The companies that rock the world of innovation will be the ones that play well with others, partnering with former rivals, jumping into the Internet of Things (IoT) and building platforms that attract developers to create the next wave of disruptive apps. 

That was one of the big messages today at the IDC 2015 Tech Outlook conference at the Westin Hotel at the Domain in Austin. 

Several IDC analysts spoke to the audience of about 300 IT professionals on everything from the IoT to the changing role of IT experts within enterprise companies.

Market Disruption

IDC's Frank Gens, Senior Vice President and chief analyst, kicked off the conference with a talk about how growth in what IDC calls The Third Platform — meaning cloud technology, mobile, social, IoT and the like — is expected to grow nearly 20 percent by the year 2020, while the Second Platform — client/server — will shrink by three percent.

Giants in their industries, such as John Deere, Pfizer, Disney and Wal-Mart are building their own platforms that allow developers to create apps that will push them forward, rather than trying to drive all innovation from inside the company. 

By 2018, Gens said, innovators will have disrupted a third of the top 20 market leaders in most industries. Many of these disrupters are startups. 

“They’re very industry focused,” he said.

“They’re not trying to change the world, writ large, they’re just trying to grab a piece of it….” Much of the focus, he said, is in retail, financial services, education and healthcare. They’re operating in arenas of machine learning, using big data and the cloud to create learning analytic and medical diagnostic services, and they’re developing products around the IoT. 

Spending on cognitive systems, for example, doubled to more than $1 billion between 2014 and 2015. Only about one percent of developers currently use them, Gens said, but by 2020 it will be closer to 50 percent.

US Trails in IoT Devices

IDC's Vernon Turner, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Systems and a research fellow, said the US is behind Asia and Europe in its production of IoT devices.

Perhaps that’s based on privacy concerns. Worldwide, he said, there were roughly 10 billion connected devices in 2013, a number that’s expected to triple by 2020.

While many consumers think about IoT as wearables and connected homes, the bulk of IoT devices are in industries such as manufacturing.

And every one of those sensors requires the same kinds of IT services other devices require: software management, security, customer support. All the data from those sensors has myriad applications, Turner said, though only a fraction of it is analyzed.

New Connections

And on the subject of connectivity, IDC's Tom Mainelli, Program Vice President of Devices and Displays talked about the partnerships forming between hardware companies such as Samsung and Blackberry, Dell and HP, Apple and IBM, and Microsoft’s production of Office for the iPad Pro.

In a talk that focused on the deployment of devices and the prediction that large smart phones will trump all other devices, Mainelli called these partnerships “Dogs and cats playing together.” 

“If you are not adapting,” Mainelli said, “You’re already well behind most of your competitors.”

Title image by Chris Brignola.