These six enterprise tech trends defined 2019As we kick off another year, ZDNet's global team of editors has put together a list of five tech trends that will have a significant impact on the enterprise in 2020. The effects could be negative or positive, but will undoubtedly be substantial. Our panel of editors includes -- TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler, Larry Dignan, Chris Duckett, and Steve Ranger.
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We begin our list with dark clouds on the horizon for chip manufacturing giant:
Saying Intel is going out of business makes as much sense as saying Apple or Microsoft or Google are doomed -- it's simply not going to happen in the near term. That doesn't mean it is going to be smooth sailing for the chip giant, as 2020 looks to be anything but.
The company's competitors are lined up to feed off its traditional juicy margins, after years of being the dominant player. The comeback kid of silicon -- AMD -- is lined up to tackle the server market again, and has returned to the high-end laptop market. Laptops based on Arm chips are still restricted in what applications they can run in Windows, but that hasn't stopped vendors rolling the dice and trying to create the device cracks the market open. They will keep rolling, and eventually are going to hit the mark.
With a cupboard bare of options and growth markets, such as a mobile-focused chip business or a proper GPU offering for machine learning, there is little left to play with should AMD or Arm chips gain significant momentum.
It isn't the end times, but 2020 could be a very dark trip around the sun.
5G has plenty of benefits for the mobile operators themselves (like increasing the amount of bandwidth they can offer from the same amount of spectrum) but the benefits to consumers aren't so obvious. Don't expect that to change much in 2020; 5G will still be a technology largely in search of a killer application.
Slowing refresh cycles mean that it will take a while for 5G phones to become common, and in any case 5G networks are only being rolled out gradually. Rows over the politics of 5G could still slow those roll-outs down further, as could a whole new set of 5G security threats. It could be late in 2020 by the time a 5G iPhone arrives: only at that point will 5G really become a mainstream technology for consumers, at which point low-latency gaming and AR and VR apps might start to take off.
However, it could be that the defining usage of 5G in 2020 is by the enterprise. That might not mean developments as exciting as the 5G ambulance, but Internet of Things applications, which make industrial processes more efficient, and edge computing will be key. Not as glamorous at AR gaming, but maybe more useful.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have become the goto technologies for businesses whether they want to boost productivity, increase customer engagement, or drive digital transformation. According to Gartner's 2019 AI and ML Development Strategies survey, 59% of respondents said they have deployed AI, and those companies that have, on average, are running four AI or ML projects.
Both enterprise and consumer tech vendors are also racing to build AI into their products, via in-house development or M&A. Tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have been buying up AI and ML companies for a decade. Salesforce acquired AI-startup MetaMind in 2016, marketing intelligence company Datorama in 2018, and BI firm Tableau in 2019. Intel spent $2 billion to acquire Israel-based AI chip maker Habana, which develops "deep learning accelerators for the data center." Microsoft owned LinkedIn acquired Drawbridge with plans to incorporate the San Francisco-based company's AI software into LinkedIn Marketing Solutions product. HPE bought MapR to help grow its AI, machine learning, and big data knowhow.
Even non-tech companies are snapping up AI firms. McDonald's acquired machine-learning company Dynamic Yield with plans to use their technology to personalize menu experiences and improve sales. Nike acquired inventory management company Celect and data analytics company Zodiac.
As we move into 2020, the AI gold rush should accelerate as Gartner expects the average number of AI or ML projects to increase from 4 to 10. Businesses however will also need to address the multiple challenges the technology brings with it, such as the misuse of AI (e.g. deepfakes), facial recognition mistakes, over-personalization, data security and privacy concerns, and unintentional bias.
The constant drip-drip of data leaks and privacy catastrophes show that security is still, at best, a work-in-progress for many organisations. And security is still a minor consideration for many business leaders too.. Perhaps that's because there have been so many leaks that they think the risk to their reputation is low.
It's a dangerous assumption to make. More apps and more devices mean security teams are already spread too thinly. Add in new risks like Internet of Things projects, 5G devices and deepfakes and the challenges mount unless companies take the broadest possible view of security. Organised crime and ransomware will still be the most consistent threats to most businesses; state-sponsored attacks and cyber-espionage will remain an exotic but potentially high-profile threat to a minority.
For all this, the biggest risks will still be the basic ones; staff falling for phishing emails, or using their pets' names as passwords, and poorly configured cloud apps. There will always be new threats, so prepare for the strangest while not forgetting the basics.
If 2019 was the year when multicloud became a real architectural consideration, 2020 will be the year where we'll find out if the talk actually becomes reality. If multicloud does become reality, there will be a big role for companies that can operate as Switzerland within enterprises. IBM's purchase of Red Hat revolves around all the enterprises that are looking to go multicloud. Dell Technologies aims to extend its role from data center and hybrid cloud to using VMware to bridge multiple providers. There will also be more enterprise case studies to outline best practices. Ultimately, economics will drive multicloud moves. The reality may be that enterprises choose to go with one preferred cloud provider and another one to keep the incumbent honest. The technology to hop between cloud providers isn't fully baked yet, but Kubernetes, abstraction layers and other tools are making it more possible. A sidebar to this multicloud evolution in 2020 is going to be that cloud providers are likely to get a bit chippy as they swipe market share from each other. For now, the cloud pie is big enough for all. As soon as that pie shrinks, the FUD wars will begin.
Bill Detwiler, Chris Duckett, and Steve Ranger contributed to this report.
The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.