Starting from the first generation information technology (IT) consumers, they could be characterized by IBM and compatible computer users for desktop applications. Bigger machines with grey screens and green fonts at the start-up, that what it used to be. When it moved from 33 hz to 66 hz speed (yes, it was not MegaHZ at that time), students felt that it was a big leap in computing speed, really! Primarily used for word-processing and database programs, carrying 5 & ¼” removable disks, the consumer IT applications were extremely limited to a few programs (like Wordstar, COBOL and Lotus-123). The first generation was short-lived as computing speed increased enormously, however, no significant change in “device” format was seen (i.e., the desktop computers), except the new applications that dominated the consumer IT world. This 1.5th generation, combined with enormous speed and spur of applications, saw the growth of internet and presentation software.
2nd generation could be seen as the age of “device mobility”, with the advent of laptop and related devices. This laptop generation lived relatively longer than the first generation as software and applications evolved as they both can be used simultaneously for desktop and laptop applications. In most cases, the device platform does not make a difference among software versions. For example, MS Excel can be used independently of desktop or laptop computers, the difference in device platform does not matter as far as operating system stays the same across devices.
3rd generation can be characterized by, what industry experts once predicted that PCs would die soon, the integration of computing power in mobile devices. What used to be two different streams of devices, mobile phones and computers – are now integrated by operating systems and functionality. This generation of IT consumers, coupled with enormous speed and capability of internet services, saw the recent growth of “IT services” like cloud computing, social media and mobile shopping. This “device and services” generation, unlike 2nd generation of “device mobility” phenomenon, is experiencing fast pacing change in device formats. Think about the change in mobile devices- starting from Motorola’s handheld sets in 90’s to today’s multimedia smart phones. Oh, don’t forget the fact that tablet pcs will outnumber other pc sales by the year 2015, according to many industry experts.
So what is the implication of this evolution of consumer generation for IT businesses? The current generation of “device and services” will require solid cloud infrastructure, reliable services and more innovative format of device design for greater market share. Challenges in ‘80s and ‘90s are not being replicated in the challenges that we face today. The kind of excellence and scale of businesses that the current challenge requires, it appears that only a few big companies can withstand the blow of the current IT consumer generation. Obviously, rather than seeing many new competitors, it seems that the current evolution will lead to a more oligopolistic structure of IT businesses across the globe, with a few capable companies competing, surviving and thriving in a fiercely innovative global market.