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Ten technologies to watch in 2006

Gartner says CIOs should study these top technologies -- and be prepared to make investments next year.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gartner Inc.'s 2006 Top 10 Strategic Technologies list holds out lots of hope, not just hype, for virtualization and grid computing, among others. Analysts Carl Claunch and David Cearley are predicting these technologies will be mature enough to offer value in the next 18 to 36 months, and that means they should be on your list of technologies to research -- or adopt -- in the coming year.

Virtualization. The technology is improving, and the idea of leveraging infrastructures you already own is becoming more important than ever. Virtualization, whether it's storage or server consolidation, is hitting its stride, Gartner said.

Grid computing. Who's doing grid computing? Charles Schwab, Royal Dutch Shell and Sony are among the companies tapping the technology. Definitions of grid computing vary, but its popularity continues to rise.

Service-oriented business applications (SOBAs). This next generation of software is built on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and incorporates Web services standards, such as Business Process Execution Language, Simple Object Access Protocol and Web Services Description Language.

Pervasive computing. It's ambient, implicit, invisible and adaptive. It's when network devices embedded in the environment provide unobtrusive connectivity and services all the time. Sounds good, and Gartner said IT executives should get a grip on what it means to their organizations.

OLED/LEP technologies. Organic Light Emitting Diode and light emitting polymer are set to revolutionize the display industry. They don't require a backlight, and are more energy efficient and offer a higher contrast that traditional LCD displays.

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Location-aware services. Radio frequency identification tags at 20 cents a piece? It's true, Gartner said. So you should find out how they might fit into your organization.

Linux -- for important stuff. Many organizations have started to use some Linux-based systems for certain applications, but stop shy of those most important to the business. But Linux is quickly becoming reliable enough for any application. "It's going to be an equal playing-field choice within about three years," Claunch said.

Desktop search tools. Google has one, and Microsoft is building it into future versions of its desktop operating system. "Enterprises need to select a default search tool and use it to target the user constituency that can benefit from it," Claunch said.

Microcommerce. Consumer-facing organizations should think about ways to offer low-cost items because the infrastructure has emerged to handle micropayments. An Apple iTunes purchase, at 99 cents per song, is just one example.

Finally, instant messaging. It's not new, but it's displacing other technologies, such as Voice over Internet Protocol, in some cases. At Gartner, for example, phone calls among the firm's worldwide network of analysts have declined 75% since they began using it, Claunch said.

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