Looking ahead as 2011 begins, there are some huge gambles that major tech companies are hoping will pay off. Without a lot of preamble, lets look at a few of them.
AMD: Fusion Endgame
2011 is when AMDs grand strategy to step out from under Intels cloud comes to fruition. This has been a long time in coming and they took a substantial amount of heat for each very risky move toward this goal.
They merged with ATI and spun out their fabrication capability to Global Foundries in a huge bet to make this big move. Their Fusion platform is now on final countdown and promises a potentially market-leading balance of power and energy use. This could make them a real player in notebook computers, rather than just a bottom feeder.
CES pre-briefings indicate the largest number of AMD notebooks in the marketplace than have ever existed. AMD is expected to carry this mix of graphics and processor power into servers next. This was a bet the company gamble and it looks to be paying off big, based on CES buzz.
Intels Sandy Bridge/Atom
In 2011 Intel is putting it on the line with their first blend of graphics and processors, and also making a run at smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. This is as much a move to expand their available market as it is to counter moves by AMD.
As a huge player in the PC market they cant afford to be a minor player in phones, and 2011 will showcase whether they can get a beachhead. They also are the biggest beneficiary of a likely major PC refresh in 2011, which should happen around their new Sandy Bridge platform. This is a make it or break it year for Intel.
Apples Enterprise and Media Gambles
Apple has been quietly hiring away Research In Motions key enterprise sales resources and has built a billion dollar near-secret data center. This appears to be to be an aggressive move against RIM and Google in the enterprise and an effort to provide a vastly richer set of capabilities for all of their products.
This strategy has the feel of a world domination play and, given how many iPads and iPhones are making it into enterprises over the objections of IT, one wonders how big the numbers could become if Apple actually addressed IT concerns. This appears to be a massive push by Apple in what could be their biggest market play yet.
However, Apple has never really embraced corporations since Jobs came back, so it doesnt come without risk.
Windows 8 Windows Phone 7
In 2011, Microsoft either showcases that they understand the consumer cloud and the power of the iPad with Windows 8 or they dont. Yes, it is that binary, and their success or failure could define the company for the next decade.
Buzz on the product is high, with speculation filling the Web news pipeline about how thin, light, and connected this new product will be. On top of this, Windows Phone 7 gets its first big patch and the results of what has been one of the companys biggest market pushes will be known. Microsofts image, if not its future, reside with these two platforms.
With many of us wondering if the market has moved away from the model of software that created Microsoft, this will be a critical test.
Oracle/Sun HP Attack
Oracles acquisition of Sun gets fully tested in 2011 and their decision to attack HP directly with programs and rhetoric will come under a massive test, as IBM ramps up to migrate Oracle customers to its platforms.
Oracle wants to be a one-stop shop with massive account control. If they succeed, they can name their own prices. If they fail, they will say goodbye to their iconic CEO. So a lot is riding on this very risky gamble.
HPs Software Move
From hiring one of the top Microsoft software executives to staffing both their CEO office and that of their Chairman with enterprise software experts, HP is making a huge move to change the core of the company.
While critical, given Oracle and IBMs moves, this is an area that HP has not historically been a heavyweight in, and the company is moving to buy resources like 3Par, which define their software segments. Closer partnerships with SAP are anticipated and their relationship with Microsoft is involved, making this one of the big changes to watch in 2011.
NVIDIA will see one of its biggest bets play out with the introduction of Tegra 2-based Superphones. These next generation smartphones and tablets have multiple cores, stronger graphics, and 4G capabilities, providing a richness that we havent seen on either smartphones or tablets yet. This is a huge market expansion opportunity for NVIDA.
IBM/RedHat Moves to Corner Enterprise Linux Market
In the midst of HP and Oracles fight, IBM is making a huge play to corner the Linux enterprise market. Partnering with RedHat, the last independent enterprise-class Linux provider, IBM is leveraging a strategy of best practices, services and service level agreements, deep business knowledge and affordable hardware to make a solid run at market ownership.
Using the mantra of consolidate, virtualize, standardize and automate, IBM is targeting both public and private workloads for this huge cloud computing initiative. Existing Sun accounts appear to be the primary focus, but HP accounts are also in the cross hairs.
Acadia: EMC/VMware/Ciscos Huge Bet
Acadia, which was launched in 2009, is a partnership to address the massive cloud needs of huge corporations into products that blend all three companies technologies; the initiative is called VBlocks. Basically packaged cloud solutions for the very largest of companies, this is a multi-billion dollar bet that could create a new partnership structure for large enterprise product sets too big for any one company.
If successful, this could position the combined entity strongly against the typically more powerful HP and IBM offerings and give Oracle a size cap on their ambitions.
Huge Risks, Potentially Huge Rewards
Each of these companies is making a huge bet in 2011. Not all of them will play out. However, with each huge bet comes the potential of huge rewards and they should be applauded for the reasonable risks they are willing to make.
2011 sets up what looks to be an incredibly exciting decade for both enterprises and individual buyers. Hang in there.