OK, you all know the drill – getting near the end of the year; time for me (and everyone) else to peer a year into the future.
And – before that drill – comes the other drill: How’d I do last year?
My 2008 prognostications in bold; my judgment of the success or failure of gazing into 2008’s crystal ball follow each:
- Blu-ray will beat out HD-DVD: Correct by mid-February
- Establishment of HD standard slows video downloads: I had this in the context of HD downloads, but included all downloads. So I think this is a push: HD downloads are not anywhere near here yet; but much video download (NetFlix, Roku in general, Vudu) progress has been made.
- Google will stay out of the cell phone biz: Yep. Google bid on the open spectrum (drove up price); but no network yet. Happy just to have Android getting traction.
- The desktop: Boy, I nailed this one, but it’s not that hard: 1) MS will extend XP (yes); 2) MS Vista will continue to struggle (yes); 3) Apple will continue to pick up market share, focusing more on notebooks (yes and yes); 4) Apple won’t license its OS (yes); 5) Linux is marginal – for geeks only – on the desktop in 2008 (yes).
- Yahoo still won’t find its focus: If anything, Yahoo! became more unfocused and marginalized in 2008. Walked away from a MS overture; potential deal with Google fell through; executive departures galore; Jerry Yang will finally step down (once a replacement is found). Bad year for a foundation of the web.
- Ruby will remain a niche player: This was a hot language in 2007, but it seems to – ahem – left the rails a bit this year. It could be in part because of the Twitter melt-down (often attributed to the Ruby architecture), or it could just be that there were fewer high-flying startups using this new-fangled language to make many ripples in the pond. I’d give this one to me.
- There will be some sort of DRM showdown: iTunes now offers (some DRM-free music); Amazon’s service is all DRM free. Spore came out with some crazy DRM; they later backed down. I’ll give me this one, again.
- Rich internet applications (RIA) vs. Ajax: I predicted Ajax would win. It has, even with the big push by Microsoft, with the company’s “Flash Killer” Silverstream required to view the 2008 Bejing Summer Games on the web. Didn’t work. Again, I win.
So, of eight prognostications, I got seven correct and one is a coin-toss. Nothing incorrect.
Not bad. With this healthy lead under my belt, I’ll attempt to be a little more specific this year.
More to lose; more to gain.
Without further ado, here’s what’s going to happen (I think…) on the web/in tech in 2009:
- Yahoo! will significantly change its direction: I still think it’ll sell of its search/marketing area to Microsoft; Yahoo! may keep some R&D;, but that might just get all open-sourced. I think Yahoo! is almost dead. It’ll exist as a brand (email address), but little more. Very sad, and it will not “die” this year, but it will, let’s say, be fatally wounded in 2009. It’ll pass the point of no (significant) return. Let’s hope for an Apple-like resurgence in the near future.
- Net Neutrality will remain: While Net Neutrality means different things to different people/companies/lobbies, the basic premise is that no packet is more important than another. Source, content, protocol. If some backbone wants to build a fast lane and offer it at a higher price to anyone that can afford it; that’s still network neutrality, as long as the indifference to packets is in place on this faster area. I.e., if YouTube wants to pay more to stream the Flash movies on Backbone X, but the rest (text, icons) goes over slower Backbone Y, that’s fine. But if Backbone Y starts filtering packets to give precedence to video packets, that’s bad. Compare to snail mail: If you put a 1st class stamp on two envelopes, both should be treated the same, regardless of envelope color. Send two boxes 3rd class? Sure, slower than 1st class, but – again – color of the package wrapper doesn’t matter. Both will move at the same rate.
- Lots of mergers/smaller player failures: We’re in a recession. Venture capital is getting tough to come by, and a lot of the, let’s say, “obvious” ideas (as in, they are obvious now: Ebay, Amazon, Zapoos) have been done. At where I currently work, for example, we work with about eight comparison engines. We’ve dropped a handful over the last year or so, tried as many new (some stuck; some didn’t). Does the net need 3 billion comparison engines, all doing basically the same thing? Nope. There will be losers and winners. Areas – to me – ripe for, uh, compression (mergers/failures) are the following:
- Comparison-pricing engines (as outlined above)
- Commodity sellers – Example: DVDs, Books. Amazon will reign supreme; certain niches will stay alive/thrive for various reasons (i.e. deep Christian/Film Noir content; Customer Service), but the folks who don’t take it seriously are in for a surprise this year.
- Many honestly great ideas will die/whither/founder next year due to the general state of the economy. The “unobvious” ideas, the new eBays and MySpaces. Sad reality.
- Facebook wins: Related to the previous point, I don’t see the need for all the social networking sites. MySpace started with a bang, but Facebook is looking more like a platform, with MySpace looking more like a toy. I expect Facebook to get offers – serious, publicized offers – again this year, but I expect it won’t sell its soul – yet.
- As the rise of Facebook/Flickr and other such sites continue to grow, basic web skills (overall) will decline: Don’t get me wrong – sites like Flickr and Facebook/MySpace and Blogger/WordPress democratize the web: anyone can easily publish. And that’s great, and the lack of need to “look under the hood” to get the presentation you want allows you to focus more on the presentation. This stokes innovations/new looks etc. Great. But 2008 was sort of the beginning of the end of the personal home page, a personal domain. Instead, you have a page on Facebook, MySpace, follow my tweets, view my pictures on Flickr and so on… In 2009, I feel this will really solidify, the pendulum swinging from those who have personal sites (pre-2008), through those with cloud-based, shared sites (Facebook/Flickr) and/or personal sites (2008), to a year (2009) where a having only a personal site is somewhat unusual. Like it or not (there’s good and bad there), the web is evolving.
- Twitter will live and actually thrive in 2009: Yet I still won’t get it. And they still won’t figure out a sustainable business model.
- Sun Microsystems: I’m trying to be more specific this year, but Sun is/was a big player, so something must be said about Sun. I have no specifics, just dwindling expectations. Sun is the hardware (yeah, developed Java and Solaris…) equivalent of Yahoo! to some degree: Early were high-flying; couldn’t adjust when new/different competition arrived; have – over the last few years – been doing a slow crash-and-burn. That’s a little harsh, but real. Yahoo has tried Pipes, Hadoop and other innovations: What has SUN done for you lately?
- Cashing in on Green: Some major tech/web company will try to (via marketing) to cash in on green issues this year. Low carbon footprint, recyclable parts etc. Who? I’d guess HP or IBM (my bet’s on HP). Most to gain; best able to move the needle this way. This is a crazy shot it the dark; let’s see if this prediction makes me look like an idiot or savant.
- Google will do something stupid this year to chip away at its “don’t be evil” mantra: This is partly inevitable – Google’s so big it’ll make some mistakes every year, some of which are serious – and because the company is becoming so large and margin, as opposed to user, focused. I wish I had a good specific for what this faux pas, but I’m sure it’ll involve an attempt that will be vilified by the blogosphere as a gross violation of privacy.
- There will be at least two major setbacks for newspapers in 2009: Yes, newspapers are hurting today, and it’ll only get worse in 2009. But the newspaper industry will try to absorb at least two major impacts in 2009. Impacts will be along the lines of the Detroit Free Press trimming home delivery to three days a week. I see major closings, consolidation, shared content between newspapers of different chains.
- Some employers will begin requiring job applicants to list an applicant’s web sites (personal, Facebook, MySpace) and so on : Remember, the web is forever. The internet archive, Google cache, screenshots… This trend will be light in 2009, but will be irreversible.
- The internet will not crash: Every year is THE year the internet collapses. There’ll be outages — some serious — but, near term, I’m confident the internet will not collapse under the weight of its own success.
- The desktop needle remains unchanged in 2009: Same as 2008 – Windows drops share slightly to Apple; Apple focuses more on notebooks (netbook?); Linux desktop still for geeks only.
- Steve Jobs will announce his retirement: He probably won’t retire for a year or two, but this helps the new leader – and the market – adjust to less Stevie. The new CEO and Jobs can do some conferences together, then the new guy alone with (gasp! surprise!) an appearance by Jobs to Jobs only appearing for the really big stuff. Jobs will still be very much involved in Apple products, however. And that’s a good thing.
- Location-based apps/web services will get a killer app: GPS is in most smart phones now, starting to get in some cameras and so on. While there are a bunch of lat/long apps/services out there, no killer app yet. I expect a killer app – and a lot of other way cool geo-tagged sites/services to hit the mainstream (or – at least – the geekstream) this year.
- MS will try to launch Windows 7: Vista has been such a disaster that it’s in the company’s best interest to just skip Vista and push out Windows 7 (even though it’s built on Vista…average Joe doesn’t know/care about this). Can MS get this out in time for holiday 2009 purchases? And – perhaps more importantly – can MS market this effectively? (Mojave was the commercial[s] it should have done at Vista launch). MS has to learn that way fewer people are eager to get their hands on the latest MS OS release no questions asked. XP is solid and sorta attractive; why change? Microsoft is going to have to take a page out of its Windows 95 playbook and actually sell users on the OS.
Update 1/2/2009 – Some prognostications I’ve thought about since posting this list. Forgive the delay.
NOTE: I’m posting without full linkage; I’ll slowly back fill links pointing to content as needed/as I get to it. (12/31 – linkage added.)