TOP TECHNOLOGIES : Hot Stuff – This year’s top technologies Plus what to expect in 2007

It’s been an exciting year for information technology and communications (ICT). For the first time since the dotcom bust of the early 2000s, there’s been buzz in the air. And it’s not all talk – ICT spending is increasing. According to research company, IDC, Kiwi companies were predicted to increase spending as percentage of turnover from an average of 2.9 percent in 2005 to 3.5 percent in 2006 – healthy 20 percent increase.
We asked IDC’s country manager Graeme Muller and industry blogger Richard MacManus (of ReadWriteWeb) to summarise this year’s ICT trends and what’s likely to be hot in 2007.

The year that was
Locally there were two standouts. First was Fairfax’s March purchase of Trade Me for $700 million. Sam Morgan, Trade Me’s founder, and eight of his investors became overnight members of NBR’s rich list.
The deal also shook up the publishing, technology and business communities proving there’s serious money to be made – and lost – on the web.
In August, Realestate.co.nz – joint venture between the Real Estate Institute and five agencies – announced it would spend $2 million competing with Trade Me’s property listings. Recruitment agencies and job-boards like Seek must surely be considering how to counter Trade Me’s job listings. And Telecom is pouring money
hand-over-fist into its online consumer play, Ferrit.
The second big local event was the Government’s decision in May to unbundle the local loop. Overnight, Telecom’s share price plummeted, and newspapers led with headlines like “$1.1 billion wiped off Telecom’s value as shares plunge” (New Zealand Herald, 4 May).
Theresa Gattung appeared publicly late in May looking chastened. She promised “[Telecom] will play by the new rules, we will be open, we will be true to our word” and asked “judge us by the evidence, judge us by the changes you see”.
Since the announcement, Telecom and its competitors have continued scrapping. Downstream ADSL speeds have increased, but slow upstream speeds, high-contention rates at the exchanges, data caps and low wholesale margins have hampered growth.
Internationally there have been two major focuses. The first is “Googlewatching” – keeping tabs on new Google products, acquisitions, or what competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo, Ebay and Amazon are doing to counter Google’s growing dominance. Google is the new 800-pound gorilla and whatever it does is news.
In 2006 Google has:
•swallowed up popular free video-sharing website YouTube in one US$1.65 billion gulp.
•inked $900 million deal with Murdoch’s Fox Corp to provide search and advertising on Fox sites, including MySpace;
•purchased and relaunched web-based word-processing application Writely;
•launched online calendar and spreadsheet applications; and
•launched Google Checkout – an
ecommerce payment service.
Google’s competitors have been busy. In March, Amazon launched wholesale data storage service S3, followed in August by beta launch of “Elastic compute cloud” – grid-based, on-demand processing service.
Ebay and Yahoo have snuggled up together, announcing in May that Yahoo would serve display ads to Ebay’s US users and promote Paypal – Ebay’s payment service – to Yahoo users. In August, Ebay signed Google to serve ads to international Ebay users. dollar each way, perhaps?
Microsoft has been working on Windows Live, its web-based start-page competitor to Google’s Desktop and startups like Netvibes. It also launched OfficeLive – website construction, hosting and web-application site.
Speaking of Microsoft – 2006 has been the year of Vista delays. Shipping is now expected in January 2007.
In June, Gates anointed Ray Ozzie (father of Lotus Notes) as his technical successor and stepped down as CEO. Ozzie looks set to pursue the strategy outlined in his famously leaked memo (October 2005) highlighting trend towards “software-as-a-service” and signalling another strategic u-turn at Microsoft.
It has been the year of the “social web” as MacManus terms the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Community sites such as LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube and Facebook have competed aggressively to build online communities. And content sharing via XML formats like RSS, Atom and OPL, has exploded as bloggers link to each other’s content. Popular blogs have become some of the web’s most trafficked sites, and user-content site MySpace is now the world’s most trafficked site.
“Social” technologies such as blogs, wikis (user-editable websites) and tagging (community content categorisation) are becoming mainstream. Company blogs are now regularly used as part of marketing strategy.
Investing in the internet is sexy again. With startups being bought for large sums, and companies like 37Signals launching web-based services with solid revenue streams, suddenly venture capitalists have found their cheque books. Blogs such as MacManus’ ReadWriteWeb and Michael Arrington’s Techcrunch provide full-time commentary on web startups, VC investments and acquisitions.
One of the big hardware stories of 2006 was the launch of multi-core processors by Intel and AMD. The extra horsepower these new chips provide has fuelled interest in virtualisation. Companies are making use of “virtual server” technology to run multiple server machines on single box and reduce hardware costs.
No big changes in the MP3 and video-player market, though, with Apple’s iPod continuing to lead the market. Rumours abound of combined Apple iPhone/iPod device to come – so stay tuned for Macworld early in 2007.
Not much change in the printer market either. SMEs favoured multi-function devices combining scanning, printing and faxing in the one box. Colour laser printer sales increased, but slowly. In the enterprise, printer consolidation (reducing printer numbers) has been the order of the day.
In contrast, wireless has been big mover – partly fuelled by rapid growth in the sales of wireless-equipped notebooks. In the consumer market, more notebooks than desktops were sold this year for the first time.
Networking companies including Linksys, Netgear and D-Link have released rafts of new wireless devices such as routers, ADSL gateways and media servers. Voice-over-IP (VOIP) is also starting to appear in consumer products – heralding new consumer-focused VOIP services to come.
WiMax trials by Callplus, Natcom, BCL and others were conducted around the country in 2006 but as yet no commercial WiMax broadband services have emerged.
In October, Vodafone launched its new 3G data service. At speeds up to 3.6Mbps, 3G data services are comparable in speed and price to ADSL – but with much lower data caps and punitive overuse rates of 50 cents/Mb (yes, that’s per megabyte). Telecom’s mobile broadband is similarly priced.
In the enterprise applications market, customer relationship management (CRM), document management and business intelligence (data collection and reporting) were the big growth areas in 2006.

2007
Vista launch
Microsoft’s new Windows release has been long time coming. But it’s huge upgrade, and will have big impact.
As usual new computer purchases will drive Vista uptake. Consumers will likely be the first to embrace Vista. Its march into the enterprise is likely to take little longer as companies hold off to ensure stability and look for productivity gains.

Web services/web applications
Expect to see plethora of new web-services. Web-based backup and storage services are taking off overseas where faster upstream bandwidth makes them viable. Expect local services to launch as upstream speeds increase.
Web-based “office” application suites from Microsoft, Google, Zoho, Zimbra and others will compete for users.
New “hybrid” applications that run on the desktop but incorporate web-services technology will appear, and web-applications will start to merge seamlessly with the desktop with web “widgets” providing simple web services.

Rich web interfaces
Sites will increasingly be “facelifted” with rich “AJAX” (Asynchronous J

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