We have a number of things competing to be the next big thing in technology in 2012. They range from the hardware we will carry to where we will actually do our computing, to whether we’ll be able to have a conversation with our technology, to elections that may be controlled by computers.
The personal computer is about to get a makeover; it appears tablets and laptops are about to be slammed together to create a new class of computers. This class was heralded in 2011 by the NVIDIA Tegra based Asus Transformer and Transformer II but will be accelerated by the launch of Windows 8 which promises to work seamlessly on both tablets and laptops begging the creation of a class of product that does both well. Demonstrating a design that has a removable keyboard but where differentiation will likely be on the method of attaching the keyboard and what goes into it (for instance in the case of the Asus, a spare battery doubling battery life) this should prove to be one of the more interesting classes. It also provides enough weight so that that touch can be used in laptop mode without tipping over the product or using a kickstand (try touching the screen on a light notebook; you’ll likely tip it back).
ARM or X86
One of the biggest battles of the year will between the X86 and ARM architectures for what will be the next generation of computing. And this isn’t just happening on the desktop but will be happening on servers as well, albeit with unique servers. ARM comes at the market with more choices and vendors while Intel will remain the biggest defender of the X86 space. Intel has historically proven to be a very powerful competitor historically but the market seems to be chasing new classes of products like tablets, Smartphones and SmartTVs and ARM has been predominant so far. The question for the ARM vendors is whether they can focus on the opportunity or whether infighting will allow Intel to pick them off one by one. Books – well, eBooks anyway -- will be written about this fight.
The Intelligent Computer
If we combine Siri with technologies like Watson (from IBM) and Cognitive Computing, we get the beginning of computers with which you can have a conversation. You start with folks really liking the idea they can talk to their computers and have them respond with normal speech. Granted, the conversation is generally limited to canned responses initially. But then you look at what IBM did with Watson and you can connect to the information of the world; but still it is a pretty dumb box that would still be limited to Jeopardy-like well-defined questions. But then you tack on intelligence and you figure out why the Lifeboat Foundation had an oh-crap moment and created their AIShield initiative. Well, watching the US elections, I guess computers running the world couldn’t make things worse could they? For some reason the word Skynet is flashing in my head… Fortunately 2012 is just the beginning and Sarah Connors won’t be needed until the end of the decade.
The big data phrase that became powerful towards the end of 2011 was “Data Analytics,” indicating that the large computer companies (EMC, HP, IBM) were suddenly focused on analyzing all this collected data. While the focus initially seemed to be the medical industry, 2012 is an election year and real time analytics could likely make the difference between a winner and a loser focusing a campaign’s resources on the critical areas and talking points to swing the election one way or the other. 2012 could be the first year that computers control the outcome, kind of making the prior point a little more real. Anyone know how to sing Hail to the Chief in binary?
This next year should be the beginning of massive change. From an expanding new class of personal computers to the beginning of the computer century we are talking about a lot of change. The most interesting to me is the increased ability to talk to and have our computers understand us. This does create some legitimate concerns over noise pollution but in general will likely be an evolutionary step for both computers and people. I hope, but doubt, we are yet ready for that step.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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