Celebrating our 30th anniversary

9 ways technology will change within the next 10 years

Network World 30th Anniversary: Reimagined productivity apps, more diversity in the workforce and Cisco getting stronger in next 10 years

Celebrating our 30th anniversary

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Ten years ago, there were no smartphones. It was the coffeeshop era of Wi-Fi, which meant that the Internet was just beginning to follow us out the door and into the world. Amazon first released EC2, to some confusion.

Nowadays, of course, Wi-Fi and mobile data are almost ubiquitous, smartphones have hit market saturation in the most developed nations, and EC2 is a cornerstone of modern business IT. The pace of technological progress continues to accelerate, it seems, as entire new product categories change the way we live and do business, and there’s no end in sight.

Here’s our look ahead to 10 years in the future, and how the tech world may change.

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Dan Bricklin

What we think of as productivity apps will change out of all recognition

Sure, they’ve moved to the cloud and gotten a bit smarter over the years, but the productivity apps we use every day have remained functionally the same since their advent – a word processor is still a word processor, regardless of whether it’s WordStar or Google Docs, and a spreadsheet is still a spreadsheet, be it Lotus or Excel 2013.

However, no less than the inventor of the spreadsheet himself, Dan Bricklin, told Network World that that’s going to change within the next 10 years.

Endpoint form factors are going to be the biggest driver of changes to productivity apps, Bricklin says. What we think of as productivity apps – spreadsheets, word processors and so on – are best used with a reasonably large screen and a keyboard.

But in a world where, increasingly, mobile devices are the way people enter the digital realm, traditional productivity apps don’t work as well.

“The phone, and perhaps the watch and other wearables, those are a different beast – and the tablet is sort of in between,” he says. “So then the question becomes – what would be a productivity tool for somebody in that situation?”

Navigating a database while waiting in line at the grocery store, for example, isn’t the way most people use their smartphones, so it’s unlikely to catch on, notes Bricklin, who is currently CTO at Alpha Software.

It may be, in fact, that productivity apps become much more diverse and specialized – rather than directly editing a spreadsheet on a smartphone, for example, a user could simply speak into the device to add data to a system while on the move. Databases of repair information could help auto mechanics and plumbers.

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The ranks of the technology workforce will be more diverse

While the state of affairs has improved significantly over the past several years, it’s still an inarguable fact that the tech sector has a diversity problem. Big companies have proclaimed themselves distressed at that fact, and vowed to do something about it, but change has been relatively slow in coming.

The next decade, however, should see substantially more progress being made, thanks to a growing awareness of the issue’s importance and initiatives aimed at making the ranks of university computer science and engineering programs more diverse.

The current situation shows that the tech industry is still noticeably out of step with the rest of the country – women are strongly underrepresented in the industry – just 25% of Intel’s workforce is female, along with 30% of Google’s, 31% of Apple’s and 28% of Microsoft’s. (The biggest employer of women in a listing compiled by informationisbeautiful is Pandora at 49%.)

Black and Latino workers are also startlingly absent from most of the top technology companies. The major tech firm with the highest proportion of black workers is Amazon at 15%. Most others are in the low single digits. Latinos are most present at HP, where they make up 14% of the workforce, and most companies are also in single digits.

But there are hopeful signs. Intel recently went public with its diversity figures, which were generally poor, but has vowed to accurately reflect the makeup of the U.S. by 2020, and companies may be beginning to realize the value of diversity along both gender and ethnic lines.

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