What's coming in 2009

A better 'Vista,' PCs for every niche, more Apple in the enterprise and more

Well, it's that time of the year again. Time to enjoy the glow of a nice LED backlit display and huddle with the warmth that only an overclocked PC can produce. Yep, it's time to take a look at what's going to happen in technology in 2009. Here are my five predictions for the new year.

1. This is the year of Vista -- I mean Windows 7

Yes, it's real and it's coming in 2009. Don't expect to hear a lot of Vista cheerleading going forward, other than Microsoft telling you how much better Windows 7 will be. Between Microsoft and all its partners, close to a billion dollars will be spent on beating the Windows 7 drum and trying to get the market beyond Vista and back to Windows at the same time. The good news for IT departments is that there won't be much of end-user demand for the new operating system, so they can take their time to deploy.

2. PCs finally fragment as a platform

It was not that long ago that all PCs were created equal -- that is as beige boxes. (Even Apple went through a beige box period.) If you wanted a workstation, you painted it black (or blue). If you wanted a server, you turned it on its side, and if you wanted a mobile PC, you slapped a handle on the top. But mature products fragment into smaller product categories, and PCs are no different. It just took a while, but it's happening at last. One size doesn't fit all. In fact, one size doesn't need to fit all. Netbooks will appeal to different user segments as will smart phones and, of course, traditional laptops and desktops. Expect a lot of device overlap and a lot of confusion about taxonomy.

3. 'Tweener devices will have their hype and then die

With all the platform fragmentation, there's going to be a lot of devices that don't fit neatly into existing product categories. That's OK, but there are only so many devices that users will carry with them, and that magic number is three. Any device that doesn't map into users' device hierarchies isn't going to succeed. Fragmentation is good, but if a new device can't replace one or more existing devices, it won't succeed in the market. Call them Internet tablets or iPhone and the ability for that device to work with Exchange and be managed centrally by the IT department. Expect that trend to continue in 2009 with Macintosh and OS X. The shift to Intel has already given Apple users the ability to seamlessly run Windows on their machines. The next version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, promises even tighter native operating system integration with corporate infrastructure. As more users become enamored of Apple products, expect both top-down and bottom-up pressure to grow for IT to make Apple products part of the corporate standard. IT is a service organization in the end, and the smart shops will listen to the desires of their users.

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