RealTime IT News

Enterprise, Awaken To The Trends

SAN FRANCISCO -- Enterprises would be wise to learn from consumers' rapid adoption of networked smartphones and the role of blogs in their businesses, according to Sun Microsystems' blogger-in-chief.

But there's much more to spot than these usual suspects in trend-watching. It's the smartphones that will form trusted networks that lead to streamlined searches that are also at the head of the trend trail, technology executives say.

"Everyone is now on the network, via e-mail, cell phones," said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president, who also keeps a blog. "To me the fundamental thing about blogs is that they are critical if you want to lead," he said during the Supernova2005 conference here. But "authenticity is paramount. I've seen other executives hiring people just to write their blogs."

If that's how you intend to communicate with your customers, employees and staff you want to lead, "then don't bother," he continued. "It's the same thing as having somebody read your e-mail for you. But at the end of the day, it's about the speed with which you can communicate information, especially across different company hierarchies."

Schwartz told the audience, most of which is blogging the conference notes, that consumers' lightening-fast adoption of smartphones should guide and inform any savvy enterprise's strategic decisions.

But will blogging transform Sun?

No, Schwartz said, adding that there are plenty of other things Sun needs to undertake in order to transform itself. But it's one of a few major trends transforming how we use and deploy the "great database in the sky" called the Internet, he said. Enterprises would be wise to pay close attention as they form their IT strategies and investments.

If blogs will help every person in the world connect to the Internet, then more power to the blogs, and even more power to smartphones and smaller form factors for connecting to the network, Schwartz noted. This bodes well for Sun's strategy of providing the plumbing and infrastructure for those devices.

"We've seen a wholesale shift in how decisions are made from being centralized to decentralized. And people with cell phones will have a major impact on this trend," he added.

"Can you show me the equivalent of such fast adoption in the enterprise data center? Yet enterprises are continuing to build even more infrastructure, while consumers move to the world of networked services."

There are lots of transformations that are occurring; it's hard to pin one example down, he added. But the smaller, network-connected devices that consumers are scooping up should be a wake-up call to enterprises planning investments in authentication techniques for network access.

Laptops still remain largely anonymous devices for authenticating who is joining a network. And with 300 different cell phones in use, and network-connected phones/PDAs now trumping the number of people online with a laptop, standards for authenticating people to a network will be critical, he told panel moderator Kevin Werbach, an organizer of Supernova.

"Trust is the currency of the participation. Who are we going to allow access to? The Sarbanes-Oxley [data retention regulation] is asking a fundamental question of enterprises: Who has access to what? I think that is what we'll be focused on."

Another major trend that enterprises need to watch among consumers and bloggers of all stripes is the tagging phenomenon, said A.J. Kim, creative director of SocialDesigner.net, which specializes in strategy and design services for companies' networked social products.

"Tagging is one of the most important changes in how people organize and change and share information," she told internetnews.com. Tagging is the technique of adding keywords to photos on photo-blogging sites, such as Flickr. It enables other bloggers to link to it and add it as a bookmark to another's content.

"It's kind of the crossing of tagging and social networks," said Mena Trott, one of the founders of blogging tools maker Six Apart. "Keywords are nothing new, but what causes their use to explode is when they are added to the network."

Caterina Fake, an executive with photo-blogging site Flickr (which is now owned by Yahoo), said when you search within social networks, you're searching within tags, because "the problem is no longer how to get information from one person to another. The idea is to get less information and more specific information than you're looking for."