TMCnet recently spoke to some of our favorite industry analysts to get their thoughts on 2013 and the year ahead in tech. Here’s our interview with Frank Stinson, partner and senior analyst with IntelliCom Analytics.
Who is 2013’s most interesting person in tech?
“The most interesting person to me over this past year has not been a specific individual, but rather, the business user in general. The rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the enterprise, combined with the growing variety of cloud-based alternatives to business productivity applications, puts a lot of power directly in the hands of individual employees. Enterprise technology providers are scrambling to change their marketing and sales approaches to take advantage.”
What was the year’s biggest tech failure?
“Well, that is a pretty easy one – the launch of the Obamacare federal exchange website. It was not exactly built using state of the art technology from what I understand, but it would be hard to imagine a more high-profile failure given its budget and lead time.”
What were the three most important tech development of 2013, and why?
“Within the unified communications and collaboration space that I track most closely, a number of major providers have been moving toward software-based delivery and business models for a number of years now, but that concept appears to have finally reached mainstream acceptance in 2013 and is being driven by surging interest in the virtualization and cloud-based packaging options that it enables.
“Virtualization and cloud support have also brought enterprise-grade capabilities within reach of smaller customers than in the past. A number of mid-market solutions have emerged over the past year that leverage virtualization to provide an integrated suite of enterprise UC applications on a common hardware platform that is cost effective at smaller user size configurations than when delivered standalone. And public cloud-based offers sometimes based on the same underlying software can extend that down even further to small businesses.
“Much has been written about how social networking technologies have changed expectations around privacy, but the NSA domestic surveillance revelations were still a shock to a lot of people. I think that many have rushed ahead with the promise of the latest new technologies without fully thinking through the potential downsides. A car, for example, that automatically contacts the manufacturer if it detects a malfunction and either uploads a software fix while you drive or orders replacement parts for when you next come in for service might sound appealing. But if that same black box is also used to send you a traffic ticket or deny warranty coverage based on your driving habits, it would probably not be so cool then.”
What was the most noteworthy acquisition of the year?
“Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s device business was particularly noteworthy, but not just in terms of the capabilities being acquired. It was a defensive buy in many ways, as Microsoft needed to ensure that Windows Phone would continue to be supported by a major smartphone manufacturer. Windows Phone still trails in the mobile OS market share race, but maintaining a viable presence in this space will be increasingly important to Microsoft’s core enterprise business if the consumerization of IT continues on its present trajectory.”
Which companies are prime candidates for acquisition?
“There are several legacy enterprise voice providers either up for sale by their parent company or at least partially owned by private equity and at a point in the lifecycle of these investments where their owners may be looking for an exit strategy. Cisco’s continued strength in this space, combined with Microsoft’s current heavy push around Lync 2013, limits the growth prospects for the legacy players in the absence of some further consolidation.”
Customer experience, the cloud, M2M/IoT, mobile wallet, wearable tech and WebRTC were hot topics of discussion in 2013. What do you expect to be the hot topic(s) in 2014?
“I think that several of these areas will remain hot topics into 2014 and beyond. The Internet of Things is largely a discussion among technology infrastructure providers and developers at this point, but when it starts to show up more broadly in consumer technologies, it will mushroom.
“WebRTC remains a promise that requires differences in how the standard is being interpreted by providers to be resolved before it can come to fruition, and I would expect a vigorous debate on that in 2014.
“The cloud today is a bifurcated market where public cloud services have had the most success with small businesses while large enterprises have gravitated to private clouds hosted from their own data centers. In 2014, you will see greater provider focus on hybrid approaches blending public and private cloud implementation to bridge that gap. And whether it is through your customers, partners, or own employees, the user experience of new applications and technologies will remain a key area of emphasis going forward.”
What are your top three 2014 predictions for our industry?
“Enterprise communications is on the verge of disappearing as a discrete market. The IP PBX has been increasingly absorbed into broader collaboration value propositions in recent years, and now that it has evolved largely to a software model, its delivery is much more in synch with any number of other IT technologies than the proprietary and siloed voice systems of the past. Remaining legacy providers will face a shakeout in 2014 based both on the viability of their business models and the relevancy of the value they provide.
“Business process integration has been a key aspect of vendor UC value propositions for a number of years, but its reliance on specialized IT development interfaces and third-party consultants has limited real-world implementations to date. But, a new generation of integration tools utilizing improved APIs and snap-in type applications may begin to change that and even eventually put basic customization in the hands of the business user directly.
“The consumerization of IT now being driven by mobility and the cloud is causing providers to rethink traditional go-to-market approaches. Adoption of UC and collaboration applications has lagged expectations because the business user has not historically had direct visibility into the new capabilities IT has been considering, and IT often lacks the business context. There seems to be a growing consensus that marketing and sales approaches need to fundamentally change to better reach the user, but no one seems to have quite figured out how to do that. The winners and losers in the market will ultimately be determined by who does.”
If there’s just one thing related to tech that businesses need to know going into 2014, what is that one thing?
“Tech is not just an area that IT needs to be concerned with and budget for anymore. Enterprises that do not more broadly engage individual lines of business, functional departments, and business users when evaluating new technologies – particularly in the collaboration space – will not achieve the full value they potentially provide.”