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Forrester Research prepares to mark 30 years in the prognosticating business [Audio]

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 27, 2013 08:00 AM

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George Colony launched Forrester Research three decades ago, in the basement of a Cambridge triple-decker. In 1983, he was a former Yankee Group analyst writing about how the personal computer was going to change the business world, at a time when most tech watchers were focused on mainframes and minicomputers.

Today, Forrester (which happens to be Colony's middle name) is a publicly-held company with about 1200 employees. Six hundred of them work in a sparkling 190,000-square foot headquarters near the Alewife MBTA station, where all the conference rooms are named for bands like the Beatles and the Allman Brothers, and there are instruments for after-work jam sessions in the first-floor café. These days, the firm focuses not just on tech trends affecting big companies, but new dynamics that impact their sales forces and marketing teams, too. Forrester had $292 million in revenue last year.

Colony says the firm relishes challenging conventional wisdom and "popping bubbles." Lately, that means talking about the decline of the web and the rise of the "App Internet," or smart software running on tablets, phones and other "client" devices that connect to the Internet, but make better use of the computer power on the device.

I sat down recently with Colony to talk about what the tech world around these parts looked like in the 1980s and 1990s; the dot-com shake-out, which rattled Forrester and its clients; robotic telepresence systems; Google Glass versus wrist-based wearables; what he expects from Apple; and how future mobile devices might make better use of built-in sensors to help do things like guide us to a hotel room and open the door.

Audio of my conversation with Colony, recorded June 21st, is below. It runs about 35 minutes. The company has some low-key anniversary celebrations planned for early next month.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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