Overheard: Word of the Day

Nov 10 2008   4:46PM GMT

Overheard: The big buzzword for 2009 is going to be “sustainable”

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

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Technology

Every night after the news, my husband and I watch HGTV for half an hour before Jeopardy comes on.  On the East Coast, that means we watch “My House is Worth What?”  It’s a show hosted by Kendra Todd of Apprentice fame, where viewers get to virtually meet three homeowners who want to know how much equity they have in their house.  As the realtors critique and crunch numbers, my husband invariably sighs. You see, we don’t have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances and our bathrooms are very 1990.

What’s that got to do with information technology?

I’ll tell you. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying buzzwords that marketers are going to pick up, slap on everything and beat to death — until the term either becomes meaningless or the rest of us learn that the idea behind the term is great but the technology just isn’t there yet.

This year I’m going to predict that since cloud computing and its variations have been watered down to mean just about anything marketers want it to mean (as long as the Internet is somehow involved), cloud computing will soon enter the buzzword graveyard and lay its weary bones down next to middleware and application service provider.

That’s right. For those of you who finally understand that cloud computing got its name from the symbolic cloud that’s used to represent the Internet on charts and diagrams — and that as mysterious as it once sounded, cloud computing is just an updated version of life on the Internet as we imagined it in 1999 — the idea that cloud computing is already “old school” is shocking.

Get over it.

Cloud computing is out. It’s too fluffy and ephemeral. The NEW buzzword for 2009 is going to be “sustainable computing.”

Sustainable computing. Doesn’t it sound kind of soothing? Calming?  That’s what we need right now. We need a grown-up sounding buzzword that sounds stable and mature. Sustainable computing. A term for our times.

Google has been pushing the term for awhile now.  ComputerWorld tooted the horn way back in 2006. But it took HGTV to really start the ball rolling.

If you watch HGTV, you know what I mean. The word sustainable has been sneaking in on shows during the last six months on a regular basis.  The worse the housing market gets, the more it seems to be popping up. Bamboo flooring. Recycled glass countertops. They’re not called “green.”  They’re not called “environmentally friendly.”  They’re called sustainable.  Granite countertops and hardwood floors are still king, but if you’re smart enough to put something  in your house that the realtor can describe as sustainable, you’re ok.  It’s not only cheaper, it’s politically correct.

So what does that have to do with IT marketing?  Everything.

Social networking was exciting, but the only people to make money off it were the ones who put together conferences about how to leverage social networking. And green was good as long as there are tax incentives to go green — but nobody’s seriously counting on tax cuts in today’s economy.  We’re living in an IT world filled with layoffs, virtualization and promises of clouds.  Marketers  desperately need a new buzzword to hawk their goods and services. One that’s comforting and inspires us to part with our dollars.

Sustainable is the perfect word for a shaky economy. It’s legacy without the outdated overtone. It’s green without inviting a conversation about Sarah Palin or Al Gore. It’s cloud computing without the ambiguity — which reminds me, did you every notice how much a cloud symbol looks like a bubble? It’s scalability with a fresh twist. It’s risk management without that scary word risk.

Mark my words and add this to your next secret Buzzword Bingo game. Sustainable computing.

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