It's time to look ahead at what technologies are coming in 2007, which ones will be important and which will be on the bleeding edge. For systems VARs, I see four major waves on the horizon that I think you'd do well to capitalize on. Here's a look.
The release of Windows Vista and Office 2007
Obviously the general availability of the newest versions of Microsoft's software cash cows will cause major waves in the industry. Smaller business with less complex IT infrastructures will probably be the first of your customers to consider upgrading. Although given the significant nature of the revisions, you might consider selling training or familiarization services to help those users adjust. Vista and Office 2007 will have a lot of benefits for all businesses, and it's smart to get your hands on the software and all the partner material in order to start preparing your sales pitches. (If you are a system builder, are you participating in the Vista upgrade coupon plan?)
This is one of those concepts that is taking the industry by storm -- the idea that corporations can cut costs by consolidating servers and legacy software onto virtual machines, which run on bigger and better hardware, while slashing hardware budgets and ongoing maintenance costs, and simultaneously easing deployment and availability concerns. Virtualization is also moving to the desktop, as the Vista license grants business and qualifying end users the right to run another version on the software within another "virtual machine." This movement is great for developers, analysts and other software-intensive professions. Your customers will be asking about it.
"Office 2.0" in the enterprise
So it's possible that Office 2007 isn't right for all of your customers. Perhaps they're looking at ways to make their standard word processing and spreadsheet activities automatically available to other users, even in other companies. Such is the premise of the "Office 2.0" movement, which tries to bring traditional productivity applications to the Web, with all of the inherent benefits of that environment -- access anywhere, server-based computing, client platform independence, and so on. This area is still quite nascent, and not many of the big players are involved quite yet, but Google just released Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which may just be the shot in the arm for Office 2.0 to become a wave with which to contend.
Voice over IP (VoIP)
In this increasingly global economy, telecommunications costs can skyrocket, particularly when there has been no effort to optimize the cost of long distance calls, conference calls and other point-to-point communications. VoIP allows companies to leverage their existing networks to provide voice services, bypassing the traditional Ma Bell carriers, to talk globally for very small amounts of money. Skype, Vonage and other companies are making inroads in businesses, and it's possible for your customers to save 50%, 60% and in some cases even 75% or more off their telephone bills now. You can bet your customers will be interested in that.
This was first published in December 2006