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2004 end-of-year summary

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Reg Reader Studies The year end is traditionally ‘out with the old, in with the new’, but from the results of The Register/Quocirca year end barometer survey, it looks like for the IT and telecoms industries, the ins and outs from 2004 into 2005 will again include more ‘shaking all about’.

The Register and Quocirca ran this survey to examine a number of key IT industry pressure points. We had almost 6000 respondents split 50/50 between vendors and end users of IT from organisations of all sizes. We call it a barometer survey because we will continue to gauge how the market is changing by asking these questions again at regular intervals.

2004 was a recovery year from an IT and telecommunications perspective as many suppliers saw the decline following the dot com boom give way to a levelling out and even slight improvement in some sectors. The shaking all about of ‘convergence’, or perhaps more accurately, ‘collision’ of networking, both fixed and mobile, with IT continues apace, and there appears no let-up in the physics of speeds, feeds and sheer volume of digital data.

With data protection, governance and security concerns growing, keeping information in the office is proving almost as challenging as making it mobile. Once out of the office all bets are off. Mobility is rapidly moving from a new concept to a way of life, as many realise the benefit of out of the office access to in-house applications as just an extension of business as usual rather than a radical shift. Few regard remote access as a bad thing.

In 2004 mobile email moved from needing to be explained, to something most people have seen or used. GPRS became a standard feature of all new corporate mobile phones in 2003, then in 2004 cheap, robust and usable smartphones became available for the first time and corporate decision makers became comfortable with mobile email as a concept. Although this makes business justification easier in some respects, costs have still kept 2004 deployments down somewhat, but mobile email usage alone was noted by almost a quarter of respondents, with a slightly higher percentage in smaller companies. These users are not only gadget gatherers, but black collar marketing roadies, industry groupies, like analysts or journalists and most obvious of all, the BlackBerry executives. In 2005, mobile email will become less of a badge of importance, and more the opposite – a tool for the mainstream.

Tri and quad-band cellular devices proliferated in 2004, but 2005 will bring in more multi radio devices and 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth with everything. Great news for frequency hoppers and spread spectrum betting, but the last thing users want is to have to make decisions about connection methods. Over half of respondents are currently using Wi-Fi somewhere, meaning 2004 was the year for putting some Wi-Fi networks and supporting back office systems in place. Now public Wi-Fi suppliers must increase the ease of access to services and 2005 will be the year when the roaming agreements and value chains are worked out so that businesses can procure services fitting their requirements for coverage, tariff and support.

The difficult question is who will deliver mobile solutions to the enterprise? After many false starts and a lot of poaching of good people from the IT sector, 2004 was the year when mobile operators finally started to understand what their corporate customers want from them. Will 2005 be the year they actually start delivering? Quocirca expects the wireless and fixed aggregation and roaming issue to rise significantly in importance, as companies need to simplify all forms of remote or mobile connectivity. The hotspot to mobile operator roaming agreements of 2004 are good indicators of the mature thinking beginning to emerge.

Finally, voice and data convergence. BT is pouring £10b into replacing all non-IP functions with pure IP-play ones, and every service provider is making a play for running voice services over their data networks. When asked about voice over IP, our survey resoundingly showed this isn’t just wishful thinking on behalf of suppliers, it’s really gathering speed. Very few seem keen to bury their heads in the sand and say convergence will not happen. Grasping this opportunity for greater efficiencies and effectiveness in the short term makes sense - and Quocirca believes that companies who embrace this will soon reap the benefits.

Mass mobile mail, the aggregation of access methods and the convergence of voice with data - it might all seem messy and complex, but the good news for end users is that after a few years of focus on individual technologies, vendors are finally getting the message that users want solutions that add value or efficiency to their business.

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