Isn’t this a great time of year? We start to worry less about file server up time or project milestones and more about what to wear for the Christmas party. It’s a time to see friends and family, a time to look forward to what the New Year might bring and a time to reflect on the year that is drawing to a close.

The Ghost of Christmas present

This is unquestionably the Christmas of the tablet. Ok, when we say tablet we mean iPad. A survey by Nielsen suggests that only 22% of the youth of today want a “ye olde worlde” PC or laptop this Christmas. 44% preferring to find an Apple iPad under the tree on Christmas morning, charged and ready to go. When did we stop wanting bikes and Lego and start wanting things with batteries and USB ports? Santa it seems will be delivering more tablets than train sets. How long before presents are delivered from the Lapland App Store, rather than retail stores? Of course, the arrival of the late great Steve Jobs’ iPad hasn’t just had an impact on the Christmas present, but also the Christmas past and Christmas future. The iPad has sent just about every PC vendor and software company into a massive game of catch-up. No wonder Microsoft is busy polishing tablet aware Windows 8 for release next year. 

The Ghost of Christmas past

One present not appearing under anyone’s Christmas tree is the Samsung Galaxy tablet. Not that it’s a bad device. The High Court has upheld an Apple appeal; they argue it borrows their intellectual property.  In the world of tablet, a Betamax versus VHS battle is looming, Samsung and HP are the first casualties. (EDIT: The ban was just lifted by the courts ahead of Christmas, but with few in the shops, this won’t be a Samsung Christmas)

Earlier this year HP launched their WebOS tablet computer, then withdrew it only days later. A price slashing frenzy ensured that 1000’s were sold and a second production run was completed. HP briefly decided it was getting out of the PC market, before changing its mind and deciding it still made computers. Let’s not forget, the HP’s iPAQ was arguably a forerunner to the iPhone. 

Not be outdone by HP, this was also the year that RIM, the people behind Blackberry, also released a tablet device, the Blackberry Playbook. It too failed to dent the iPad and is being discounted heavily. Add to that the massive global outage at Blackberry in October and you have a Christmas present they would sooner forget. 

2011 will be reflected on as the time we all started to trip over the word “cloud” almost daily. Everyone it seems has a cloud version of their product or service. The rise of “cloud” or virtualisation – be that via Hyper-V, VMware or in the public cloud – seems to have been one of the success stories of 2011. Demand for Hyper-V and VMware skills and certification is growing.

The Ghost of Christmas future

As the demand for tablets continues, organisations will face a growing wave of BYO devices, each trying to tap into the corporate infrastructure. In much the same way as the iPhone with Exchange Activesync did in Christmas pasts of old. Gartner and the IDC forecast that tablet computers will see an explosion in sales over the next four years, selling 60% as many units as PCs by 2015. Do we embrace or displace?  Forward thinking learning and development departments could include tablets in their learning programmes, perhaps as part of an induction programme or graduate intake. Tablets could be deployed for any role that requires form filling or data capture, tablets could be used to mobilise the sales force…  Tablets could be used as a development platform for line of business applications; there is a Citrix client for the iPad for example. In January DDLS are scheduling an Apple iOS application development course for those interested in building apps for the iPad. If you want to get ahead of the game for developing apps for the new Metro Interface (or just .NET) we also run Visual Studio C# courses.

Ironically, it’s problems in the Euro zone that may well drive the acceleration to tablet devices, virtualisation and the cloud. In support of that, demand for  skills around project management, such as PRINCE2®,  and service delivery, such as ITIL®,  will continue to grow as organisations seek to minimise risk and maximise value. Many organisations will want more value for money from their existing IT investment. Training will play a big part in helping drive the efficiencies inherent in VMware, Windows Server and Office 2010 alike. If you have a Microsoft Enterprise agreement, it’s worth checking when in the future your SA Vouchers expire, and future planning when they will be used.  

2012 promises to be a great year for learning at DDLS with the much hyped release of Windows 8 from Microsoft, new management tools from VMware, changes to ITIL® to reflect cloud computing  and industry alignment with IPv6 and HTML5 just the beginning. Christmas future promises to be a year of change.  Whatever you have planned, whatever you are planning, everyone here at DDLS wishes you a very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous, learning filled, New Year. See you in 2012. You’ll find me at the Bar Humbug. Take care

Gary Duffield is an experienced learning and development professional with a passion for social media and cloud computing.