My old, er long-time, colleague Barbara Darrow beat me to the punch about a week ago by posing 10 questions that are likely to define the businesses of every VAR, reseller, systems integrator, IT solution provider—whatever you choose to call yourself and your company—in 2008.
She was wise in taking this approach. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my more than 18 years covering this complicated business organism called the channel, it’s that most predictions any of us outsiders make will be wrong. But that won’t stop me from putting my neck out anyway. So, here goes nothing. Except I’m not going for the more obvious things I believe will be big—such as wide area wireless access and unified communications solutions. Rather, here are five trends I believe will creep up on your business in 2008. Are you planning to be surprised?
Sleeper Trend #1: Your clients will turn green-er.
Groan. I can hear you now, calling me a despicable treehugger, like my father sometimes does, and laughing at me for bringing this up. But here’s the thing: Contrary to popular belief, being green can actually save your customers money. Proof point #1: Electricity costs. There isn’t a single business in existence that isn’t worried about escalating facilities costs. The fact is, the right technology and the right technology management can help companies be more energy-efficient. So, even if you’re cynical about whether or not global warming is a myth, embrace the ethos of energy-efficiency. It’ll impact all sorts of things you represent—from virtualization technology to storage to unified communications.
Sleeper Trend #2: Software as a service will quietly gain more converts, especially among small businesses.
Sometimes I think solution providers don’t channel their own experiences as small-business owners into ideas that could serve their own clients. I talk to enough entrepreneurs to know that one thing in particular colors how they look at technology: their need to work from anywhere at any time. What does that mean? For one thing, data synchronization is ultracritical for small-business owners. That is, they want to get to the latest revisions of files from home, from hotels and from their office. They don’t so much care whether their spreadsheet lives on their computer or off on a server somewhere just so long as the information they need is always available. I won’t even pretend to have market statistics on this, but I’d be willing to bet that pretty much any business that is willing to host its e-mail service elsewhere will look at hosted versions of their other applications, especially if it’s less expensive. Small businesses care less about hype and more about whether or not something works. So, do I think all the software as a service companies will come up with channel programs? I DO think that Salesforce.com and NetSuite will continue to flirt with partners, but they’ve got a long way to go. What it DOES mean is that the case for big software upgrades from established software developers, including Vista, will continue to be hard to make.
Sleeper Trend #3: Apple technology will continue to backdoor its way into the business world.
I’ve been reading all sorts of articles and analysis reports lately about the iPhone and its effectiveness as a business tool. I can tell you firsthand that it wasn’t designed to be all that easy to use with corporate e-mail and calendaring accounts, but there are workarounds. Here’s another telling stat: During the third quarter, Apple was expected to ship about 1.34 million Macintosh PCs, or about 8.1 percent of all systems shipped in the quarter. There is still a substantial gap between Apple, and Dell and Hewlett-Packard in this regard. However, Apple’s shipments grew more than 37 percent year-over-year. And, it’s worth noting that its shipments during the quarter were higher than Toshiba, which just introduced a series of new notebooks. Certainly, corporate accounts still frown on Apple, but small businesses and midsize companies are more willing than ever to consider the alternative.
Sleeper Trend #4: People will get smarter about what data and files they store.
The more I learn about storage software, the more I marvel about its potential to make our life easier—if we would only use it properly. I believe that data deduplication will become a mantra that is used as often in 2008 as compliance was 18 months ago. Both humans and storage systems could stand to be more efficient about what data is kept and how it is catalogued. There’s something to be said for librarians. Heck, maybe the field of library science can jump in here and help us.
Sleeper Trend #5: Someone, somewhere WILL find a way to solve the ridiculous spam deluge that wastes so much of our collective time.
It’s one thing to manage incoming e-mail on a high-speed corporate network. It’s another thing, entirely, to have to wade through dozens of junk messages on a wireless handheld device just to get what you need. While I don’t know who has the answer right now, you can bet that the second someone comes up with a truly effective spam filter that lets all the right stuff through and prioritizes it, we’ll hear about it. Better yet, why don’t YOU come up with the solution and please let ME know about it as quickly as possible.
What do you think will creep up on you in the New Year? Share your thoughts and comments via e-mail at email@example.com.
Heather Clancy is a business journalist and communications consultant who has been covering the high-tech channel for more than 18 years.