What kind of cartels will deliver business computing, and how should businesses respond?
Forrester, the technology research company, just released its
business and technology outlook
2020. The short version is that cloud computing will come on quicker than you think, it will be
controlled by a very few companies that will fight for the right to own your data, and businesses need
to think about what software they can write that will differentiate them from all the other customers of
Like a lot of these reports, Forrester has a couple of clichés (we have entered the era of individual
empowerment; change is the only constant) and interesting facts that you don’t really know what to
do with (there will be 22 billion connected devices in 2020; Moore’s Law dictates that the computing
power of I.B.M.’s Watson will fit into a human hand by then).
The substance of the report, however, is plain: cloud and mobile computing combined will rapidly
improve, dislodging many incumbents in enterprise computing, and vastly empowering a few others,
becoming what Forrester calls “computing cartels” that control millions of servers in data centers
around the globe. These cartels, the report says, will include Amazon, Cisco Systems, Google, I.B.M.,
Microsoft, Oracle and a few competitors. Like most of these reports, it does not name losers, though
Hewlett-Packard and Dell were among those noticeably absent.
It is notable that the members of the cartel are all United States companies. Kyle McNabb, a vice
president at Forrester who was an author of the study, said in an interview, however, that in reality
“they’re all multinationals,” though the innovation happens in the United States first.
“It could happen in China and Europe too,” he added, “but we don’t see the same innovation there.”
These cartels, the report says, will offer cheap computing, ease of use and low maintenance costs.
They will compete with each other by focusing on different sectors. “Consumer and other data will
become the mainstay of firms such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft,” the report says, adding that “big
technology vendors will provide processing, analytical capabilities and global reach, while credit-card
processing, logistics and social firms will provide transaction data, logistical supply and consumer
demand and consumption.” They will also tailor their offerings to different industries, like health care
As shocking as the rise of these few multinational cartels may sound, since this is supposed to be the