Amidst all the action in 2003, one market segment which will get a lot of attention: the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Microsofts acquisitions of Great Plains and Navision, along with its planned entry into the CRM software segment, will change the dynamics of the sector. The 25 million SMEs across the world are one of enterprise technologys last frontiers. Technology adoption by these businesses has still been very limited. Making them e-businesses is the next big challenge and opportunity.
The other big untapped market consists of the non-users of computing in the worlds emerging countries like India and China. As income levels rise, the computer becomes affordable to a growing class of users.
There is one thing common to both these segments the need for technology at much lower price points than what it has been available at so far. Hardware, Software and Communications need to be become affordable for the next set of users. 2003 will see efforts made to tap into these markets by the existing technology leaders, but they will fail because the price points are not likely to be right. Todays leaders still dont see these markets as being large from a financial standpoint they face the Innovators Dilemma.
The combination of four elements will help in opening up these new markets: the use of recycled PCs from the developed countries to slash the cost of new computers to under USD 100 (Rs 5,000), the use of open-source software to cut cost of software, Wi-Fi to provide a high-speed wireless network, and services to tie the whole solution together. The magic formula which needs to be applied: lag hardware by one generation and combine with latest ideas in software, with the emphasis on making technology like a utility.
These are the markets which provide the next set of opportunities for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The needs of these new consumers and enterprises are likely to be different from technologys first set of users. The new set of users that need to be targeted in 2002 are like the new users the computer makers must have targeted in 1982. Creating a simpler interface, bridging islands of enterprise data, and providing for real-time access technology can make all this possible.
Overall, 2003 is thus likely to be a year of incremental innovation rather than dramatic breakthroughs. In that respect, it is also a great opportunity for incubating new ideas. The impact of technology in the world has just begun. The industry may have matured but that is only in the developed markets. The world is a very different place if we look at it from one of its developing countries. The digital divide runs deep across much of society. Will 2003 see the creation of the first sustainable and replicable digital bridges?
Tech Talk 2003 Expectations