Among the technologies that are of interest to enterprises, those that are emerging and have a clear path for disruption often make for the most interesting discussions in tech circles. Last week, Gartner published (client reg. req.) research on tablet PCs, MetaCarta's location search capabilities, security functions making their way "in the cloud," and social tagging. While some of this may not be new to some, others will find it important to their decisions and planning. So here are the important bits from the $95 document:
Gartner says that tablet PCs are coming of age, and especially in customer-facing situations, could be worth their premium prices, particulary if they are convertible models.
"When we recently tested one of the available new versions, we were surprised at how significantly handwriting recognition has improved. Even with bad handwriting, the system often recognizes words correctly at first glance (for this author, it was about 70 percent of the time)."
But don't forget the drawbacks if you are considering tablets. Gartner perceptively noted some of the pitfalls of handwriting on a screen. For example, a user's line of sight can be obstructed while writing and making command-and-control movements, and the positioning of the pen cannot be exactly calibrated to the actual position of the pointer on the screen, which can be a limiting factor for some granular graphical uses.
MetaCarta’s location extraction technology
"MetaCarta's technology is important in its own right because it provides users with a flexible way to index and search free text documents for geographic information. It also supports the broader trend of the growing importance of metadata in the future of IT. The company is suitably positioned to find itself at the center of a burgeoning emphasis on location-based information."
Gartner pointed out that the location initiatives of search giants Google and Yahoo will remain a competitive threat, but MetaCarta's natural-language sophistication gives it a strong edge.
First a good analogy: "In the history of business and consumer use of the Internet, the vast majority of security approaches have relied on customer premises equipment — security hardware and software at the edge of every business or on the PC of every consumer. This is the equivalent of the water company telling you to put water purifiers onto the water pipe into your house because it is sending you many poisonous substances mixed into your water."
Innovative approaches to security are underway according to Gartner. AT&T provides a range of network-based security services and startups like VigilantMinds, Prolexic Technologies and Perimeter Internetworking insert themselves into the cloud, similarly to how anti-spam filtering services insert themselves into the e-mail flow.
Despite usability and liability obstacles, few would argue that "immunizing" the network for cyber threats this way doesn't make sense.
Traditional methods for building taxonomies such as leaving it up to authors or editors to do the heavy lifting are out the window. According to Gartner there are two advantages to shifting the task of metadata creation to users:
If a large enough number of users is assembled, social tagging leads to statistical indexing, which reflects much better what a community of users thinks is appropriate metadata for certain content.
Metadata creation also leads to much better coverage of special cases — so-called long-tail coverage (the "long tail" of a frequency distribution refers to low-frequency cases that could still constitute a large fraction of the entire collection of cases).
Gartner considers sites like Del.icio.us, Flickr, Furl, great examples of grass-roots community classification that is giving rise to a new kind of social software they call "networked collective intelligence."