Buzzword graduation: Mobile, social, and cloud are just how we do business

We are inundated with buzzwords, but at some point the most valid ones become standard terms. Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

We cover bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and consumerization here at CITEworld, two terms that reflect the changing face of IT, but which many IT pros derisively call "buzzwords." These two trends are being driven by several mega-trends around "mobile," "cloud," and "social," which themselves could rightly be called buzzwords.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "buzzwords" derived from Harvard student slang for key words in a lecture or reading and actually dates back to the 1940s.

At some point, every new term in IT or any other profession is a buzzword. Can you imagine two IT pros standing by the water cooler in the early 1980s talking about those latest buzzwords "PCs" and "minicomputers"? Surely those things aren't going to replace the trusty mainframe, right? Just a passing phase, marketing wet dreams or more directives from the C-suite without understanding the implications.

Of course, the minicomputer phase came and went (although now we have the iPad mini). We don't think of client-server computing as a buzzword any longer, and even the PC has peaked, but now it's all just considered a form of computing.

The other day I led a Twitter chat called "Is the cloud taking over?" Of the 30+ folks that were online, there were varying opinions about the cloud, but the consensus was that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the cloud would be standard practice. 

You could use a public cloud service or build a private one in your data center, but the principles will be the same and the term will become extraneous. Whatever we choose to call it down the road, it will simply be the way we deal with hardware provisioning, programming platforms, and software services. 

There are plenty of buzzwords that don't really link to any product or trend, or just a hope of one. But mobile, cloud, and social are different because they are driving fundamental changes in the way we run our businesses and that has lead to huge changes in how we run IT due to consumerization and BYOD. 

The rise of highly capable mobile devices, which allow us to launch simple apps that let us access services over the Internet -- or dare I say it, the cloud -- is changing how millions of people work every day. It's happening right now. 

The social aspect comes into play because we can share this content simply and easily, whether on public social networks or using more private collaboration tools.

Eventually all of these trends that make up consumerization will just reflect the way IT does business. Perhaps, as Cisco's CTO Padmasree Warrior suggested, IT will even act more as a brokerage service, letting end users and business units choose their own services and pay their own way in a public cloud-style model. The same goes with BYOD -- it's becoming standard practice to assume that workers will be able to do some work from their own phones and tablets. As it moves from novelty to standard operating procedure, having a label will no longer be necessary.

The point is that not all buzzwords are created equal. Some are just labels, common terms if you will, to define the trends that are shaping the future of IT. Not every buzzword carries that weight, but eventually any buzzword worth its salt moves on, becomes part of the lexicon and an accepted part of how we do business.

I'm confident that fairly soon cloud, social, and mobile, and many of the terms that surround them, will reach that status -- and we can move the discussion forward beyond the names we give to these trends, and into the realm of their real impact on computing and our lives.

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