As we start 2018, what should we expect to see in the year ahead? I talked to subject matter experts at Total to get their views on what changes are coming up.
Mobility: the single device
Picking up a theme from our review of 2017, will 2018 be the year when we finally achieve the nirvana of a single mobile device to carry around?
“The rumours are that in 2018 we’ll start seeing notebooks with two to three-day battery life,” says Simon Ashall, Head of Vendor Management. “If that technology can be miniaturised and put into mobile format, so you’re not charging every day, that's really going to drive the race to get everything into a single device.”
“Phones won’t be around in their current format in ten years – it’ll be something completely different, like Google Glass or the HoloLens augmented reality (AR) from Microsoft,” says Matt Berry, Solutions Architect. “In the shorter term, Samsung is rumoured to be developing a foldable screen for its next generation Galaxy – and I think Microsoft’s next Surface might well be a foldable device, launched by the end of 2018.”
“As screen technology gets increasingly better, and you get better resolution on your phone, you won’t need a tablet,” comments Simon. “But the phone, like most technological products, will eventually be surpassed by another device.”
In the Apple world, the addition of a file system to iOS may mean we’ll soon see an iOS device with a keyboard – but there’s a good argument to say that would risk cannibalising MacBook revenues too much. Apple has also recently applied for a US patent for a foldable display, suggesting a folding iPhone or iPad may be with us at some point – although probably not as soon as 2018.
“When you get 5G levels of bandwidth outside the office, and a reliable network providing coverage 85 or 90 per cent of the time, it’s going to drive the mobility piece even more,” says Simon.
If speech takes over, the need for a screen diminishes further. Looking at what we can expect in the next year, Matt points out that Microsoft has just signed up to integrate Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant with its Cortana equivalent, which may herald more moves towards speech user interfaces. Amazon itself is pushing ahead with its Alexa for Business offering, which aims to help handle tasks in the workplace such as providing directions. or ordering more printer paper. It remains to be seen if Microsoft will combine this with other changes, for example further integration with Skype and LinkedIn, and more emphasis on its Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace.
Trends in business models
Another trend that came up was a shift from Capex to Opex, as businesses continue to move their spending away from big lump sum purchases, in favour of monthly fees or leasing. Simon says, “Customers often ask: is there another way I could purchase the kit or can I do that on subscription? They are more open to options than before.”
According to Simon, this is at least in part due to uncertainty, as companies are unsure of what level of IT budget they will have from year to year. Another reason could be that consumers are increasingly used to paying for things monthly in their personal spending – whether that’s a car lease, a contract phone, or a Netflix subscription – and that makes them more comfortable moving to a subscription in their business life.
Of course, many vendors are also encouraging a shift to the ‘rent not buy’ model, to lock in recurring revenues.
Cloud and hyperconvergence
In cloud, one trend is more development and Dev Ops scenarios. David Skinner, Microsoft Cloud and Solution Specialist, says, “At the moment it’s mainly people doing disaster recovery and the odd move to cloud, but companies are now starting to develop code specifically for cloud, rather than trying to ‘lift and shift’.”
“There are still two camps: the traditional IT guy who sees cloud as a threat to their job, and the other ones who don't have enough IT resource, so are happy for someone else to take the cloud and manage it all for them,” says Matt. “But overall we’re seeing more and more of our customers going to a managed cloud service.”
“In terms of hyperconverged solutions, we’ve seen a lot of growth,” adds Simon. “But it’s still primarily for large SMEs and enterprise customers – the price point isn’t there yet for smaller SMEs, but it will be soon, and sales will continue to gain momentum as most people go to hybrid cloud.”
“Microsoft are putting a lot of effort into the Azure stack, to make sure the technology is developed to do the job properly,” says David.
We’re also seeing some companies change their businesses around, with an impact on their IT requirements. For example, Matt points out, in retail, we’re starting to see Argos move into Sainsbury’s stores, to cut down their rental costs. This kind of shift will mean their IT needs change – and we expect to see similar moves by other businesses.
The next big thing
As we mentioned in Total’s ‘review of 2017’ blog, it feels like we’re in a lull in innovation just now. There may well be big changes on the horizon, but vendors are keeping their cards close to their chests – and it’s far from clear what 2018 will bring us.
“It will come down to whoever puts out the disruptive things first,” concludes Matt. “If you look at how the Tesla Roadster will have record-breaking 0 to 60 acceleration, and before that the fastest car cost £3 million – if someone comes out with an idea like that in IT, it’ll be like when the first iPhone killed Nokia. That’s what we’re all waiting for.”
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