The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

It doesn't take a time machine to see that telecommunications and mobility are the future of IT

The Re-emergence of Doctor Who on the television has given me some concern. It severely dates you when you are able to tell your children that you can remember the very first series. Mind you, the show's return probably reflects the fact that the idea of time travel has an ageless appeal. I suspect many CIOs would quite welcome a chance to take a peep into the future. Research shows that a growing number are identifying with the challenge of keeping abreast of technology. A quick trip in the Tardis might help them pinpoint which of today's technologies they should monitor.

For my part I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me what I think is going to be the "next big thing" in the IT industry. One of the underlying beliefs in IT has been the concept of waves of technology, each of which re-energizes the industry and brings with it new sales, bigger profits and larger salaries. Yet since the dotcom euphoria faded, the IT waters have been as calm as a millpond.

However, I think there is one thing we know already about the IT environment of the future: it will have an even greater dependence on telecommunications. Almost all the significant advances in technology in the last few years have a telecommunications and mobility element to them. These include iPods, Blackberrys, USB flash drives, digital cameras, broadband, PDAs, wireless networks or RFID to name but a few. At heart they all digitize both work practices and lifestyles. Intriguingly, many of these advances are starting to be incorporated into mobile phone technology.

Forbes magazine recently reported that analysts now increasingly believe that the evolution of the mobile phone will be the next driver of growth in the technology sector and the dominant investment opportunity for the next decade.

Think about it. The latest generation of mobiles already incorporate digital cameras. Increasingly, PDAs and mobiles are becoming one and the same. The mobile suppliers are in negotiations to incorporate musical downloads to challenge the iPod space. In fact I am now told that it is a sign of your technological backwardness if you only use your mobile to make telephone calls.

The ramifications for the ICT industry could be significant. The mobile could supersede the PC.

Let's not forget the role of the CIO here. The days when the importance of technology was universally accepted are over. Today CIOs are dealing with executives who are at best sceptical and at worst cynical about the potential of technology. We could all throw our hands in the air and bemoan that attitude or we can do something to address it. One such approach might be to analyze how the next generation of mobile phones can help streamline business.

One thing I do know about most of the previous waves of IT technology is that they usually involve the fresh application of something already existing. Unix had been around for years before it spawned the concept of open systems. The Internet became something radically new when the World Wide Web gave it an interface. Without using the Tardis I am not sure what corporate applications will emerge from the next generation of mobile phones. However, whatever they are, I do believe these solutions will be the next big thing in IT.

Peter Hind is a freelance consultant and commentator with nearly 25 years experience in the IT industry. He is co-author of The IT Manager's Survival Guide and ran the InTEP IS executive gatherings in Australia for over 10 years.

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