A Top 10 Tech List for 2003

For this 2003 watch list, we’ve dispensed with adding companies in place of focusing on some computing/technology trends we think will break out in 2003. While the list is by no means complete, we also think brevity in watch lists is itself a trend. We boiled this one down to a Top 10.

1. Wireless Networking and Wi-Fi

After all the hotspots for the 802.11 family of wireless networking that sprouted in 2002, watch the Wi-Fi wildfire grow more complicated in its popularity in 2003. From security issues for enterprise Wireless Local Area Networks, to the threat that Wi-Fi presents to carriers spending big bucks on competing 3G networks, wireless networking will be the hot general trend in the coming year. To quote Gus Venditto, editor-in-chief of the internet.com and Earthweb networks, look for the gaps between 802.11’s broadband hotspots to be plugged with 3G narrowband; watch for widespread adoption of dual-mode wireless access on the heels of Intel’s release of its wireless-friendly Banias CPU.

2. WLAN security

The Achilles heel of Wi-Fi’s runaway popularity, WLAN security is already a hot topic among enterprise network planners. But they’re doing more talking than spending on WLAN security products as they ponder how to safely throw open their data and corporate applications to wireless access. Hence, we expect to hear more about makers of WLAN security, such as Trusted Gateways that provide authentication and provisioning services for wireless access nodes. Look for personal Wi-Fi users to get more interested in buying their own LAN security software products.

3. Outsourcing/Managed Services

AT&T, IBM, EDS and a swath of smaller players are making outsourcing just too tempting for CIOs that have a mandate to control network costs. With discounting for these services brewing among India-based outsourcing and managed hosting companies, we think a price war could break out in 2003 as IT budgets remain tight. Companies serving the mid to small-business market could see continued demand for dedicated server-hosting, monitoring, patching, as well as managed security and virtual data backup.

4. Networked Storage

This could easily have fallen under the outsourced topic. But with the cost of storage systems falling, on top of major tech companies helping enterprise networks virtualize their storage needs, look for the trend to grab its own share of the tech spotlight in 2003.

5. Open Source Goes Enterprise Wide

With the Linux open source operating system gaining in use among big enterprise systems (especially among financial services firms), and big names behind the concept such as IBM, look for an acceleration of open source in corporations. There’s also a major trend among open source advocates to position their respective software beyond the open source community and on to the enterprise market. Watch for heady growth of PHP, Apache, Mozilla, Bugzilla, to name a few open source successes.

6. Paid Content

Since 2002 was the year that heretofore free content went behind a paid firewall, it makes sense that 2003 will be the year that all those accounts start to pay off. We’ve been past believers in the rise of micropayment technology as payment systems and digital cash evolve. Under the paid content trend, look for more pro and con arguments about micropayments in 2003.

7. Audio/Video Blogs

This may sound a bit far-fetched but we already hear the din from those self-styled “true visionary” types about blogs that talk. With all the new consumer-focused audio/video software in the hands of Joe Q. Public, it’s not a stretch to see blogs talking and dancing in the near future. Can’t you see the result of RealProducer or Microsoft moviemaker in the hands of blog nuts?

8. Enterprise IM

Can this trend get any hotter? If only to watch the battle among AOL, MSN and Yahoo! to grab a piece of the expanding pie for designing secure IM systems for enterprise networks, enterprise-wide deployment of Instant Messaging is hot enough. But there will be much more going on with enterprise IM, as developers make strides with text-to-speech and video over IM platforms.

9. Interactive TV

A perennial trend list item, we know. But based on the advances that digital cable systems made in 2002, we see increasing forms of two-way communications over the tube and with cable modems in 2003, especially with sports programmers.

10. The “Return” of Push

This dovetails with the expansion of speedy wireless networks and networked mobile devices, all of which deploy “push” technology to send information, photos and video to the next generation of smart cell phones. Push refers to more than getting nifty news updates on your PC without having to call for them with your browser. It’s about pushing mini-applications out to mobile devices or to IM clients that sit on computer desktops at home and work, bypassing clunky Web browsers. As the multi-messaging (MMS) wave hits America following its spread across Europe and Asia where wireless networks are more advanced, look for more companies deploying push technology to share the big Web services spotlight.