By Todd Thibodeaux
Despite the current short-term lull in traditional IT hardware innovation, were actually on the verge of an incredibly dynamic time in tech. The widespread availability of affordable, high-bandwidth broadband, both wired and wireless, and utilization of the cloud have and will continue to open doors that didnt exist before.
We also live in an industry driven by creative destruction. The PC was first complemented and then replaced by the laptop. Now both platforms are being slowly phased out in favor of tablets and smartphones, just as blade servers and virtualization increase computing horsepower while eliminating bulk. The adoption of email as a primary word processing tool has impacted the pre-packaged software market just as text messaging and chat have eaten up usage formerly the domain of email. Its both exhilarating and scary to see these transitions unfold before our eyes.
With all the uncertainty swirling in the economy and the channel, it makes it tough to find the right places to make your bets for the future. You know what they say; if youre going to forecast, forecast often. But there are at least four products and trends we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty will have an impact over the next five to 10 years.
What would your business look like in five years if the percentage of your revenue coming from PC-centric activities break-fix, replacement sales, software licenses, etc. declined by just 5 percent a year? In any given year it might not seem like much, but add it up over five to 10 years and its a lot. If and until we have a quantum breakthrough in processing power and speed opening up unforeseen new capabilities, the PC as we know it will, at best, continue to diminish as a driver of growth at an accelerating rate, and, at worst, will slowly cease to exist. Diversify while you still have time.
Jump on YouTube now if you havent seen one of these devices in action. Theyre remarkable and the opportunities they present for the channel are really interesting. Not only does 3-D printing have the potential to become the new king of break-fix, lucrative opportunities will also emerge in printing supplies and in providing customers databases of pre-engineered designs. You might even find yourself with some small-scale custom manufacturing jobs creating custom-fit accessories for customers.
Think Iron Man but on a much smaller scale. Devices and technologies we utilize in our smartphones, tablets and laptops will begin to migrate to other form factors in the coming years. Weve already seen some of the initial forays like Google Glass and Samsung Smartwatch, while other rumors from Apple make waves. While those products will continue to grab headlines, lesser-known devices used to augment vision, hearing and medical monitoring will also become commonplace over a longer period of time. The direct channel opportunities arent clear yet but its certainly an area to keep an eye on.
The innovation in robotics is running at a pace not seen before. In the past, robots were confined to factory floors doing repetitive precision manual tasks like building cars or semiconductors. The robots of today are taking on a much wider range of uses. Two areas ripe for the increased use of robotics are hospitality, food service and retail. Think a robotic French fry cooker in a fast food restaurant, a room-service delivery robot in a hotel or a shelf stocking robot in a retail store. Helping customers integrate robots into their environments and keeping them running will be a channel-solution-sell of the future.
These are only four of a number of revolutionary innovations we will see impacting the channel over the next five to 10 years. While you have to stick close to what you know best to make the numbers, 10 percent of what youre talking to your customer about needs to be cutting edge to be successful. Click here to get more insights from CompTIA on how the future of technology will determine the future of channel services.
Todd Thibodeaux is president and CEO of