In my role as CEO of Forward Innovations, I am lucky to see 3-5 companies a week that are on the edge and pushing the technology envelope. It is exciting and interesting and allows me to keep on top of some of the most active technology trends.
As I look out over the next year, I see 5 major trends developing that I think will drive innovation in 2009.
Cloud Computing - This is a disruptive technology that is going to take many organizations by surprise and put a lot of them out of business. It is not because people do not see the trend, but because they are developing strategies that essentially take what we are currently doing and just put it on the cloud. That is not the right way to think about it. It is similar to the way brick and mortar retailers failed by just putting up an online store front. The people that succeeded (like Amazon) rethought the problem and offered a value proposition that was far above that. The same thing is going to happen with the Cloud. We need to think what solutions would provide if they essentially had unlimited computing power. I see both camps being presented and it is clear to me who is going to win.
Social Streams and Mashups - It is clear that social feeds like Twitter and Friendfeed will continue to advance and probably hit the mainstream by mid-year. These feeds have made the transition from "I am going to the store" communications to a major source of breaking news. But I am now seeing a whole new level of value being added by social mashup companies that not only aggregate the feed, but also profiles, messaging, and even applications. Companies like Power.com and My Life Online are coming on strong and really developing a very important value proposition. I think this will be a major element of our online life by the end of 2009.
Intelligent Agents - This is a prime candidate for taking advantage of the computing power of the cloud. DARPA spent $350M developing a technology called Personal Agents that Learn (PAL) and it is now being commercialized by SRI and Carnegie Mellon and it really has a lot of potential. These technologies will help us deal with the information fire hose we now face including our news, email, meetings, and alerts.
Mobile Applications- This is already beginning with the iPhone, but expect it to go a lot further. The big trend is going to be marrying the phone application with a web application. The phone will essentially be a remote control to the web application and the functionality will be divided between what is best on the phone and what is best on the web. There will also be a major thrust into mini-netbooks and the differentiating between the lines of a phone and these devices will begin blurring.
Meta Sites - We will begin seeing very large players like Amazon, Salesforce.com, and Google implementing very powerful cloud platforms that are way beyond what we see now. They have all noticed the power of engaging the ecosystem of developers used by the iPhone and will tap into this power to greatly expand the functionality of the platform. If you think you have seen this before, you have not seen anything yet.
These disruptive technologies are very strong and there is going to be a great opportunity develop at all levels of the food change. I think these trends could actually be a very viable threat to Microsoft. It is a great time in the curve to start a company and begin incubating the idea. I am advising my clients to keep the burn low and rely on angel investment at this time. I think the VCs will see these trend develop by mid-year and the frenzy will happen in early 2010.