It's hard to believe that we're already at the end of another year. Depending on what you believe, 2012 might be a fantastic year for the IT industry, or our planet might suddenly cease to exist after a string of bizarre catastrophes. It's hard to tell which is more likely sometimes.

The year's end is often a time for reflection and retrospective looks at the major events of the year. However, because it seems like every other columnist and opinion writer in the technology press is doing that already, I'll resist the temptation -- after all, how many more articles do you need to read about Google+ or the iPhone 4S? Instead, let's talk about some trends of interest to Microsoft Exchange Server administrators.

First is Microsoft Office 365. Most administrators don't know whether to be delighted or terrified at the pace of Office 365 adoption. On the one hand, admit it -- it's gratifying to see a product you have invested your career in gain even wider traction in the marketplace. On the other hand, after our new cloud overlords have replaced all on-premises email systems with Office 365, those of us who make a living doing on-premises work will have a tough row to hoe.

As Jim McBee, Tony Redmond, and numerous other Windows IT Pro commentators and columnists have pointed out, the best way to protect yourself against being clouded out of a job is to upgrade your skills. There are many areas of the collaboration and communications world that are, and will remain, in demand: archiving, knowledge management, security, mobile device management and integration, and Exchange Management Shell scripting are all skills that become even more important (and thus in demand) in an Office 365 world.

The second interesting trend is the rumored death of email. You probably saw news stories about the recent announcement by the CEO of French technology firm Atos decreeing that email couldn't be used internally, and that Facebook and IM would be used instead. Frankly I have a hard time taking this too seriously. Any organization that relies on Facebook -- remember them? the most privacy-hostile company on planet Earth? -- for internal communications isn't one that I'd trust with my business. Internal email that you control is too useful as a business tool to die out any time soon. Having said that, if I were a provider of consumer email services, I'd be a little more worried that Facebook (or some future replacement for it) might make a fatal dent in my business.

Speaking of fatal dents, a third trend is the tidal shift in the mobile device market. Where a few years ago RIM's BlackBerry was the undisputed king, now Google Android and Apple iOS are battling for the market lead. Android has more market share, but Apple makes much more money on mobile devices than Google and its partners combined. Microsoft's Windows Phone is continuing to get rave reviews, and it seems headed for the number three market spot after the continuing free-fall of RIM. When I saw the news story about drunken RIM executives whose behavior (including trying to chew through their restraints) caused their Toronto to Beijing flight to be diverted, I thought, "Oh, drunken executives? That explains a lot."

This mobile shift is really a reflection of the broader consumerization of IT. Ten years ago, if you'd told any CIO of a major company that she would get to a point where users would pick out and provision their own devices, or that Microsoft and its competitors would all be trying to kill off conventional IPsec and PPTP VPNs, she would have thought you were crazy. Now we live in a world where enterprise systems such as Microsoft Lync get consumer-oriented clients like the announced-but-not-yet-available Lync for Kinect client (which I hope ships soon, especially now that there are Lync clients for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.)

No doubt 2012 will reveal some trends we haven't thought of -- especially if the Mayan-apocalypse predictors are correct. Feel free to send me your thoughts and predictions to probichaux@windowsitpro.com.

Here's wishing you a happy and safe holiday season and a productive, prosperous, and fulfilling 2012