The rise in services such as Groupon and Dell’s Swarm late last year should put everyone on notice that social buying is terraforming the channel.
It falls broadly into the “deal-a-day” category and group buying websites that accrete buyers to a reseller’s or retailer’s offers.
Both originated in the US, the original Woot.com giving rise to Zazz.com.au, catchoftheday.com.au and even traditional etailers are getting on board.
Although the concept of group buying lived underground on enthusiast and specialist forums for years, it took Groupon (Stardeals. com.au) to bring it to the masses.
These services aimed at the consumer can also be tailored for a business audience. They are suited to runout, end-of-life and surplus stock clearance to generate cash flow through volume. But there’s no reason they can’t also be used to sell services, such as capacity and service tickets and to build awareness especially for VARs moving into new business.
Social buying isn’t for everyone but this year, if you don’t have a strategy that embraces group buys or daily deals, you better have a good reason.
RIP netbook (and the rise of the two-tablet executive)
This year will see the agonising death rattle of the netbook come to an excruciating, and inevitable, end.
Tablets and especially the iPad will finally put netbooks – which were always an interim compromise of price, performance and size – out of our misery.
Researcher Forrester expects 24.1 million tablets to be sold this year in the US, and we can expect a proportional number to be sold here.
But by 2015, the analyst sees 82.1 million in users’ hands and annual sales of 44 million; Ovum is more bullish, predicting 150 million “light OS” devices (including tablets) a year in the same time frame. Even those figures could be understated because they were compiled before Apple last month revealed it sold 14.8 million iPads in nine months – more than double the commentariat’s most optimistic forecasts.
While they continue to be mostly individual or BYO purchases for many, expect to see them handed down in the business, in homes and for the rise of the multi-tablet executive, because two screens are better than one.
But sales of smartphones may trail off as workers preference tablets’ bigger screens. Fortunately, they are unlikely to hit notebook sales in the medium term, because those devices are used for creation where tablets are more suited to consumption and curation of content.
As to which platform to back – Android, Apple or Windows 7 – the battle is clearly between the first two operating systems, with Microsoft’s trailing.
Year of Intel
Chip behemoth Intel set the pace at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US last month, drawing first blood for the year against rival AMD with its “second gen” Core i5 and i7 chips, previously known as Sandy Bridge.
For the first time, integrated chipsets can achieve performance approaching and on occasion besting discrete systems. This is a big step forward for business systems builders who favour such chipsets because it means they can bring powerful desktops into customers’ fleets.
And at the end of the year or early next year comes Ivy Bridge, the 22nm die that will double the number of cores on the entry chips to four – eight and more for high- end uses. Perfect for virtualisation or compute-intensive tasks or just visualisation through DirectX 11.
But don’t expect AMD to stand still; its November preview revealed a slew of competitive chips for every segment and the impact of Intel Sandy Bridge motherboard chipset fault.
Weaponisation of the web
We knew it was coming for years but Melissa, Nigerian scammers, South Ossetian hackers, Stuxnet SCADA logic bombs and Anonymous retaliatory strikes against Wikileaks’ enemies were just skirmishes compared to what’s coming. This year will go down in history as the one in which the web was turned into a full-fledged battleground.
Allegations the Chinese were snarfing internet traffic and stealing corporate secrets from their competitors, hacktivists seeking retribution or deniable cyberwar operations sponsored by state actors will seem passe compared to the calamity that awaits.
Expect to see headlines of massive critical infrastructure failures and embarrassing data leaks that will leave corporations and governments with no alternative but to act.
Forget the argy bargy of politics, the National Broadband Network will make its mark as the first retail service providers sign up and homes and businesses are connected.
The network allows for the first time a degree of certainty over service levels necessary in remote and hosted solutions and applications offered in the cloud. The various levels of service that will be turned on over the next year or two will also provide VARs with opportunities to add value to their offerings with confidence.
Remote site backup and recovery, video conferencing and other services that require symmetrical or high-capacity uplinks will be among the first to benefit.
IPv6 – don’t sell anything without it
Forward thinkers such as Geoff Huston have been banging on about the need to move from the current internet protocol stack (IPv4) to the next-generation IPv6 for at least a decade. Who knows what happened to version five of the protocol but we do know that IP addresses in the older range are running thin.
Now is the time to audit your customers to weed out any older IPv4 technologies – and not just networking hardware such as gateways, routers and switches but also operating systems and middleware.
Run out or return obsolete devices and check that you’re only getting kit that talks IPv6 or for which there’s a firmware upgrade planned soon. And consider what information security needs to be installed if, as is often the case in small businesses, the main line of defence was to hide behind network-address translation.
Analytics is king
Ever since budding Gordon Geckos saw the benefit of the spreadsheet in the ’80s, data has been a staple of doing business.
But often the problem was acquiring those data sets and then interpreting them. Sophisticated analysis required expensive software and licencing or creation of data that was timeconsuming and costly.
But the greater availability of free data and sophisticated web-borne analytics services such as Tableau, and while integrated chipsets are turning inexpensive desktops into processing powerhouses, means the foundational tools for advanced analysis are within reach of every information worker if they have the training and the skills to use them.
The worker you never see
It may be possible for you to offer such services at a deep discount or provide them for others under their own brands.
Not since the dotcom bubble of the late ’90s have we seen such a growth in services as that which was unleashed with the creation of elastic, on-demand services.
Such cloud services, as they are now universally called, are also spurring the greatest growth in new businesses and productivity since the spread of the desktop PC.
Old timers will point at NetSuite and Salesforce and ask “What’s new?” The answer: everyone is doing it and, as has happened with every technology, the cost that is tiny now will only go down even while capacity and capability explodes.
It may seem counterintuitive given the faith in cloud services but own-your-own facilities will also increase. That’s because those who appreciate the value of their data, who face regulatory requirements or do the sums on computationally extensive resources will need their own facilities.
Data centres to host this load are blooming like poppies on an Afghan hillside and with good reason. As Wikileaks discovered when Amazon and other providers shut off its servers without warning, there are some things good to own. The rest you can burst into the cloud. And only by discussing your customers’ business will you know which to recommend.
‘PGP’ or Privacy Grows Profit
This year, privacy will take on a new importance as bring- your-own employees' PCs collide with mobile
and custom malware. All that data and apps living all around us, that’s your business and their business and your customers’ business and how much control do you really have over all that?
Malware attacks that are written to dupe targeted individuals will reach pandemic proportions this year and traditional approaches will do little to staunch the flood of red ink.
Build a culture of defending privacy – of your staff, partners, customers and their stakeholders.