users, even those for whom fast was fast enough around 1999. The buyers of fast PCs will be end users who want all the performance they can get in their Vista experience. Look and feel sells products, and the Vista experience really works when all the bells and whistles are turned on. As IT departments seek to justify the purchase of lower-cost systems, look for them to try to find ways to explain to users that they don't need Vista's Aero user interface to get their jobs done.

As always, my wishes for you for a new year filled with peace and prosperity.

Michael Gartenberg is vice president and research director for the Personal Technology & Access and Custom Research groups at JupiterResearch in New York. Contact him at mgartenberg2@ optonline.net. His weblog and RSS feed are at http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/gartenberg.

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