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SAN JOSE, Calif.—IDC’s frontman, Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst Frank Gens, sees a significant fork in the IT road in 2011 similar to one that happened 25 years ago.

Back in 1986, PCs and desktop computers were 5 years old and starting to work their way into daily use in dedicated enterprise networks and home offices, replacing typewriters and word processors. The Internet to connect them all was still a decade away, but the groundwork was already being laid for it.

"In 1986, mainframes and terminals were the standard. Coming up was a new class of end-user device (the PC) and new types of networks and computing platforms driven by the PC radically expanded the users—and uses—of IT," Gens told a full-house audience of about 1,200 in his keynote at the 46th annual IDC Directions conference here at the San Jose Convention Center March 15.

"IT companies looked at what was happening, made some strategic decisions and chose a direction. As you can imagine, some of them gauged what was happening correctly, and some did not. Now, 25 years later, we’re again at a crossroads, and taking the correct path is as crucial now as it was then."

Gens, of course, was referring to traditional client-server computing versus new-generation IT based on on-demand software and services via the Internet, otherwise known as cloud computing.

Gens and IDC are convinced that now is the time that IT device and components makers, system providers, and service specialists need to embrace the new IT combination model of public/private/hybrid cloud systems, mobile devices and on-demand services to prepare their products and services for buyers with these third-platform preferences.

The clear implication here: In 2011, it’s either the cloud way or the highway.

For more, read the eWEEK article: Why It’s Time to Embrace the Cloud Now: IDC.