I’ve posted about Gene Marks’ Business Week columns before. He writes well and he’s fun to disagree with. With everybody saying mostly the same things about tech trends these days, Gene’s contrarian view is refreshing. Of course he’s mostly wrong with this list, but that makes it more fun. Here we have Gene Marks’ Tech Trends to Ignore, with some of my commentary added.
- Radio Frequency ID (RFID). It hasn’t been easy or cheap. Many smaller companies can ignore RFID until the technology matures and comes down in price.
But how cool is it when it works? Just wave your card around. Have you been skiing lately in one of the bigger resorts that uses RFID to manage your lift ticket? Why doesn’t the hotel elevator know which floor I’m on? Oh, and by the way, do you have a passport? That’s got RFID in it too, at least the new ones do. And meanwhile, whether we ignore it or not, there are those hacks …
- Virtualization. But we small businesses don’t need to run Microsoft Outlook in a virtual world. We can barely get it to work right in the real world. This technology needs more time before it makes sense for small business.
And I say hooray for Windows on a Mac. It works. It’s worth it. So I’m about to suggest that this is a counter example for Gene, but then — gulp — look at what’s two points below this one on this list. So much for the Mac.
- Software as a Service. Software in this form makes sense for certain customers—among them, trusting souls comfortable letting other companies hold onto their data; honest, hard-working people who believe the Internet is completely reliable and that data will be secure and can be retrieved regardless of what happens to their provider; business owners who are O.K. paying a monthly amount per user that generally winds up being more expensive over time than purchasing a system outright. Then there are the rest of us—cynical, slothful, apathetic, and miserable. We don’t trust anyone—especially with customer and financial data. For SaaS, the jury’s still out. But keep an eye on it nonetheless.
I suppose, but seriously, have you seen Google Apps? Now take a look at Netbooks. And watch the numbers on how online bookkeeping is going.
Something has changed. I remember talking to a very high-level executive at Intuit 10 years ago when they started to look at online bookkeeping. He said "the analysts want it and the journalists want it, but the customers don’t." That was then, this is now. Customers want it.
Who would you rather have backing up your data: you? your bright nephew? Or Google, Intuit, or Amazon?
- Apple. We all agree that Intuit (INTU), the maker of Quickbooks, has a lot of small business customers. So why doesn’t Intuit sell a multi-user version of Quickbooks for the Mac? Simple. Most small businesses, other than printers or design firms, aren’t using the Mac. There’s more choice in Microsoft Windows business applications. And there are fewer IT firms providing Mac support. It takes too much effort to be a rebel. So we cave and use Microsoft. But watch out. Those Apple Store geniuses are going to have their day. Every high school and college kid I know has grown up on iPods, Macs, and other Apple products that are just plain better than products made by Microsoft. And when they run their own companies in just a few short years, what do you think they’ll be asking for? You won’t be ignoring Apple in the future.
OK now, this is getting more fun. Gene’s saying ignore Apple, but then he seems to conclude no, never mind, pay attention. My company is done ignoring Apple. We’re paying attention to Mac users now.
- Anything Green. Do we not care about the environment? Yes, but not enough to waste money on this year’s fire drill. If you can find a technology that helps the environment and is good for your business then go for it. And please let me know too, as I’m still trying to find it.
Now that’s a real challenge. This one is so obvious that I posted A Green Challenge about it on Up And Running blog Friday. I pointed out that smart venture money and lots and lots of startups are betting on everything they can find that’s green.
So with that, I say that’s enough of my commentary. Here is the rest of Gene’s list.
- Facebook and MySpace. Unless you’re hawking Hannah Montana memorabilia, there’s not going to be much of an audience for your product here. Small businesses should ignore these places for now. Want to join a great networking site with business benefits? Try Linkedin.com or Plaxo.com.
- Open-Source Software. Sure, open-source software may be "free," but the propeller-heads you need to actually get it working, customized, and supported aren’t. Spending time customizing a software product, just because it’s "open source," doesn’t mean that time is well spent. Business owners should stick to the boring, off-the-shelf stuff for now.
- Windows XP. It’s time to start ignoring Windows XP, too. Like it or not, the Microsoft operating system for businesses won’t be sold after June 30. We are going to be forced to drink the Vista Kool-Aid. It still starts up slow. It still doesn’t work with all devices. It will require a server with more memory than an elephant. But hey, now we get to see our invoices in 3D! And we’ll all feel so much more secure, too, right? Whoever said that life gets more complex the older you get definitely works at Microsoft. Goodbye XP and Godspeed. We’ll miss you.
- Microsoft and Yahoo. Frankly, we really don’t care about Microsoft’s attempt to buy Yahoo. Let us know when it’s all sorted out. Then we’ll Google the story.
- Virtual Worlds. There’s been a lot of hype around virtual societies like Second Life. Some big companies are taking this stupidity seriously and buying "real estate" to advertise products. These are the same big companies that spend big money on overpriced consultants and gold-painted corporate jets. Small business owners should ignore these virtual worlds—until they find a way for a virtual guy named "Knuckles" to beat the stuffing out of a real-life delinquent customer.