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CES 2013: Early Warning For IT Managers

wayne Rash
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This year’s Consumer Electronics Show still acts as a valuable early warning system for IT managers, argues Wayne Rash

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show is missing some notable players such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

But that doesn’t make CES less important to your enterprise. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Much of what the other players are showing in January will find their way into your enterprise later in the year.

Missing Players

So why aren’t Microsoft and Apple at CES? That answer is easy. Neither company needs CES to generate interest in their products. They’re perfectly capable of holding their own events and focusing the world’s attention just on their companies. Why share the spotlight with hundreds of other players?

Google isn’t there because the company doesn’t make consumer electronics. It creates the basic software that many devices use, but it doesn’t make the devices itself. Amazon sells branded devices, but like Apple and Microsoft, it doesn’t need CES to sell them. After all, Amazon sells everything including its own branded products.

The companies that are there, however, promise to affect your business in one way or another. Samsung made a strong appearance as did Sony. Lenovo has already started making product announcements, including a half-dozen ultrabooks and convertibles with touch screens and a pair of business-oriented laptops with optional touchscreens. All of these computers are designed specifically for Windows 8.

But Lenovo isn’t alone. Samsung and Sony announced a series of Windows 8 ultrabooks. HP announced its TouchSmart Sleekbook. Dell apparently didn’t announce anything having just issued a series of product announcements before the holidays.

Enterprise Impact

While these new products will certainly show up in the hands of your employees at some point over the next few months, perhaps what’s more important are the trends that a show such as CES demonstrates. For example, it’s clear that with the advent of Windows 8, touch screen notebooks and ultrabooks are becoming a big deal. Likewise, the mobile devices showing up at CES make it clear that larger phones are an important trend.

These trends impact on your IT department in a number of ways. One is that you’ll really need to learn how to support Windows 8 in a touch environment. These devices are coming, ready or not. The next is that the growth of touch screen devices in general means that you’ll need to learn to develop internal software to work with touch screens one way or another.

While you’ve certainly had years to learn about iOS and Android devices, this is the first year in which Windows devices are starting to show up in large numbers with a touch interface.

Not all of your users will know what to do with this interface and while Windows 8 with a touchscreen is vastly more intuitive than it is with a mouse and keyboard, there’s still a learning curve.

Mobile Capabilities

The other trend that’s showing up is the tendency to have more devices do more things.

Smartphones are much more than just phones. They’ve always had the ability to handle messaging and nearly all work as cameras. But now you can expect mobile devices that can manage your network and even serve as network infrastructure devices that also provide visibility into your network assets and operations. This means, among other things, that some of the new Wi-Fi routers can give access to devices that previously didn’t have it. So with the right router from Netgear or Cisco, your iPads can access network storage services that were previously unavailable.

Such new capabilities can add a great deal of flexibility to your company’s mobile devices, but they also add a new level of security concerns. If something as simple as changing a router can provide this access, then you need to make sure your security planning takes this into account.

Likewise, the wholesale shift to mobile computing platforms that’s clearly evident at CES this year promises to have a significant impact on your enterprise. Like it or not, you will need to be prepared for a more mobile future. This will have a profound effect on your security of course, but it will also have a huge effect on how your employees work. This new focus on mobility can, if handled correctly, make your employees more productive and improve their morale.

But you also run the risk of losing control of your data. In addition to the security aspects, you will no longer be absolutely sure of where most of your current data resides. You can limit that risk by having a means of access to your network from anywhere – a cloud solution in other words. But you still run the risk of not having access to the latest activity on the part of your employees. How will you know that one of your sales staff has just landed a multi-million dollar deal when their laptop computer doesn’t have a connection to the company servers?

Ultimately, the changes at CES and other major events will bring great opportunities to the enterprise, but you have to do your part, which is to be ready for them when those opportunities present themselves. At least with CES and other shows, you have the possibility of an early warning. You just have to be ready to see that warning and take advantage of it.

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