A devastating assessment of the course of technology growth last Friday from technology analyst Forrester flies in the face of what competitive firms would consider "conventional wisdom," to say that before cloud computing truly commands the attention of enterprise network architects, a few other dramas currently in progress must play themselves out first.
At the center of one of these dramas is a player that officially exited the enterprise computing market in November 2010: Apple. The reason: Apple makes a tablet that CxOs really want. Many may not actually know how it integrates with their networks, but unlike most any technology purchase to date, they're willing to invest in it now and figure out the solutions down the road.
Forrester's prediction, as articulated by a team led by Andrew Bartels of its Vendor Strategy Professionals group, is unusual but plausible: The rise of cloud computing in 2011, Bartels notes, led to a rise in server equipment sales. But the principal buyers were actually just a handful of customers who needed a broad infrastructure platform now. One such player was Rackspace. Another was China, as in "government of."
But those purchases are made - they're done. Meanwhile, Forrester survey results for Q2 2011 were the first indicator of trouble signs for enterprises smaller than the Chinese government, such as banks. Only about one-fourth said they really have an IaaS strategy, with many indicating they don't really know what an IaaS strategy is.
What has enterprise executives' attention locked up? Tablets, particularly the iPad. Until CxOs stop staring at iPads like cats with yarn dangling in front of their faces, Bartels' report asserts, the growth of cloud computing infrastructure within the enterprise will actually take a dip.
"In 2011, we estimate that Apple will sell $6 billion worth of Macs and an equal amount of iPads to the corporate market; in 2012, we project $9 billion in Macs and $10 billion in iPads; and by 2013, $12 billion in Macs and $16 billion in iPads," Forrester's report reads. "In contrast, global corporate spending on Wintel PCs and tablets will decline by 3% in 2012 and by 1% in 2013."
For the smaller businesses on the enterprise scale, the adoption of iPads has a long tail to it that brings in more Macs, particularly among members of the IT department themselves who evidently prefer working on Macs. Because of them, Forrester believes, Apple could double its worldwide sale of Macs (a majority of which are sold in the U.S.) in a two-year period, at the same time that spending on PCs levels off, and spending on Windows-based PCs declines. Note the forecast for "Wintel" PCs for 2013, which should be the year of Windows 8.
Spending on cloud infrastructure will resume its upward trend in 2013, Forrester projects, apparently when the iPad novelty wears off. Delivering software by way of services will not only continue to redefine the software market, but will also bring customers into that market as players themselves, providing services to their own customers online. Of course, this is what many analysts foresaw a year ago for 2012, but the iPad proved to be an unexpected event from an underappreciated source.