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Web 2.0: The 'Consumerization' of The Enterprise

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Technologies used to power popular consumer-oriented applications will eventually saturate the corporate market.

This is leading to the "consumerization" of the enterprise market, said Gartner analysts today at the formal opening of the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2006 here.

Technologies such as AJAX , REST  and RSS  form the technical underpinnings of Web 2.0, the term used to characterize the next generation of Web applications.

This is a significant technological shift from the traditional, siloed and static applications that work independently of each other. Gartner analysts cautioned the audience to be ready for some changes.

Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's head of global research, said that by 2012, consumer technologies will be fully integrated into all settings, including the office, home, remote office and recreational areas.

Moreover, individuals will have the capabilities and tools to dictate the configurations of their applications as often as corporate workers do.

They will gain more control over the deployment of electronic services, such as online banking.

"Changes in consumer behavior and preferences will trigger a power reversal in business models," Sondergaard said during the keynote. "Consumer-to-business will replace the predominant business-to-consumer model."

For example, the average revenue generated from a Web site was 8.5 percent. By 2011, those same retailers expect the number to be 16 percent.

The consumer computing entry into the corporate computing environment will practically create a parallel application environment in the consumer space, Sondergaard said.

Consumer processing systems that provision on-demand data will contact Web services and other applications rather than pre-defined applications.

Web services and service-oriented architectures (SOA) are how technologies like AJAX, REST and RSS tend to be situated when enterprisees discuss them, said Gartner analyst David Mitchell Smith in a session after the keynote.

Smith said that while most people view the so-called Web 2.0 as a consumer-oriented phenomenon, many high-tech vendors, though reticent to embrace the term publicly, are augmenting their strategies with AJAX, RSS and other new-fangled technologies currently used to change the way consumers use the Internet.

"They are paying attention to this and they tend to group it under the enterprise buzzword of SOA ," Smith said.

Some companies are already using the Web-based alternatives to traditional offline applications to change the way they lure users.

A great example of this, Smith said, is Google's Writely word processing application; Writely is a free, Web-based word processing program Google purchased this year that leverages Microsoft Word to help users compose documents.

"What happens when a product that cost a major vendor hundreds of millions of dollars and 15 years to refine, has essentially its guts... copied and made available?"

Smith said disruptive technologies such as Writely can impact how traditional software makers like Microsoft sell their software going forward.

"The Web has been a primary vehicle for consumerization," Smith said. "[Consumerization] is this incredibly important phenomenon of things happening on the Web that were being brought into corporations and becoming part of the woodwork."

Another example, Smith said, is Salesforce.com, which delivers software-as-a-service.

The on-demand software maker today announced Apex, a new multi-tenant programming language and platform the company expects to use to deliver the future of business applications.

Apex code and applications will run on Salesforce.com's service, freeing businesses from the "burden of buying and deploying software infrastructure."