Well it looks like the time to prevaricate is over. Now that Microsoft have, at last, produced a version of Office for the iPad, you can be sure that The Cloud has well and truly arrived. Locally hosted software, be it programs loaded on to your PC or laptop, or hosted on servers in your office is now decidedly passe. Relics of the last century, of old world thinking, they represent a way of operating a business that is now dying fast. Besides going mobile Microsoft, under their new boss Satya Nadella, is even moving to a post windows world; their business-centric cloud based operating system Windows Azure is to be renamed Microsoft Azure.
Make no mistake that renaming is a HUGE thing. Under Steve Ballmer Microsoft was totally focused on windows, arguably helping them miss just about every big new trend in tech over the last ten years. By moving beyond windows Nadella is signalling a major shift. and that shift is up into The Cloud.
And if Microsoft move beyond windows and focus on The Cloud then sure as eggs is eggs that is where business IT will be going.
And that is a great thing, as finally business might en masse break with the comfort blanket of old tech and embrace the future. For this future offers so much potential for huge leaps in productivity as well as signalling the onslaught of some truly disruptive technologies. And disruption, whilst occasionally terrifying, heralds a better world; one where the advances in computing open up countless opportunities. Technologies that will transform healthcare, enable cities to work more efficiently and environmentally to the benefit of all of us, give people access to unparallelled services tailored precisely to their desires, redefine politics to allow true and widespread engagement with the populace, and finally end the scourge of third world disease. Just for starters:)
We are entering ‘The Second Machine Age’ as described by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. The age of robots is fast approaching, along with computers that can win “Jeopardy”, that can pattern match with astonishing accuracy and learn from their mistakes. And all of this is driven by fast ubiquitous access to software and hardware residing in The Cloud. And by residing in The Cloud this software and hardware can, on demand, be scaled up to address the most demanding of requirements. This is a world where everyone can have access to the biggest and best available technologies. And the more people who have access to the biggest and best the more innovation will occur. Crowdsourcing the future…. is the future.
So what has this all got to do with the property industry? In a nutshell, everything. A wholesale move to The Cloud, powerfully pushed along by the new paradigm being followed by Microsoft will mean businesses will operate differently and require different things of their offices. With all business applications and information being available anywhere the tyranny of the fixed PC on a fixed desk with a hardwired landline will be over. People will work where they like. Not necessarily outside the office but certainly in a different configuration of space. Office requirements are changing fast. The Cloud just forces the pace.
Retail property will perhaps change the most over the next five years. As of today many in retail think they have seen off the challenge of online through upping their game in offering click and collect and other enhanced shopping experiences. They are wrong. As online tech develops, new services such as SnapFashion, which uses pattern recognition to curate personalised wardrobes for users and is the power behind westfieldeditme.com will make the online shopping experience more and more enticing. Only the best, most creative and technologically savvy retailers will be able to keep up.
How people use space will be dramatically affected as The Cloud gains momentum. Who will keep pace and offer the right product in the right place at the right price? I don’t know. I just know someone will, and many won’t.