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1/3/2011
08:10 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Wolfe's Den: Top Technologies To Watch In 2011, Part 1

A shift in the way we think about security, along with predictions about the death of the desktop, the rise of the "Internet of Things," and HP's rebound from the Hurd scandal are on our columnist's list of prognostications for the new year.

Last fall, I predicted that the big IT trends for 2011 would include a emphasis on innovation, and a search for better ways to analyze the immense quantities of data we're all getting buried under. Now that the new year is actually upon us, here are five top-level trends I believe will set the tech agenda in the coming months.

1. Security Moves From Software To Hardware.

When Intel bought McAfee last year for $7.68 billion, many observers viewed it as just another manifestation of the business consolidation cycle. From my perspective, something much bigger was and is going on -- Intel has been working to disintermediate the entire, traditional software security industry, by implementing security directly on the microprocessor.

This is something that's been advancing in the background for several years already. When I spoke with Intel CTO Justin Rattner in 2009, he told me: "We're researching a general-purpose solution for being able to run high-trust computations."

You'll hearing more on this very soon -- at CES, in fact -- when Intel formally unveils its Sandy Hook family. The processors boast a "kill switch," which will enable your PC to be remotely disabled if it's stolen. They also include instruction-set extensions designed to help implement encryption keys in hardware.

This is big stuff, not simply for traditional computing but also for the cloud, where security remains the overarching worry of all users. I'll be writing a lot more about hardware-centric security throughout 2011.

2. Death of Desktop Computing. While this is perhaps the most provocative prediction, I put it second rather than first because it's also fairly obvious. (Can you say iPad?) Note that I don't mean "desktops" as in "desktop PCs," as distinct from laptops. The mini-tower is already a metaphorical tombstone to a computing era now past. What I'm getting at is an atmospheric observation that desktops and laptops, as a mode of user engagement are the past, not the future.

This is true notwithstanding the fact that you're probably reading this article -- particularly if you're at work -- on your laptop. Go home, though, and see how your kids engage with the Internet. Chances are its via a smartphone or netbook. Slightly older folks, having more $$$, favor tablets.

What it all boils down to is, to revamp that canonical Sun Microsystems catchphrase yet again, the browser is the computer. Or, we are all thin clients now, even if a particular piece of hardware we're holding remains heftier than it really needs to be.

This trend is only going to accelerate. I might also archly ask, now that traditional computers have become less relevant, mightn't 2011 finally be the year of desktop Linux?

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