Hot topics and trends

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Hot topics and trends

This entry summarizes major topics that drive the computer and consumer electronics industries. It is intended for newcomers to the field who want a brief summary of current topics as well as relevant history.

Big Data

The latest trend is to make sense out of the huge amount of data companies have amassed over the years. Finding patterns in that data that lead to streamlining inventory, manufacturing, sales and marketing is the latest analytical chore for large organizations. See Big Data.

Social Networking

Social networking changed the world of human interaction, allowing everyone to stay in touch. Every Web site and software application has a social component that lets people share what they see, hear or watch with friends, family and colleagues.

However, there is a downside. Feelings, images and videos posted on the Internet might remain online forever. In addition, social sites along with search engines know more about you than you may wish. They use that information to target ads, spot trends, and they sell it to other parties. New social sites such as Omlet buck the trend and allow users to retain control over what they post. Snapchat makes images disappear on the recipient's device after a short time to keep private information private. See Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Omlet.

Smartphones - Truly Personal

One year after the introduction of the iPhone, Apple introduced the App Store in the summer of 2008 and revolutionized the smartphone industry forever. No device has become more useful and more personal than the smartphone with its plethora of software applications.

Google followed with its Android platform. Due to Android's embrace of multiple carriers and hardware vendors (iPhone was only AT&T at the onset) and ever increasing screen sizes, Android became the #1 smartphone vendor worldwide by a huge margin. BlackBerry users were given new models to choose from (see BlackBerry 10), while Windows Phone slowly gains ground. See iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and smartphone.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 turned the Internet into a global computing platform for publishing information and running applications. "User-generated content" is a highly touted aspect of Web 2.0, in which anyone can publish anything in a blog, social networking site or wiki. See user-generated content and social networking site.

As applications coming from the Web increasingly have the performance, look and feel of traditional applications that previously had to be installed in the user's computer, Web 2.0 also implies running more applications from the Internet. See Web 2.0 and cloud computing.

Cloud Computing

Increasingly mainstream, cloud computing refers to using third-party Internet providers to host an organizations Web sites and services, as well as the business software it uses. See cloud computing.


For better or worse, we are immersed in wireless communications. AM, FM, TV, satellite, GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular signals radiate everywhere. Do you use a wireless headset? Add Bluetooth to the mix.

With a home wireless router and Wi-Fi hotspot, music and video signals are bouncing around the house as well. See wireless LAN, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, cellular generations and wireless glossary.

Web Services

Web services links two parties together over the Web such as buyers and sellers or seekers of information and the information itself. They use Web protocols to provide the transport mechanism so that requests can be made and answers retrieved. However, what gives Web services huge potential on the public Internet is the UDDI system, which is used to register a service so that any inquiring party can automatically discover it.

Web Services uses the XML markup language for defining the text and data structures that are exchanged. However, the real hard work is agreeing upon the description of the data they plan to pass back and forth to each other. See Web services and SOA.

The Internet/Web

Nothing in the computer/communications industries ever came onto the scene with more momentum than the World Wide Web. The Web's hyperlink, an address that points to another Web page on the same server or on any server in the world, interlinked planet earth like nothing before it.

As the Web embraced e-commerce, every company rethought its strategies for sales and customer relations. Practically every software product was affected, and every application was reworked to deal with the Internet in some manner. Now that the Internet is available on billions of smartphones and tablets, access to Web-based content is even more ubiquitous. With video streaming, video calling and voice over IP (VoIP), the Internet has become the global communications backbone. Myriad opportunities arise from the fact that one can look at and operate anything from anywhere. See Internet, intranet, World Wide Web, cable Internet and IP on Everything.

Client and Server

The trend in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to migrate information systems from terminals connected to centralized (mostly IBM) mainframes to a client/server architecture. The clients are generally Windows-based PCs, and the servers run Windows, Unix or Linux. A major incentive for the change was the huge amount of applications and sources for PC hardware.

Along came the Web, and the client part of client/server became the Web browser, which provides a platform-independent, universal interface for accessing data and running applications. As mobile devices became ubiquitous, the smartphone and tablet became the clients. No matter the architecture, there is always a client and server relationship.

Ironically, with so many operations performed in Internet datacenters (the cloud), centralized architecture is alive and well. So are IBM mainframes, which function as servers in many large organizations. See client/server, client and server.


Networking is the lifeblood of an organization's high-tech infrastructure. Local applications combined with Internet applications and services increasingly place heavy demands on the network. In addition, tying networks together when companies expand or merge is a daunting task for network administrators. Starting in the mid-1990s, three trends took place: #1 - Ethernet switches replaced Ethernet hubs to increase total bandwidth, #2 - network backbones were upgraded to Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and #3 - the network protocol migrated to TCP/IP, the standard of the Internet. See enterprise networking, Ethernet switch, Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and TCP/IP.

Groupware and Collaboration

Groupware lets users share and collaborate. In the early 1990s, the pioneering software was Lotus Notes, GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange, which included e-mail, document sharing and group calendaring and scheduling.

The Internet brought groupware into focus. Fueled by the ease with which HTML pages can be created and shared, organizations routinely publish millions of Web pages on their internal Web sites (intranets) with data extracted from corporate databases. Groupware evolved into Web 2.0 tools such as the wiki, which lets anyone edit what someone else writes. A collaboration component is now available in almost every application used to create documents, enabling two or more people to write, draw and comment together in real time on a project.

As collaborative data grow, problems surface. What happens when documents are distributed to remote servers? Which ones are the latest? Who keeps them up-to-date? What starts out as a simple method of electronically publishing internal documents winds up becoming a strategic information system requiring the same care and attention as the data processing systems deployed for decades. See groupware and collaborative browsing.

Hardware Costs

The price of hardware continues to plummet. Each year, we get more computer per dollar than we did the year before. A full-blown Windows PC can be purchased for under USD $800 and entry-level machines for under $300. Hardware seems cheap, but this is misleading, because software is not always a bargain.

Although there is a vast amount of off-the-shelf software packages for myriad requirements, even the smallest organizations have special needs. Custom programming ranges from $75 to $150 an hour, and consultants cost $150 to $300 an hour. Add up a few weeks of third-party people time, and the cost of hardware looks like chump change.

Half the Equation
This adage has been used in the computer field for decades but is only a partial truth. Hardware may be cheap but custom programming and consulting are not.

End of hot topics.

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