Mass Digitization Threatens the IT Industry

Posted 1.23.12 by

Video, music, classified ads, newspapers, magazines, pictures – all forms of media have been dramatically transformed by their digitization. iTunes, Amazon and all of their various devices have enabled a new business model that created fantastic wealth at the expense of old-guard leaders. This digital transformation was an onslaught that decimated local newspapers, record stores, film production, magazines and many more.

IT professionals claim they dodged this. In fact, they claim they benefit from this. All of this digitization will call for more and more of their expertise. As everyone digitizes everything, the world needs more servers, more storage, more memory, more connectivity, more software and more people who can make it all work.

But I can imagine now a discussion in the decimated old-guard leaders of the newspaper industry.  “The ever-growing and aging population will consume ever-increasing quantities of news,” they say. They were right that more and more people wanted to consume more and more news content. But they completely missed that it wouldn’t be in print. It would be in a new form–one they didn’t anticipate and that came on faster than they predicted.  Hence, they failed to exist. Their newspaper had been virtualized.

IT professionals are right that there will be an ever-increasing demand for digital content.  But they are wrong to assume that means their skills will remain relevant as that happens.  In fact, I predict that many of the IT skills currently in demand will experience a similar trend as those who ran printing presses in the 80s for those same old-guard newspapers.

Why do I think this?  Because the same thing that happened to newspapers is happening to IT equipment. Servers, storage and networks are all being virtualized – which is exactly what a digital version of a newspaper is.  It’s a virtual newspaper.  And what happens when you virtualize something?  That metamorphosis results in a transformational change.  Transformation is both highly creative but also very destructive.  Once something is virtualized, it can be instantly transported across the globe, instantly searchable, modifiable by software so it can be customized, along with a plethora of other traits.  Those traits add so much value it makes the physical rendition completely obsolete.

Virtualizing a server is essentially digitizing the server hardware. I don’t see any reason why that won’t be as transformational to the IT industry as virtualizing a newspaper was to newspapers or virtualizing photos was to Kodak.

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