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Nov 02 2012

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Looking forward: 4 trends to watch

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/agree-terms.php?id=10064857As we count down to 31 December, here are some trends to ponder that either have already emerged, or might soon become more evident.

The rapid pace with which technology has been evolving means that for many of us, we are still grappling to understand and embrace what might be the current “in thing”.  This post aims to highlight some important trends that might already be evident, but will continue to shape the tech/IT space, and some that might be emerging.

Do let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Touchscreens… to the world!

The global proliferation of smartphones and tablet PCs, which is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, has transformed how users interface with computing devices. Traditionally, the keyboard was only a means for engagement, and eventually it was supplemented with a cursor. However, those interfaces could be fiddly at best, and depending on the user’s skills and experience, could be frustrating and inefficient to use.

In an effort to make tablets and smartphones even more portable, manufacturers have overwhelmingly adopted touchscreen technology for the primary interface. The ease of use of touchscreens, which tend to more intuitive and user-friendly, along with the exploding use of mobile/portable devices, means that persons are becoming less tolerant when they are restricted to keyboard entry. Hence, computing devices, such as PCs and laptops, which initially had not been in focus for adoption of touchscreens, are increasingly being marketed as having “the best of both worlds”: a keyboard for intensive data entry and a touchscreen to improve overall ease of use.

Commerce and financial transactions by social networks

There are a variety of ways to sell in goods and services over the Internet. Those conducted in an unstructured environment – with few, if any, controls – can be fraught with risks, whilst those done on purpose-built platforms can be somewhat onerous and costly to use. Hence there might be challenges that the average Joe or start-up might experience when using those options. However, Chirpify, and others that may soon emerge based on the same principle, may offer a viable and interesting alternative.

Launched around six months ago, Chirpify is a social commerce and payment platform that allows its members to make purchases via Twitter and Instagram using Paypal. Although there are more established and popular platforms for e-transactions, Chirpify might have some distinct advantages.

First, transactions can be completed in real-time with tweets and comments on Twitter and Instagram becoming immediate in-stream transactions. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Chirpify has been able to capitalise on social networks – the degree of comfort users currently have on those platforms, along with ready access to a large consumer base: Twitter has over 500 active million users, and Instagram has over 100 million users, (Sources: Tech Crunch and TechNewsDaily).

Could Windows become what Apple used to be?

Remember the days when someone owning an Apple device would have been considered unusual? Although they might have been singing the praises of their Mac – its user friendliness, the fact that it did not crash, etc. – they were just seen as a bit odd, and perhaps too much of an anomaly to be taken seriously. Furthermore, PC users might have even felt a bit sorry for them since they did not have access to the wealth of software that they did. How times have changed…

Although computers and laptops running the Microsoft Windows Operating System still predominate, starting with the introduction of iPod, followed by the iPhone, and most recently, the iPad, Apple has become more mainstream in the computing market. Apple devices are among the most coveted; new product releases are highly anticipated and frequently are reported as headline news.

On the other hand, Microsoft has been struggling to capture market share in the smartphone and tablet markets. Its earlier devices were generally considered “less than stellar”, and some of the strategic partnerships it had established did not appear to be yielding dividends. However, with the public release of its new Operating System, Windows 8, late last week, and the anticipation that is building around its new tablet, Microsoft Surface, experts are suggesting that Microsoft might have a fighting chance in the mobile/portable market.

Savvy consumers, who might already be iPad lovers, appear to be becoming enamoured by Surface’s aesthetics and functionality, along with having a removable keyboard integrated into the device’s design.

Will apps rule the world?

Finally, mobile and tablet computing applications (apps) have been around for a few years, and became prominent with the launch of the iPhone, iTunes and the App Store, all developed by Apple. The exponential growth of that market has been driven primarily by both amateur and professional software developers: those building apps for the love of it and those who saw it as a business. For the latter, the options to generate income were generally limited either to implementing paid subscriptions for select features or capabilities, or through paid advertising.

Although the number of apps available across all of the popular platforms number in the million, this may only be the tip of the iceberg, as increasingly, businesses are commissioning apps to engage their customers. The continuing trend towards portable devices, particularly smartphones and tablets, which have limited storage and screen size, fosters use of apps, which are streamlined and purpose-built for such platforms.

Hence although there will always be a market for the independent developer or developer/software companies creating their own apps, there might be more work and opportunities coming from corporations and other non-traditional sources, as organisations seek to increase engagement with their own customers.

 

Image credits: digitalart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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About the author

Michele Marius

Michele Marius has a wealth of experience in the telecoms and ICT space, which has been gained in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, and in the public and private sectors. She is the Editor and Publisher of ICT Pulse.

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