Reflections and Technology Predictions
With the current year about to end and the new one fast approaching, I wanted to take some time to share some reflections on what has happened in the past year and where this may be headed. These are simply my reflections as I’ve seen them and as relevant to my role as Chief Architect of Avoka Transact.
The mobile Web (Internet accessed on mobile devices) continues to become increasingly important. Recent 2013 Black Friday sales showed mobile traffic increased 43% over, and accounted for nearly 40% of traffic (25% smartphones and 14% tablets) . This trend will continue and mobile devices will come to dominate Internet access. At a personal level I know a family living across the road from me, whose sole access to the internet at home is through their mobile phones. I think this will be increasingly common.
To save costs companies are increasingly building mobile optimized websites, rather than separate versions of the same site, to target desktop and mobile devices.
Another continuing trend is the migration to cloud services. This is predicted to increase at a rate of 36% per annum . One significant barrier to cloud migration is cultural inertia, and as businesses become more familiar to cloud this barrier will dissipate. That said moving large complex legacy systems is extremely difficult, so for many organisations this process will take many years.
New businesses are building their solutions on the cloud, and are able to move very quickly while minimising the CAPEX. Existing businesses are increasingly looking at hybrid solutions to obtain the agility the cloud provides, but while still integrating with their existing systems.
While Amazon will often make the point that businesses don’t differential themselves by being good at managing IT infrastructure, it’s important to recognise that most businesses have IT at their heart. It is critical that they focus on the higher order business and IT problems to be competitive.
As an aside, Amazon continues to dominate the Cloud space, being bigger than all the other vendors put together. It’s also disrupting traditional vendors, and this year won a $600m contract away from IBM to build and manage a data centre for the CIA. While IBM put in a cheaper price, Amazon was chosen because they had a superior technical solution .
Google share price reached a $1,000 this year. I recall Warren Buffet wrote he would invest in local monopoly newspaper companies as they could effectively tax all the local businesses which needed to advertise through them. That’s kind of Google’s position, but globally. The other impressive advertising business is Facebook. After watching the amount of hours my wife spends on Facebook, it’s not surprising their market capitalization is a third of Google’s.
As consumers migrate away from traditional media of TV and newspapers, and with newer generations avoiding them like the plague, the Internet advertisers will become even more powerful.
The next big round of the advertising competition is the mobile phone space (this is a reoccurring theme). Apple are launching iBeacon in their phones which will enable Minority Report style tracking and personalized advertising inside shopping centers. Industry spectators believe this and their biometrics phone finger print sensor will be part of a new Apple mobile payment platform.
On the mobile payments front there doesn’t appear to be any disruptive changes in this space yet. MasterCard and VISA have launched their NFC-based smartphone products, and the other vendors (PayPal Beacon, ISIS Mobile Payments, and Google Wallet) will probably struggle against the incumbent credit card providers.
Microsoft, Intel and ARM
Back on the mobile theme, it has been a pretty average year for Microsoft. The Windows 8 touch enabled operating system hasn’t had a great reception. The Windows RT tablet has fared even worse, with Microsoft writing down nearly a billion dollars against Windows RT stock. Windows mobile phones have also only been able to capture around 5% of market share, and the Microsoft CEO took early retirement.
The enterprise space however has been more solid for the company, and they have been able to increase product licensing fees.
Looking forward, I think 2014 will be a better year for Microsoft touch devices in the enterprise. The Windows 8.1 update, plus more apps, and a new range devices with much better Intel chips, will make these devices a good fit for business applications. These should be a great platform for the Avoka Transact Mobile App.
Intel has struggled this year. Desktop sales are declining down 10%, and are expected to continue to go down. The only bright spot being Microsoft dropping support for Windows XP in Q2 next year, which is expected to trigger a PC desktop refresh.
Intel’s mobile phone strategy has largely been unsuccessful. They have taken too long to deliver technically competitive chips to the market, and they are too expensive. During this period Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM based processors have dominated. Apple have also released 64-bit ARM processors across all their mobile devices, and other vendors are planning to follow suit next year. Intel are now opening their foundries to produce other companies chip designs , which is seen by some as throwing in the towel.
And just to top things off for Intel, it is expected that HP ARM based servers will start to enter the market in 2014 . Google and Facebook looking at ARM-based servers to reduce capital costs and energy use .
Snowden and Security
As someone who has spent six years in defence IT, and thought they had some appreciation of this space, I have been amazed at what the NSA has been able to achieve with their surveillance programs. They have been busy. While participating companies and participating countries are not happy about being outed, the political effects will probably blow over in the short term.
Longer term however, companies and the open source community are developing more secure technologies which will make surveillance more difficult . Some of the younger generation are also appreciative the “internet’s permanent memory” and are using services like Snapchat which destroy data immediately after use. I think many people are becoming more appreciative how the internet is used.
Robots and Expert Systems
A less visible technology front is the use of robot technology. Amazon are using 1,400 Kiva robots in their warehouses, with advantages being 3x faster picking, fewer personal accidents, lower energy costs and less product theft . Google have also been on a buying spree purchasing some eight robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics who make those spooky robots for DARPA.
While the integration of these technologies into our economy will take decades, we should expect robots, self-driving vehicles, drones and expert systems (e.g. IBM Watson) to increase efficiencies and also take many existing jobs out of economies in the coming decades.
This is an area a little closer to home for me. If someone came to me today and said they want to develop product X and then asked me how they should do it, the things I would immediately be thinking about would be:
- Can you host it exclusively on the cloud ? If so you can potentially use AWS or Google App services. These services can potentially accelerate your software development, and will certainly enable you to minimize your initial hosting costs and enable you to scale rapidly.
- Would Salesforce make any sense for your idea?
- Do you need to be able to run it on premise?
For start-ups the costs to getting products to market has been greatly reduced. The amazing array of open source components to build upon, coupled cloud services mean that concepts can be turned into products very quickly.
It is also interesting that start-ups are generally eschewing commercial software toolsets, there are a couple of reasons for this. Talent (the cool kids at Uni aren’t likely start developing their ideas using “IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere”) and software licensing costs. These forces will inevitably flow through to enterprises as well.
Single Page Applications (SPA) are becoming the desired web application architecture. They are feature rich, performant and can deliver the UX customers are now expecting. They are also hitting the mainstream.
What about native apps for mobile devices? Well if you can get away with using HTML applications, you can save yourself an enormous amount of development effort. Also wireless Internet is becoming so ubiquitous today that the mobile Web is fine for many applications.
How does Avoka Transact rate with all this? Pretty well in fact. You can host Avoka Transact on AWS for all the cloud benefits, but it is also enterprise friendly in that it can run on premise and uses/supports trusted technologies (Java, SQL databases, Active Directory, etc.). On the UX front, Avoka Transact Mobile App is our first SPA mobile Web application and we are rolling out more SPA modules in 2014.
This has been a busy year for us with two major releases and a series of new capabilities, including responsive forms and portals, field worker solutions, new security architecture, groovy services, integration components, and form performance improvements.
While this has all been great, I am really excited about what we have in store for next year. We are going to deliver some pretty awesome capabilities which will be great to take to the market.