After consuming vast amounts of the spice melange and taking inspiration from Nostradamus, Gartner presents their view of the Top 10 Disruptive Technologies for 2008-2012. It's an interesting list, in many ways, although I think it's lacking some very big things.
Here is the Gartner Group's list in a nutshell:
- Multicore and hybrid processors
- Virtualisation and fabric computing
- Social networks and social software
- Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
- Web mashups
- User Interface
- Ubiquitous computing
- Contextual computing
- Augmented reality
The list seems to be mirroring the biggest trends which are going on already today. So I don't consider the list so much as any kind of real prediction, but more a validation of how, according to Gartner, things will continue to grow (especially in the business setting).
I'm sure Gartner had to prune their original lists to get down to just ten. If I could add to their list, I would add the following.
Ultramobile computers - in a few years people will wonder how we could haul those monstrously-sized laptop computers with us. The more mobile computers are, the more people will be able to take their internet-connected laptops along truly wherever they go. Expect to see some very interesting progress on this front.
The open revolution - more and more hardware vendors will not try to hinder hobbyists from modifying the hardware or the software. Non-hobbyist consumers will be able to use the device as COTS devices for their intended purposes. Hobbyists will be able to expand the devices in new, unforeseen and innovative ways.
This will result in new applications and modifications, as the hobbyists scratch their personal itches to fullfill their bright ideas which would otherwise never see the daylight due to corporate inefficiencies in communication and decision-making, corporate bureocracy and the short-term profit motive thinking.
Smart companies can benefit from this open revolution, since if the hardware vendors allow selling third-party modifications as a service without harassing the modifiers, the hardware vendors will simply sell more devices without additional risk to themselves. The downside for the hardware vendors is the loss of control over how the device is used, and of course a slight dislocation in the value chain.
Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) - already now, there are consumer-grade EEG devices out on the market, for example the OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator. The Emotiv EPOC is following later this year. BCI devices are input devices which measure brainwave activity and (facial) muscle activation and interpret these signals to a form understood by computers. Essentially with these devices one can control the computer with "thinking" alone. There is a small learning curve, of course. The possibilities with these kind of interfaces are absolutely huge in many areas: home, office, military, medical, etc.
Sidenote: Currently, in a laboratory setting, it is possible to also alter the brain functionality in a non-permanent way with strong magnetic fields (so-called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS). When BCI devices become more ubiquitous it will naturally cause more research into devices which can be used to also "send" information directly to the brain (by exciting neurons in certain areas), i.e. consumer-grade TMS. This will bring the world closer to the direct neural jacks as popularized by William Gibson's cyberpunk novels. I estimate this will happen in maybe 20 years, so don't hold your breath.
There's probably more I could come up with, but I think now it's time to wrap this up. I might tell you, if you paid me as much as Gartner gets from each report ;)