IT Organizations, Get Ready for Year of Mobility

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The Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2012

Use this list in your strategic planning for 2012.

On the Chinese calendar, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. A quick temper, passion and a willingness to take risks are among the traits often attributed to those born under the Dragon sign. Astrologer Susan Levitt predicts the coming Dragon Year will be "a wild, exhausting time."


It will almost certainly be a wild and exhausting time for enterprise IT organizations - filled with tempers, passions and risks - if 2012 ends up being the Year of Mobility. Gartner seems to see it that way, with half of its list of top 10 strategic technologies for 2012 relating strongly to mobility and several others connected to mobile in some way.


The technologies relating strongly to mobile:


Tablets and beyond. Tablets loom large. About a month ago, I wrote a post wondering whether tablets would become the go-to computing device of the enterprise, citing several tablet success stories and a silicon.com survey in which members of its CIO Jury said by a margin of eight to four that mobile devices would become the dominant computing device for business users within five years' time.


Whether or not they will be dominant, tablets will be among a plethora of mobile devices IT organizations will need to address, Gartner says, and "companies should expect to manage a diverse environment with two to four intelligent clients through 2015." Enterprises that allow employees to bring their own devices will need to consider a variety of issues, including network infrastructure, IT support and security. As if these internal issues weren't enough, Gartner says companies will need both business-to-employee and business-to-consumer strategies.


Mobile-centric applications and interfaces. Traditional windows, icons, menus and pointers are on the way out, to be replaced with touch, gesture, search, voice and video. And applications "are likely to shift to more focused and simple apps that can be assembled into more complex solutions," Gartner says. Developers are currently wrestling with developing apps for multiple platforms, though Gartner predicts HTML5 will help resolve some of the niggling cross-platform issues. Gartner predicts that about half the applications that would be written as native apps today will instead be delivered as Web apps by 2015. IT Business Edge's Carl Weinschenk supported this idea in his recent post about the coming HTML5 era.


Gartner also mentions the pressing need for new user interface design skills, a subject IT Business Edge's Susan Hall has written about several times.


Contextual and social user experience. Gartner defines a contextually aware system as one that "anticipates the user's needs and proactively serves up the most appropriate and customized content, product or service." Not surprisingly, this customized content will often be delivered via mobile devices.Through 2013, Gartner predicts context-aware applications will appear in targeted areas such as location-based services, augmented reality on mobile devices and mobile commerce. I cited Gartner research in my March post about the convergence of mobility and e-commerce. Already, companies are introducing apps that allow customers to check in at physical stores with their phones and receive special promotions.


IT organizations with an eye on this trend will want to build skills in augmented reality, model-driven security and ensemble applications.


Internet of things. As Gartner notes, recent years have seen an increase in sensors and other technologies being used to connect consumer devices and physical assets to the Internet. Gartner envisions "an economic tipping point over the next few years" for this concept. Technologies that will be employed to develop strategies around it include embedded sensors, image recognition and near field communication. Carl Weinschenk shared a batch of NFC news in August and wondered if NFC was on the verge of achieving a breakthrough. He also wrote a longer piece describing the current NFC landscape.


App stores and marketplaces. Gartner cites the success of Apple's and Android's online marketplaces, predicting consumers will download 70 billion-plus mobile apps a year from these app stores by 2014. IT organizations will create app stores of their own, a trend I wrote about in August. Gartner likens IT's role in managing these enterprise app stores to "a market manager providing governance and brokerage services to users and potentially an ecosystem to support entrepreneurs."