You’ve probably have heard that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer no longer keynote at CES. Instead, the top cheese keynoter is Dr Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm. The days of Windows dominance is done, and mobility now rides into battle. IT warriors are already starting to see the challenges. I think that the CE industry is completely giddy that the computer industry doesn’t dominate CE anymore. The times have changed.
Here are a few thoughts for my IT colleagues, about some of the short-term implications of it all.
Challenge #1: Mobility Without Thought
There were more than two hundred companies showing literally thousands of different tablet models. Some had game controls. Others had 10-point gesture control that works only with new vintages of Windows 8. All of them are a minefield called BYOD. Although there are Mobile Device Management applications that can control mobile device authentication, app sources, malware/viruses, and loss/theft control, only a handful of tablet makers I interviewed even knew what MDM or mobile application control software was. Many could speak English but didn’t know what ActiveSync was. The attitude was: cool tablet first, connectivity, security, authentication, audit control, policy enforcement, app payload control later on. Consumers don’t need that stuff.
Challenge #2: 4K Video, The Network Plumber’s Nightmare
The 4K video standard produces incredibly beautiful and vivid video displays, and it will sell 10GB network routers like hot cakes. Video used to be something quaint, like a 640×480 pixel matrix with maybe 256 colors. We’ve zoomed through HD video at 1080i pretty quickly. If you thought 1080i had a data rate that only a network engineer could love, wait until you taste 4K. Your lights will dim: the 4K DCP standard of 4096 x 2160 will yield a 1.9 aspect ratio, meaning new and fantastically expensive monitors. Of course, they’ll look really, really good. But the 4K standard has a huge raster and number of frames per second. The chintzy YouTube videos that utilize heal-grinding CODECs probably clog your networks now. But 4K has data rates that can range from 946-1460+ gigabytes per hour in raw format. One RAW-format uncompressed instance will largely crater most GBE networks at 253 to 405 megabytes/sec transfer rates. The CODECs that will ultimately arrive and compress data streams are still largely in their infancy and licensing of reasonable CODECs isn’t simple and aren’t included with anyone’s operating system, at this point. Only larger RAID systems will be able to handle the first copy, let alone backups or in-process edits.
Challenge #3: Data Devolution By Convenient Cloud Storage for JAAOD
CES was chocked full of cloud storage synchronization and storage services. On one hand, we should cheer. We’ve been begging the user community to do backups for three decades, and now that you can backup 5-50gigs for almost (and occasionally) nothing, users are doing it. The problem is: the cloud storage vendors don’t care where the data came from, and it’s up to user controls to ensure that it’s not valuable corporate data that’s being (possibly illegally) stored into a cloud storage account protected with a flimsy password. This Means You, DropBox. More than two dozen online services don’t care if your corporate financials are being stored behind the password (GoPackers!). Mobility and BYOD has put enormous pressure to allow utilization of Just About Any Old Device (JAAOD). Multifactor cloud storage authentication? With what? You must be joking.
Challenge #4: Death by GPS
The GPS technologies and map sources are now a big deal at CES. NAVTEQ and Google are vying for the top spots along with the traditional discrete GPS device makers. But the question then arises: if the maps or sources are wrong, and someone dies, who has the most liability insurance? Can you direct someone safely? If you move them onto busy thoroughfares instead of thru bad neighborhoods, what are the implications? This was the easiest way found to take a babbling GPS booth salesperson and have them become suddenly and completely quiet.
Challenge #5: Connecting Your Stuff to “The Cloud”
IBM announced a way to connect your household, along with various sensors to the cloud (see http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/011013-ces-ibm-home-cloud-265725.html?hpg1=bn) and the next step is: connect all of your branch offices and locales (with all varieties of fascinating sensors) to the cloud. There is of course, no standard of how domicile or branch office data will be handled, and so the possibilities are rife for monolithic vendor implementations that will make changing cloud vendors tremendously difficult, if not impossible. It would be lovely to have uniform controls to check on various home/branch office/remote locale characteristics. Is it on fire? Good. Water on the floor? Oh geez. Spy camera in the kitchen? Grandma’s busy again. Want to change from IBM to ADT? Good luck.
Challenge #6: Tech Health Care Gadgets
Some applaud the action of helping coworkers become more cognizant of exercise and their health. We saw at CES, several attempts at well-being, including a “hapifork” (http://www.cesweb.org/Awards/CES-Innovations-Awards/2013.aspx?category=HealthandWellness) that warns users of overeating, and a blood-oxygen sensor for iPhones. In the case of the fork, it only measures motions, not calories. Dawdle and fiddle, and it will tell its user to stop early. The blood-ox sensor might be helpful in some circumstances, but if the patient is laying on the floor, passed out, there ought to be triage protocols in place to deal with emergency situations. Injecting various potentially gimmicky health tracking devices into situations is unlikely to improve outcomes.
Challenge #7: The Drones Are Here
Certainly one of the most compelling demonstrations occurred in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES 2013: dancing drones. Less than 14″ across, these four-prop helicopters were choreographed to a variety of music styles, moving back and forth as easily as big bumblebees. Not easily seen were the cameras attached to the drones as they flipped back and forth, doing 180′s and 360′s. Yes, those drones can come up to your fifth floor skunk works and take very high resolution pictures of your 2015 product plans. Yes, you can still buy black paint, and the laws regarding drones hovering by your R&D and Sales offices are still unknown, as are the rules about model rocket launchers poised nearby.
Challenge #8: Your 3D Printing Debacle
The 3D printer is ever-so-tempting for a wide audience. Have an artistic streak? Need to have that Aston Martin Logo on your file cabinet? More users then engineers think they’re engineers. The 3D printers use a filament of substance, often ABS plastic, to print at amazingly good resolutions. More resolution often means: more money spent. However, temptations will be oppressive. There are indeed standards and prototyping labs and skunkworks can rapidly become effective at printing small components, 3D logos, and even silly things like paperclips, guitar picks, and busts-of-the-boss. The problem is: finding an actual business purpose that has a return on investment. 3D parts made from printers are extremely expensive to demonstrate ROI to an actual CPA, but the spirit of something cool, now connected to network resources, will become an overwhelming temptation and IT will end up supporting its use, in many cases.
What did I like? The kewl new breeze of: consumers believing they’re in control.