Usually it's only with the benefit of hindsight that you can note seismic changes in the world, but in 2009 it was harder to escape than experience the feeling of an ICT world in transition from the client/server paradigm that has prevailed for the past 20 years or so in favour of a new world where the internet cloud is the new datacentre. This, I would argue, is part of a broader, even revolutionary, change in the way we work and live. Let's look at a few of the changes that were apparent over the course of the year.
What people like about the new way of working and playing is the inherent flexibility of access to information from anywhere and at any time. The cliche of a 24x7 world is now a reality accepted by all, thanks to massively improved access to networks and proliferation of client devices. Working hours are bending and people now expect a blurring between employment and pleasure rather than the 9-to-5 culture of the past.
This in turn is changing the machines we use. The beige box of the desktop PC is dying in favour of a combination of mobile PCs and smartphones. We will change these often because they are cheap -- fashion items even -- and because the ICT industry and customers are moving to a model of renting rather than buying.
The demand for agility is also changing the way we communicate from the digitised letter writing of email to the relaxed and more personal media of blogging and short messaging. This in turn is changing the face of the media itself with far greater plurality of information sources from news gatherers on Twitter to bloggers who commentate, advocate or specialise in niches. It's forcing Big Media to change and fast or face up to extinction; the example of the collapse of American print journalism in 2009 should be warning enough.
The old procurement models are on the move too and upfront licensing of software is changing to a subscription tariff based on consumption that replaces spikiness with flatter, more consistent and predictable pricing. The successes of Google Apps in winning big deals and the continued success of Salesforce.com is clear evidence here, as was the effective resistance to SAP licence terms and pricing changes.
In 2009, we also began to see a collapse in business travel as some companies opted to buy videoconferencing suites that shrink the world of business and hugely reduce the need for planet-destroying (and family-destroying) journeys.
Change was apparent in the small details too. It's interesting that the term Wintel seems to be falling into disuse (just 92 results on Google news as I write) while "Web 2.0" (5221 hits on Google News as I write) or "cloud computing" (7760 hits) continue to be ubiquitous, despite what are, frankly, godawful names.
There are plenty of walls for the new revolutionaries still to knock down, however. For example, we remain in large part wedded to offices based in urban connurbations. It will be interesting to see how long this working model survives. Not that long, I suspect: revolutions tend to gather in pace and 2010 should be another remarkable year of change.