2012 was eventful in the technology space, and 2013 looks set to be another interesting year. Rather than providing a focus on a variety of new technologies, this year looks poised to be one of reaping the rewards of maturing solutions, says Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings. 
“The maturing of the cloud and the maturing of the mobile network infrastructure will enable South African businesses to make better use of the benefits these technologies offer,” he says. “According to Gartner, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide this year, and by 2015 over 80% of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones.
“They predict that the era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is just one of a variety of environments IT will need to support, and that enterprises will need to support a greater variety of form factors reducing the ability to standardise PC and tablet hardware.
“Locally, with the upgrading of the networks to LTE, we can look forward to improved offerings from service providers that will bring these trends to the fore.”
He adds that it’s become an either-or argument when people talk about computing. It’s either the laptop or the tablet. However, he feels that the biggest shortcoming in this argument is an assessment of the technology levels of the two types of devices, and their uses. Firth points out that 99% of people with a tablet have a laptop, and that this doesn’t look likely to change.
“You can’t touch-type on a screen, not can you use a tablet for more complex content creation. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of speed and productivity that laptops deliver when compared to tablets. The biggest difference is the use of these devices. Laptops are still the most effective way to create content, and tablets are the ideal way to deliver that content.”
Firth believes that the tablet is a productivity tool without a keyboard and that this will change as hardware manufacturers continue to innovate.
“The tablet will get a keyboard, and that will change the way we use these devices.”
Similarly, Gartner foresees the personal cloud as a gradual replacement to the PC as the location where individuals keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and centre their digital lives. The analyst house says that the personal cloud will be the glue that connects the Web of devices individuals choose to use during different aspects of their daily lives.
The personal cloud will entail the unique collection of services, Web destinations and connectivity that will become the home of computing and communication activities. Users will see it as a portable, always-available place where they go for all their digital needs. In this world, no one platform, form factor, technology or vendor will dominate and managed diversity and mobile device management will be an imperative.
The personal cloud shifts the focus from the client device to cloud-based services delivered across devices. Business applications will be delivering services into personal cloud, such as shares.
Firth says that the cloud will play an even bigger role in the enterprise space, as hybrid cloud environments continue to permeate the business world.
“A recently conducted Gartner IT services survey revealed that the internal cloud services brokerage (CSB) role is emerging as IT organisations realise that they have a responsibility to help improve the provisioning and consumption of inherently distributed, heterogeneous and often complex cloud services for their internal users and external business partners.
“The cloud’s promise is slowly becoming a reality as companies figure out how to use it most effectively for their business.” Firth has become a proponent of HTML5 as a standard that drives a common interface between and into personal clouds.
This is partly due to the fact that infrastructure and offerings from providers like Telkom and Neotel have matured as well, enabling better access to the cloud. According to Firth, Neotel’s competitiveness will also come to the fore this year, as it becomes a valid option for companies looking to gain better service levels. Neotel still have a long way to go to improve their new business implementations.
“Neotel’s offerings are increasingly competitive, and it offers one overriding benefit that Telkom doesn’t: excellent service levels once installed, up and running. The telco has focused not only on deploying a world-class network, but on ensuring that its customers get good support and customer service,” Firth says.
“Hopefully, 2013 will also be the year that other service providers focus on customer service to the same degree.”