YEAR END - '08 IT forecasts: XP lives and the greening of tech

The predictable flood of 2008 IT prognostications has rolled in over the past few weeks and we have listened to analysts, vendors, consultants and our geek friends, accepting some forecasts and rejecting others. Turns out we did pretty well culling the wheat from the chaff last year and gazing ahead, though maybe we weren't bold enough in our declarations. So, this year we'll stretch a little and predict:

XP's reprieve

Microsoft will announce an extension until the end of 2008 for Windows XP availability, instead of cutting it off on June 30. In September '07, the company pushed the extension from the end of January until June after corporate users complained. Not to mention that many companies had decided to put off moving to Vista. The migration will continue to be slow for at least the first half of 2008.

Who's hacking whom?

A major international incident will erupt when Chinese hackers compromise the defense or security system (or both) of another government. Classified documents will be breached. Accusations will be traded. Relationships will be tense and ugly for a time.

The greening of IT

"Green" IT will become a sustainable model in the enterprise. The bottom line will be the primary force in the greening of data centers and offices. Environmental concerns (spurred by weird weather occurrences and alarming reports about polar bears) coupled with a woeful economic scene globally will be dominant themes in 2008, leading to corporate, consumer and government action that will include serious penny-pinching as more of us come together to try to save the planet and our budgets.

The European Union will again be the main governmental force behind pushing green regulations in 2008.

Network evolution

Mobile networks will not only open up to outside handsets, devices and applications, but will increasingly offer Wi-Fi and a plethora of location-based services. Media content, search, social networks, shopping and a variety of services will all be standard parts of the mobile network experience.

Networks "have to evolve in very radical ways," says Jake Seid, Lightspeed Venture Partners general partner, mobile. How radical has yet to be seen, but analysts aplenty envision 2008 as a watershed year for networks to be opened and for big changes on the mobile landscape, partly owing to the iPhone effect.

A Linux year

As Vista continues to limp toward wider adoption, Linux will make major inroads into the enterprise, as well as in government IT. At the same time, the leaner OS will become a more attractive option for home users and in consumer electronics, spurred by the Open Handset Alliance and the advent of Google's Android mobile platform, which will be built on the Linux kernel. Jim Zemlin, the president of the Linux Foundation, sees 2008 as a "really interesting, breakthrough year for Linux," and we think he's right about that. Expect assorted open-source applications to follow along.

Growing pains of social networking

Social networking will invade corporations by year's end. Services akin to the Salesforce.com offering that lets salespeople share leads and information will become standard in that market segment. But increasingly, social-networking applications will seep into all manner of companies, whether the IT department likes it or not. "It will be driven more by individual adoptions," predicts Konstantin Guericke, co-founder of LinkedIn and CEO of Jaxtr. "We're social beings -- we like to see what our peers are doing."

Privacy issues will have to be sorted out. The brouhaha over Facebook's Beacon ad system won't be the last situation to cause outcry by any stretch, because social-networking sites will continue to push the envelope. Users will push back. Legislation and regulations will be proposed and enacted. Which leads us to ...

Blurred lines

Distinctions between consumer and corporate IT will continue to blur, and the social-networking phenomenon is but one element of that. iPhone-buying employees will bring that device into the enterprise in ever-growing numbers, forcing IT departments to deal with it. Security and protection from hackers, spam, phishers and the lot of cyber miscreants will continue to pose a huge headache for network administrators as home IT merges with corporate IT.

The consolidation drumbeat

Pure-play software vendors will increasingly be a thing of the past as Oracle and other monoliths swoop in on more acquisition targets in the new year.

And IDC has predicted for 2007 and again for 2008 that Salesforce.com will be bought (though '07 isn't over yet ...). That seems like a good guess. We don't expect Palm to make it through '08 without being bought, and that long-rumored Microsoft-RIM deal could come to pass, too.

Virtualization comes to the desktop

We didn't want to make a virtualization prediction, but we would be remiss not to. Many prognosticators are gazing into their crystal balls and seeing virtualization on desktops. While some analysts are predicting that will be a sort of Thin Client 2.0, Barry Eggers, Lightspeed general partner, enterprise infrastructure, envisions something different. "Thin clients were about reducing up-front capital costs with a slimmed-down hardware client. Desktop virtualization is about intelligently provisioning applications to desktop users," he says.

He envisions a more successful model will find IT shops using desktop virtualization in conjunction with virtualized servers. Early adopters are finding that users weren't so keen on that model because the "user experience [is] much less satisfying than a full desktop," he says, but that will start to change in the new year. How? And where will it lead? We'll leave that to the 2009 predictions.

Vote early and often

Although we realize that the U.S. is not the center of the universe, the upcoming election seems more important on a global scale than others in recent memory. So, we predict historic levels of turnout at the polls in November, and that will give rise to historic levels of problems with electronic voting. Ohio will be a mess in that regard. Florida won't be appreciably better. While the outcome of the presidential race won't be imperiled by e-voting issues, some state and local races will need manual recounts owing to problems with machines.

Sorting out how to regulate e-voting (again) will keep the new Congress (with Democrats in control of both houses) busy in the first quarter of next year. The new president might not directly affect IT, though the president's views regarding the use of technology have certainly had an effect in recent years. On that note, we'll make our boldest prediction for 2008: President Obama.

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