Picking a winner: when to adopt emerging technologies

Spotting an emerging technology and timing its adoption is an Olympic challenge. Here's our guide to the best bets, from Nathalie...

Spotting an emerging technology and timing its adoption is an Olympic challenge. Here's our guide to the best bets, from Nathalie Towner

The technology industry is moving further and further away from its frontier days and is now slowly adapting to the needs of the mass market.

The key issues are no longer about grabbing the headlines with fantastic predictions but about providing convenience with a quality service. Bluetooth is a prime example and as it is adapted to general use demand is expected to increase.

The failure of WAP to deliver on the hype has been well documented but now the focus is on what will succeed in replacing it.

Predictions indicate that more and more UK companies will choose to outsource their IT to application service providers as has already happened in the US. The wisdom of concentrating on core competencies and outsourcing IT requirements has already been proven by the success of Cisco. Skills shortages will be a strong inducement to many companies, as will promises of faster implementation of applications.

But until companies are convinced that their data is secure, progress will be slow. End users need to be convinced and until this happens e-business growth will remain stunted. The race to become the leading provider of internet security software is already well under way but in 2001 we should finally start getting results.

Here is a selection of predictions for the winning and losing technologies of 2001

Simon Bazalgette

Chief Executive of Music Choice Europe


The most successful technologies of the future will be those that make life easiest for the consumer and, in 2001, I believe interactive services via digital interactive TV such as Sky Digital and Open Interactive and 3G telephony will take the lead.

Interactive television services look set to become invaluable to e-business due to the fact that with a 99% penetration rate, television is the mass-market portal. With everyone in the UK familiar with how television works, it seems much easier to extend the use of a medium that is so deeply ingrained in the population than to introduce a new one. In the UK, digital TV is already in over 30% of homes and there is evidence to show that it will soon exceed home Internet access.

Where 3G telephony is concerned, the phenomenal uptake of mobile phones in the UK has made transactions and interaction via mobile handsets a highly viable and profitable option for e-business. As 3G telephony will enable mobile phones to incorporate databases, organisers and personal stereo facilities, it is likely that phones will be used to make numerous everyday transactions.


In comparison, whilst 3G telephony will make positive advances, WAP has already proved a disappointing interim technology and will be quickly surpassed by 3G technology in 2001. Whilst WAP was undeniably a major step forward, 3G will truly enable mobile telephony to deliver.

I believe that digital radio, or Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) as it is otherwise known, is not going to see a promising year in 2001. DAB protagonists have long promised the public a revolution in listening, however for reasons of cost and application, digital radio can only achieve slow growth. It has simply come too little too late, with other digital technologies leapfrogging DAB as a viable solution for new audio services. After all, with 15 million homes in Europe receiving digital radio programmes via digital TV, is there really a place for DAB receivers?

Jonathan Stephenson

Independent Consultant


The year 2000 has vindicated a lot of the dot.com sceptics by delivering some major reality checks. Old-fashioned concepts such as profit and turnover are coming back into fashion. The aftershocks have rocked share prices and turned attention towards business-to-business commerce where there are established blue-chip players with major IT budgets to go after. B2B is much more what we are used to dealing with in IT; the focus is cutting costs of information management and using auctions to lower the purchase price. With these thoughts in mind I have picked out one 'free-to-use' product and two commercial products for 2001.

The free-to-use product is a bunch of Java applets built by a research group in the Computer Science Dept of Washington Univ. in St Louis. It is called eMediator and is described as a next generation e-commerce server. Its author Tuomas Sandholm describes it in his paper as "demonstrating some ways in which AI, algorithmic support, and game theoretic incentive engineering can jointly improve the efficiency of e-commerce". See e-commerce.cs.wustl.edu

The commercial products are both about content management and delivery, with the first being Actuate, a web-based interactive report builder. It never ceases to amaze me that so many development environments, Java, COM or 4GL stop short of decent reporting tools. It is always the reports that take the time to build, and with thin clients, being able to print business reports is even more important.

My second is Documentum's 4i eBusiness Edition. With Web sites becoming more dynamic, bigger and containing a more complex mix of multi-media object types, the opportunities for a company that can take the pain out of managing and assembling pages in real-time are obvious.

Dr Roger Till

External Affairs Director, e centre UK


Electronic document management systems -will become a requirement for many organisations to handle and store their electronic records securely. Digital signatures will become important. Always being connected means that my PC, my mobile and my personal organiser will keep each other updated so that I have only one set of seamless information at all times, wherever I happen to be.


WAP - let's kill the hype and recognise the real applications. Proprietary solutions - business users need simple, open business data content standards in this world of global e-business vendor specific ones.

Judith A. Jerome

Information Analyst, Bloor Research


The technology to watch out for in 2001 is wireless. No surprise there, I suppose, and the application that has the most bang for its buck is Bluetooth.

We see it moving beyond the gadget stage and becoming truly workable in laptops and handhelds along with short distance Bluetooth networks.

Our second prediction concerns the very widely defined issue of security. Included in that are issues surrounding email privacy in the workplace,increasing government regulation on an international level and issues to do with intellectual property and content ownership and encryption. Also there's the continuing Napster wavelets. The music industry will be unable to maintain its continuing litigiously vigilante posture as other venues morph from the Napster model. Good examples of this are the decentralised open-source programs like Gnutella and FreeNet.


The free-wheeling, ride-the-range, anything-goes business plan is on the way out. The dot coms which come to light next year will be the more thoughtful and intentionally directed businesses, which will be based in solidly researched ideas.

Reasons for this include the continuing problems afflicting the industry giant, Amazon, and the drying up of venture capital as those strike-it-rich investors have struck-it-wrong last year. All of the new entrepreneurs will be tasting a bit of the 'hair of the dog' in 2001.

Knowing that we will be ducking the thrown cartons and cans of the cultists, we see the Apple Macintosh becoming even more niche. In fact the niche will become a niche.

Andy Mulholland

Chief Technology Officer and Divisional Director, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young


2001 will be the year that directories become understood as being a pivotal technology in managing the provision of 'e'-services. Microsoft will be in a position to get Active Directory established as the way to manage internal e service processes, Sun will be pushing the role of the directory in the I Planet suite for external market makers, and Novell will be there as the biggest and most scalable version of LDAP to act as a unifying directory for the Redhat Linux e-service providers. You cannot ignore this topic when all the major players are pushing it as the key to their e service technology visions! Logistics and fulfilment will be the two services that will move into the limelight as serious real time based transaction capabilities move towards requiring real time physical transaction deliveries. Old players and new players are offering end-to-end management of the supply chain to supply'net' as it has become known with event triggers and optimisation of any activity to provide real time knowledge and management of this hither to'out of sight' important service activity.


The importance of the web server and html in particular is diminishing for several reasons. Firstly the activity and the focus has moved to the transaction rather then the content, and secondly, new tools are making website creation and management a routine activity.

This shift in focus and importance together with the impact of new tools to ease use is making inroads into the traditional firewall. The filter management of activity becomes increasingly important and the tools, techniques and process become the real issue. And while the basic firewall with its relatively crude techniques for control remains effective, it is not really the tool for go-ahead e-service businesses looking to offer widespread use of complex value chains and services.

The process of managing the entire process in depth is introducing new products and requiring more complex and demanding skills to engineer process filtration and management

John Williams

Head of video practice, Citria


Placing broadcast material on the Web as streaming media in itself does not represent a media revolution. The true power of streaming media is only realised when the user experience becomes interactive - searching for specific sections of video to watch and linking streaming video to other Web content.

There is still confusion about the role of digital asset management solutions in online applications and how this fits with Web content management. Now we can expect it to join the standard shopping list of technologies for large-scale media-rich services.


Britain is about to find out exactly what happens when you share 512Kbits between 50 people - as planned for the BT's home ADSL service. This is unlikely to represent the broadband solution we have all been hoping for but other access methods will be close behind and we will see high-speed home Internet connections become a reality before long.

Thomas Nikolopulos

Director Breakaway Solutions UK and Ireland


The crash of the B2C market earlier this year saw the focus of the new economy shift to B2B companies. 2000 has also seen an increase in companies looking to use the Internet to strengthen their business models. However, finding the time or the skills to do this can prove problematic. ASPs and application hosting have been the hot topics of the final two quarters of 2000. Is this the new way to do business, by outsourcing your support? Is this the way forward in 2001? But there will certainly be consolidation in this sector during 2001. Gartner Group estimate that by the end of 2001 up to 80% of all ASPs will disappear.

Value add will be essential as standard hosting costs come down, exchanges consolidate, the number of dotcom start-ups slows and the more cautious bricks and mortar firms take a closer look at e-business solutions, with higher demands and value for money.


As competition becomes more fierce amongst fewer players, the winners will be those who bring most to the deal. The losers will be those who fail to predict market developments and those who fail to react swiftly enough.

John Dillon

Director of marketing EMEA, Extricity


Industries will increasingly look beyond the technology standards to define and standardise the best practices in their relationships with business partners as they take them on line. Such standards jump-start collaboration, bypassing the need to negotiate and agree on how individual tasks should be done. RosettaNet, a non-profit industry consortium has pioneered such standards in the electronics, IT and semi-conductor sectors. Their Partner Interface Processes (PIPs)have been widely accepted within these communities promoting high adoption of B2Be-collaboration.

Just as companies have achieved efficiencies from integrating all the applications of their internal systems over the last 10-15 years, they will in the future see a huge return on IT budget investment from improving how well a company works with it's external partners and subsidiaries. There will be a far greater need for collaboration between companies on the design, implementation and on-going maintenance of B2B solutions. Such B2B collaboration will only happen if there is a clear business benefit for all parties. Applying traditional IT project development methodologies simply won't work for B2B.


Replacing out-dated modes of data communications (phone, fax, e-mail, EDI) with equivalent XML based internet data connections only solves part of the problem. It does not truly link companies into a managed and automated business collaboration.

Following such a strategy will still require manual process co-ordination and severely impact operational effectiveness. Companies tend to over reach with a desire to roll out an end-to-end solution that covers both internal and external processes.

The key to successful roll out will be low technology and investment barriers leaving room to entice partners that want to collaborate. It has to be easy and cheap to start, with the capacity to build tighter integration overtime, in line with demonstrated business value.

In addition, any attempts to mandate how partners in a community will have to work, and what internal business processes they must use will fail. It must be recognised and accepted that internal operations and processes will continue to be an important way for companies to differentiate themselves.

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