IT Products Go from Big Noise to Big Business

There's been a positive change in the enterprise computing business of late; more product announcements truly are focused on how technology can help a company do business.

I wish I could go back in time and figure out when the IT sector made the transition from being product driven to concept focused. I guess it's like trying to figure out when we stopped being a kid or when we realize that we are "old".

When it comes to a "concept" rather than "product" focus, it's a nice change.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (farewell, Princess Leia), every technology publication and analyst firm looked back at this time of year, and produced a list of the top products of the old year.

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In reality, the vast majority of those products were little more than "dot releases". They were noted for being faster and, in the case of hardware, smaller and lighter, than their predecessors. Often they were best known for promising features and functions that weren't available yet, or for finally delivering the features and functions that had been promised in the products in the previous year's list.

It was rare to see something like the iPad on the list that truly represented a dramatic change.

Think back to the days when product announcements were staged before thousands of Comdex attendees, usually with costly videos, loud music, and gift bags for attendees. Thick, glossy press kits were shipped overnight (ka-ching for FedEx) to anyone remotely resembling a tech journalist. I remember seeing stacks of FedEx boxes -- as many as 50 in one editorial department -- with new product press releases and useless tchotchkes like coffee cups, keychains, and teeshirts. Most of those kits went straight into the trash.

All that noise was to celebrate announcement of a laptop that was two ounces lighter, a server that was rebranded as being "green," or software that might be useful in six months.

Be glad we are in the age of concepts and trends. Yes, products still matter -- in fact, InformationWeek will be involved in the Best of Interop ITX Awards in May.

Today the enterprise computing world is in an era when the focus is on concepts like big data, Internet of Things, cloud computing, and mobility. Smart technology providers are likely to emphasize how their new products enable those concepts in a business environment, rather than being the latest and greatest as a standalone product.

Sure, there are dumb announcements that phony up a new "concept" that only the creator cares about. Others simply append a buzzword to a long-existing product. I'm sure we aren't far from hearing about the IoT enabled shovel or toilet. My money is on some things like that appearing at this week's CES show.

Today's new enterprise products are more likely to help an IT manager gain insight into their data center operations, secure their network, implement perimeter beacons in retail environments, and improve customer relations using predictive analytics. Remember, that in the end, technology is a tool, and tools help us better do a job or live a life.

Let's leave the fluff to the consumer markets as we head into 2017. Job One for IT executives and their teams is to help run a business, not collect coffee cups.