'Third-Platform' Innovation to Dominate 2015 Opportunities


The big communications trends that shaped opportunities in 2014 will continue to be driving forces in the new year: mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), these things make up what the firm calls the “third platform” for innovation and growth—and the industry is making an accelerating transition in its direction.

In computing-speak, the first platform was based on the mainframe. From there, decentralization began to happen, leading to the client/server architecture that still underpins the Internet today. The third platform is virtual, peer-to-peer and full distributed, unbounded by geography.

In 2015, “we'll see the third platform finally reach massive scale, along with lots of vendor consolidation and drop outs, 'strange bedfellow' partnerships, death-match battles for developers (and their apps), expanding cognitive/machine learning and [Internet of Things] offerings, a growing focus on data supply chains, and skyrocketing influence for China," said Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC.

He expects that third-platform technologies will account for one third of global ICT spending and 100 percent of spending growth in 2015. That’s significant considering that worldwide ICT spending will grow 3.8 percent in the next year to more than $3.8 trillion. On a geographic basis, ICT spending in emerging markets is forecast to grow 7.1 percent year over year while mature markets poke along at 1.4 percent growth.

That spending will be marked by a transitory hue. "The industry is now entering the most critical period yet in the third-platform era—the innovation stage,” Gens said. This stage, he said, will be driven by a new wave of core technologies – dubbed “innovation accelerators” by the analyst firm– that radically extend the third platform’s capabilities and applications across all industries.

Two of the most important accelerators for the tech industry are the Internet of Things and security, he said.

On the IoT front, the invention of more and more intelligent and connected "things" will drive the development of thousands of solutions, including cognitive/machine learning systems. Meanwhile, security solutions will help to secure the edge of the cloud (i.e. biometric security on mobile devices) and the core (i.e. encryption in the cloud will become the default practice). And threat intelligence will emerge as a killer data-as-a-service category with a rapidly growing number of enterprises receiving tailored threat intelligence information.

As for how this plays out, wireless data will emerge as the largest ($536 billion) and fastest growing (13 percent) segment of telecom spending—driven in part by IoT. To avoid being marginalized as little more than infrastructure providers, carriers will scramble to develop platform- and API-based services that add value and attract developers to their networks. They will also seek rapprochement with over-the-top (OTT) cloud services providers through innovative performance and revenue-sharing arrangements, IDC predicted.

Accompanying mobile devices and apps will continue to charge ahead in 2015, but not at the frenzied pace seen in recent years. Sales of smartphones and tablets will reach $484 billion, accounting for 40 percent of all IT spending growth (excluding telecom services), while Chinese vendors capture a significant share of the worldwide market.

Unsurprisingly, wearables will continue their hot streak, and will see an explosion of innovation, although unit sales will underwhelm, IDC said. And mobile app downloads will start to slow in 2015, but enterprise mobile app development will double.

Cloud services meanwhile will remain a hotbed of activity in 2015 with $118 billion in spending on the greater cloud ecosystem. Adoption of cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will grow briskly (36 percent) as market leader Amazon comes under attack from all directions as challengers attempt the "Amazoning of Amazon.”

Similarly, IDC said to look for heightened competition among Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers as competitors engage in death-match battles to attract developers and their apps, and Software as a Service (SaaS) players accelerate their adoption of PaaS and cloud marketplaces.

"Cloud is also where we expect to see new partnerships forming among 'strange bedfellows', such as Facebook with Microsoft and/or IBM or Amazon partnering with HP, to expand market opportunities," added Gens.

Big data and analytics will see important developments in 2015 too, as worldwide spending on big data-related software, hardware, and services grows to $125 billion. Rich media analytics (video, audio and image) will emerge as an important driver of big data projects. And big data supply chains (i.e. DaaS) will grow in importance as cloud platform and analytics vendors offer clients value-added information from commercial and open data sets.

Elsewhere, IDC expects to see important new developments in cognitive/machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) analytics.

Beyond communications and technology, IDC believes a number of industry disruptions, driven by third platform developments, will emerge in 2015. Examples include alternative payment networks in financial services, expansion of IoT technologies into city safety, public works and transportation systems, and the expansion of location-based services in the retail industry.

In fact, one-third of IoT spending in 2015 will be focused on intelligent embedded devices outside the IT and telecom industries, helped by partnerships among leading IT companies seeking to kickstart the market for industry solutions. Further, predictive maintenance will emerge as an important IoT solutions category.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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