A new "geosocial" app called Sonar is getting the attention of Steve Peltzman, CIO of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
The app, which is loaded on his iPhone, combines location information with Twitter and Facebook networks, creating an opportunity for making connections. "It will be able to tell us who is in the museum right now," Peltzman said.
Some might see this capability as potentially creepy, and Peltzman is aware of social media's downside. But he sees a way to make it work, as well as a need to use the kinds of capabilities Sonar and others will offer.
Participating in social media is critical, Peltzman said. "If you want to be a business leader today, you have to be on it," he said.
Peltzman meets regularly with social media developers, investors and authors to get a sense of future trends for social networking.
Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester, is also focused on the future and is forecasting some of the changes in hardware over the next five years. Both he and Peltzman made presentations at Forrester's IT Forum here.
"Hardware innovation will continue to rile the tech ecosystems through 2016, forcing software and services strategists to adjust continuously," Gillett said. "We are entering a period of significant turmoil."
Here are some of their predictions:
Data center diversity will increase
The "Wintel" monoculture will see increasing pushback from application-specific servers. Oracle's Sparc-based Exadata Storage Server is one example. "There will be a growing category of application-specific boxes," which may or may not have x86 chips in them, Gillett said.
GPU chips, which are good for highly repetitive parallel compute tasks, will also gain traction. Gillett also expects ARM chips to enter the server market, with tiny, low-power 64-bit processors that, for the right workloads, will be more efficient than x86 systems. One company working on low-power ARM servers is Calxeda.
Big displays become the norm
Users will move to 27-in. and bigger displays and increasingly use two of them, expanding the desktop to the limits of peripheral range. But by 2016, the notion of what is a display will change as well and will include opportunistic display technologies that, for instance, project desktops on walls, Gillett predicted.
There will also be increasing use of natural user interfaces with sensors that can detect movement, interpret facial expressions and get data on the local environment.
Minority Report-type advertising enters the scene
In the 2002 movie Minority Report, as lead actor Tom Cruise walks into a mall, his retinas are scanned to identify him, which leads to a series of personalized ads. Peltzman doesn't believe retina scans will be utilized anytime soon, but he clearly sees the rapid approach of advertising connected to users via geolocation, with more one-to-one ads based on who you that arrive via social media networks.
Peltzman said he can imagine using Sonar to send a message to someone via a social network, such as a discount on museum membership.
Smartphones won't necessarily rule
The idea that the smartphone will morph into an all-purpose device doesn't ring true with Gillett. He expects to see multiple devices and displays, and big improvements in the PC. He is expecting hybrid PCs that use SSDs to speed the system, but disks as well. This blending of storage with the system will require application changes to take advantage of it, he said.
Social media's relationship to the bottom line comes into focus
MoMA has made social media a key IT direction and has a Web page devoted to all of its networking links, including a Flickr group for people to upload photos they have taken at the museum.
It has more than 750,000 fans on Facebook and 582,000 followers on Twitter.
To help manage its social networking, the museum's IT and marketing departments share an employee who reports to both.
But Peltzman said it isn't easy to show how social networking generates money. Using social media for direct funding efforts can undermine it, he argues.
That also makes it difficult to tell the business exactly how much value is delivered by social media. But he believes that in time, analytical tools will arrive that can show how social media does contribute.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.