2012: Nine business tech predictions

Cloud computing, Intel's mobile strategy, ultrabooks and Apple's enterprise mojo will dominate 2012.

Welcome to the first official working day of 2012. In this installment of the year ahead, cloud computing becomes the go-to deployment choice, RIM faces a dramatic overhaul, Intel gets a mobile groove, Apple formally plays the enterprise game and all businesses will increasingly use techniques retailers have used for years.

Here's my read on the year ahead.

  1. Software as a service becomes the default choice for enterprises. The enterprise is at a tipping point where the default choice of many companies will be to go to the cloud first via companies like Workday, Salesforce.com and NetSuite. Established players already see the shift. Oracle buying RightNow and SAP's acquisition of SuccessFactors was not an anomaly.
  2. APIs change the enterprise. Enterprise systems will increasingly be connected with cloud applications and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) will be the glue that changes everything. In many respects, this shift is already happening. 2012 will bring acceleration.
  3. RIM becomes a software and services company as its hardware business, some intellectual property and current management is dismantled. Even then, RIM will continue to struggle.
  4. Every company will increasingly look like a retailer. Retail is a fascinating industry that I've covered for years in various formats. The linchpin to the business is making educated guesses on what a consumer will do. Analytics are everything in the retail world. In 2012, you'll see many other industries adopt a similar approach. The new world order features the intersection between analytics and commerce across multiple industries.
  5. Microsoft's Nokia relationship pays off somewhat. Nokia eventually gets a foothold in the U.S., but Windows Phone market share will still trail. Microsoft bolsters Windows Phone's enterprise cred and usurps RIM with its partners.
  6. Ultrabooks become a hit. The next few weeks will be all ultrabooks all the time with the Consumer Electronics Show around the corner. Ultrabooks are likely to hit the $500-$600 range and become the laptop for the masses.
  7. Apple makes targeting the enterprise a more formal affair. To date, Apple has entered corporations via consumerization. However, CEO Tim Cook is likely to be more business friendly. CIOs I have talked to already favor iOS because it's easier to manage and secure. That trend is likely to continue, but look for Cook---a former IBM man---to give Apple an enterprise spin. Why? There's too much money at stake.
  8. Microsoft's Windows 8 gives the company a viable tablet competitor. In fact, Windows 8 gives Microsoft a business hook for its device---something RIM and others couldn't do. Microsoft will utilize its Office juggernaut to make its tablets a hit. However, Microsoft will be a distant No. 2 to the iPad in corporations. On the consumer front, Microsoft will be No. 3, but that race with Android will be skewed by the Amazon Kindle Fire, which will account for most of the Android tablets on the market by the end of 2012. On the PC front, Windows 8 will not spark the corporate PC upgrade cycle that Windows 7 did.
  9. Intel will become a viable mobile player. This prediction is likely to be my biggest stretch, but at some point power and performance will matter for mobile devices. Intel can excel with its tick-tock strategy of innovation. One massive hurdle remains: The mobile industry has adopted the ARM architecture and it will take a lot to get a groundswell of manufacturers to design for Intel.

The year ahead: