At least that's how analysts with Gartner see it. The IT consulting and research firm on Thursday published 10 predictions for events and developments that will affect IT and businesses in the years ahead.
Gartner predicts that by 2011, Apple will have doubled its computer market share in the United States and Western Europe. It attributes Apple's rise both to the company's success and the failures of its rivals.
"Apple is challenging its competitors with software integration that provides ease of use and flexibility; continuous and more frequent innovation in hardware and software; and an ecosystem that focuses on interoperability across multiple devices (such as iPod and iMac cross-selling)," according to Gartner.
By 2012, Gartner foresees mobile workers abandoning notebooks, despite their slowly diminishing size, for smaller, more portable mobile devices. It describes these devices as "new classes of Internet-centric pocketable devices at the sub-$400 level." (Another word for this might be "iPhone.")
The year 2012 will also mark a time when 80% of all commercial software will include open source elements. Companies that fail to embrace open source software will be at a significant cost disadvantage, Gartner predicts.
Simultaneously, a third of business software spending will have moved from buying product licenses to service subscriptions. "The SaaS model of deployment and distribution of software services will enjoy steady growth in mainstream use during the next five years," according to Gartner.
By 2011, Gartner expects early technology adopters to buy at least 40% of their IT infrastructure as a service rather than as a capital expenditure. As if to confirm this trend, Amazon.com recently reported that the bandwidth utilized by Amazon Web Services, the company's pay-by-the-drink IT infrastructure, exceeded the bandwidth utilized by all of Amazon's global Web sites combined.
Only a year from now, Gartner believes that environmental criteria will be among the top six requirements for IT-related goods. And by 2010, the firm expects that three-quarters of organizations will consider full life-cycle energy and carbon dioxide footprint in making PC buying decisions. By 2011, it anticipates that companies will have to demonstrate their environmental credentials to maintain preferred supplier status.
IT groups will become more user-driven, Gartner projects, with more than half of all IT buying decisions being made at the behest of end users by 2010. "The rise of the Internet and the ubiquity of the browser interface have made computing approachable and individuals are now making decisions about technology for personal and business use," according to Gartner.
Finally, by 2011, Gartner expects the number of 3-D printers to increase 100-fold from their 2006 levels. With 3-D printers falling below $10,000, the firm expects consumers and business to warm to the idea of "printing" 3-D models.