Josh’s 2011 technology predictions for hardware and software OEMs

 It’s the time of year for presents, eggnog and predictions.

Sure, guessing about the future of computing is always tough.  Looking back at 1998 when I got my first Cassiopeia handheld, it would be hard to look forward to the day when Android phones and iPads filled the homes of non-technical friends.

But knowing that the future is uncertain is what makes a forecast a forecast, and if you have to forecast, forecast often (so says Edgar R. Fiedler).

So here we go . . .

Four predictions for the trends that will affect OEM customers in 2011:

1. The rise of smart devices

Computing power is shrinking and finding its way into appliances, cars and even snow skis.  This year, we will see devices come alive and start weighing-in on our lives . . . Or should I say their lives!

O.K., so maybe clothes don’t really have much to say, but there is no denying that intelligence is coming to cars and homes this year thanks to the smart grid and innovative companies like Toyota and Nissan who have made cars that manage their own cruise control.  If you are an OEM and ignoring the potential of adding intelligence to your products, then you are missing out.

2. Parallel computing

With the huge advancement of parallel computing in 2010 and the hardware consolidation trend in IT, the next logical step is Parallel Personal Computing (PPC).  What is PPC?  It is sharing one computer with multiple users at the same time!  PPC moves the parallelism to the flesh layer of the system architecture by treating the hardware and software as a set of sharable resources.  While most parallel designs can be really hard to test and troubleshoot, PPC promises to keep the concurrency errors isolated from the rest of the system.

Joking aside, parallel computing is a hot topic for workstation customers this year.  Additionally, with the amounts of data being collected, I see cluster based data mining as the next explosion for the tech industry.

3. True zero client

Have you seen how shockingly thin notebooks and tablets are getting?  In 1995, today’s mobile computers and smart phones would be akin to alien technology.  The next trend we will see is a move to the true zero client (TZC) . . . as in nothing!  As a bonus, it’s retro, so it’s also fashionable.

I’m not sure people will pay that much for TZC computers, so in the meantime expect the devices you buy to continue to shrink as Intel’s Sandy Bridge comes on the scene, removing the requirements for extra GPUs and heat sinks.  OEMs are going to get a lot of bang in a smaller form factor.

4. Abacus computing

With the emergence of cloud, the IT world is facing a huge paradigm shift in data security and ownership.  When you use Gmail, who exactly has your data?  When you use Google Docs to store your financial information, could someone be watching your data move around on the cloud?  It sounds pretty spooky, and there is only one way to get back the assumption of security you lived with through the 2000’s: Abacus computing.  You see, with the abacus, you can be sure that your data is hidden at any time, because most of the data is being kept in your head.  And the data transparency extends all the way into the processor itself.  Good luck hijacking my abacus, Stuxnet.

If an abacus is too extreme for your security requirements, then it is possible the cloud might work for you after all. 2011 will surely be the year when every CTO looks to the cloud for their next generation product design.  I expect that software developers will start to talk cloud in their architecture pattern lingo (I attempted a quick start in the CloudCamp LinkedIn group) and some higher-level frameworks will appear to address this new world of dynamic and distributed computing.

Your turn – which of these predictions will come to bare?   Are there any big ones I missed?

You can follow Josh on twitter (@joshneland).

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About the Author: Josh Neland