2010 Tech Prognostications

Ah, that time of the year – time to see how well I predicted events for this year (2009), and then onto prognostications for 2010.

First, how’d I do last year?:

  • Yahoo! will significantly change its direction, and make search deal with Microsoft: Nailed this one. (See blog entry by former Yahoo Jeremy Zawadny describing Yahoo!’s descent into irrelevance.)
  • Net Neutrality will remain: Very little re: this in 2009, so I’m right but it’s really not a prognostication unless I predicted that nothing would happen. Whatever.
  • Lots of mergers/smaller player failures: Nailed this one in both regards. For failures, see Cnet’s “15 sites that went kaput in 2009”. As far as mergers go, it definitely ramped up Q4 of 2009: Oracle purchases Sun (eep!); Amazon buys Zappos (that one was a shocker, but makes sense); Twitter buys developers of GeoAPI; Apple buys Lala (stream music – is iTunes heading to the cloud?); ON2 to merge with Google (not finalized yet) and so on. Lots of GeoLocation companies snapped up by bigger companies (Twitter/GeoAPI). The list goes on and on. Consolidation was huge in 2009
  • Facebook wins: As in, it will be THE social networking site of the year, most buzz, probably the most traffic and so on. Yep, and yep.
  • As the rise of Facebook/Flickr and other such sites continue to grow, basic web skills (overall) will decline: I feel this is true – but how do you quantify this? Netcraft.com monitors active sites, so its info is useful (if everyone is just using Facebook, site registration should be down). Netcraft is showing a small spike in active domains in 2009, but are they personal sites or just the plethora of merchandising Google-bait sites? I’ll call this prognostication a push: I still believe this to be true, but I can’t quantify it enough to say I’m wrong or right.
  • Twitter will live and actually thrive in 2009 – but still won’t figure out a sustainable business model: Right on both counts. Twitter was more stable this year than in years past (faint praise, mind you), but this relatively improved stability came on top of massive growth (“How Twitter Conquered the World in 2009”). While Twitter has recently sold access to its real-time posts to Yahoo!(uh, Microsoft) and Google and is getting some dinero for same, it’s not a sustainable business model. I read an article recently, “The Top Ten IPO Candidates For 2010,” where author Erick Schonfeld ended his article with this observation:

    Most informed observers do not expect a Twitter IPO next year. It is too early. The company just raised $100 million, and still needs to figures out its business model. Maybe in 2011.

  • Sun Microsystem – I really didn’t give any specifics: I had no idea of what would happen to them, but felt something was in the pipeline for 2009. They were acquired by Oracle in 2009. So I’ll give myself this one, but not a strong prediction, that’s for sure.
  • Cashing in on Green: Some major tech/web company will try to (via marketing) to cash in on green issues this year: I guessed HP. Never really happened at all this year. FAIL. (1/9/2010 – Big Green push at this year’s CES. Ah, so close – not in 2009 really; missed the cut-off.)
  • Google will do something stupid this year to chip away at its “don’t be evil” mantra: I got this wrong. Sure, there were more than a handful of issues where people were complaining about Google being evil, but that’s true of any large company. I was expecting something stupid, like someone discovering a backdoor into Gmail or whatever. Didn’t happen. Good!
  • There will be at least two major setbacks for newspapers in 2009: I’m correct, but way underestimated same. Even though Rupert Murdoch thinks dissin’ Google and putting content behind a paywall will solve journalism’s ills, 2009 marked the year even newspapers/journalists realized the old model was dying/near dead (see Newspaper Death Watch).
  • Some employers will begin requiring job applicants to list an applicant’s web sites (personal, Facebook, MySpace) and so on : I’ve heard a couple of reports on this – virtually everyone I talk to say employers ask about one’s social networking experience, do you Twitter and so on, little demand to give specifics (the actual URL). However, there have been cases: In Bozeman, MT (and they were asking for passwords, not just a URL!); and an employment agency (for professionals) that someone I trusted went to (she declined to fill out form; they declined to consider her). Small trend, but I (fortunately) don’t know too many folks looking for work, so I don’t know what it’s like out there. But it looks like I’m correct, and it’ll get worse in 2010.
  • The internet will not crash: Every year, someone predicts this is the year the net melts down. Not going to happen…I got this right.
  • The desktop needle remains unchanged in 2009: *Yawn* I got this right. Same every year (though Apple did pick up some notebook share, and is poised to make a killing with the as-yet-unconfirmed tablet).
  • Steve Jobs will announce his retirement: Got it wrong – he did take a six-month leave of absence when he got a liver transplant, he is still CEO and kickin’ butt and takin’ names. He’s Fortune’s CEO of the Decade.
  • Location-based apps/web services will get a killer app: Oh, soooo close – but I’m wrong. All the majors (Google, Facebook and so on) are trying to crack the nut that is geolocation, but no “killer app” has yet appeared. The closest to same is the turn-by-turn directions on Verizon’s (Android-powered) Droid phone.
  • MS will try to launch Windows 7: Yep, done as I expected. Microsoft is trying to get beyond the train wreck that was/is Vista.

So, how did I do for 2009?:

  • Correct: 12 (to be fair, some weak/vague guesses – 2/3 could go in the “push” bucket.
  • Incorrect: 2
  • Push: 1

Not bad; it makes me want to be more specific this year just to make it more exciting.

* * *

What’ll happen in 2010?

  • Apple’ll come out with a tablet: Yeah, this is an unconfirmed done deal. Here’s my twist – it’ll have an HDMI port so you can download (from iTunes) or stream (via the Lala purchase) HD movies to your HD TV. The Mac TV unit – even in its second version – didn’t do that well. For Apple, that’s a real kick in the balls. The iSlate (rumored name) could fix all that. Sorta an iPod Touch on steroids. I’ve seen no mention of same, but why wouldn’t a Mac tablet have HD support today???
  • Steve Jobs will announce a deadline to step down as Apple’s CEO: Second year in a row for this guess, but I think he might do a Bill Gates and say, “Well, as of 2015 I’ll just be [the most important person at Apple], but [whomever] will then be CEO…” With Jobs as sick as he has been over the last five(?) or so years, why not make it official? Yes, Jobs is a control freak, but he’s older and sicker, so I’m certain he’s “outsourced” some of his tantrums and day-to-day minutia to someone else, and is focused on the big stuff – like he did with the iPhone (i.e. so he could focus on the iPhone), like I’m certain he’s doing with the Apple tablet.
  • There’ll be a lot of fuss about mySql (now that Oracle has purchased Sun, which bought mySql): Yes, Oracle does have an interest in killing/hobbling mySql, but with the EU still not signed off on the deal, they also have some incentive for playing nice with mySql. So this year will be a lot of mySql sound and fury, signifying nothing. Yet.
  • Google’s Chrome Browser will end the year with a market share around 10%: That’s more than double of what is has this year (though some stats have it already edging out Safari. It’s got the “Big Mo[mentum”). And when the netbooks running Google Chrome OS come out, it’ll be the installed browser. Sure, only geeks will get a Chrome OS tablet, but the same was true of Macs (especially laptops) in the beginning/today. Apple’s doing alright, aren’t they??
  • Facebook will have an IPO: Everything the company has done over the past year seems to be positioning itself for an IPO. A big-ass IPO.
  • Twitter won’t have an IPO: Need a sustainable business plan first. It may yet figure one out this year. I’m guessing they will – and it’ll mainly be payment for their firehose (which it’s experimenting with this year, with YahooSoft and Google).
  • Ruby (on or off “Rails”) still won’t catch on as the “hot new language” to play with: I think the “hot new language” of 2010 will be working with HTML 5. Lot of promise there; Google’s Chrome Browser is accelerating this, potentially changing the way we code, to a degree.
  • Google Wave still an “interesting idea”: Google Wave is still very interesting as a technology – even if I don’t fully understand it – but this general lack of understanding and stability (Wave servers make Twitter look rock solid) will not make 2010 the year of the Wave – it’s just too ambitious to take hold that quickly. I hope I’m wrong.
  • Geo-location will have another huge year: I’m guessing that some site/API will come to dominate all GPS tools (as Twitter/Facebook dominate social) and finally make some really kewl [sic] things possible.
  • Ebooks’ usage soars: Amazon’s Kindle really started it all, but this year we have Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and – potentially – an Apple tablet in 2010. I look at it this way: I still don’t “get” ebooks, but then, I never thought I’d forsake a physical newspaper for just online content. Yet I have. I love physical books, but…hmm…
  • Newspapers continue to flounder – badly: (nothing to see here; keep moving on..) Oh, and Rupert Murdoch won’t put a pay wall around News Corp properties; that was all bluster. He’ll get some sort of accommodation from Google so he (sorta) shuts up.
  • Cloud computing use will continue to grow, but not to the “yeah, most use it” levels: Note, this excludes Gmail and such; I’m talking about SAS (software as a service): Google App Engine; Amazon’s WS offerings and so on. Two main reasons for this: 1) Small companies/individuals can easily get hosting and code/use templates to make their sites, FTP to same (even if they don’t know what “FTP” means); 2) Large companies are reluctant to put their proprietary data in the cloud (with some reasonable concerns; security and uptime foremost). So it’s a handful of forward-thinking geeks and talented small businesses that make up much of the cloud. Cloud computing, today, it still too hard (small companies/individuals) or too risky (big companies). I don’t expect this to change that much in 2010.
  • Microsoft will struggle to redefine itself in 2010: The push may come from either Ray Osborne (Ozzie) or Bill Gates himself – but certainly not from CEO Steve Ballmer – to make sure what happened to Yahoo! over the past couple of years doesn’t happen to Microsoft – which it will, unless the company dramatically changes course (which it’s beginning to do, to a degree – it is participating in the HTML 5 standards process. MS and standards – what are you smoking?). But they have to: Google is kicking its ass in search (i.e. delivering ads for $$; hence the very expensive 2009 Yahoo! search deal); Apple is kicking its ass in notebooks (and Apple gets the hardware and software dollars); Apple/Google are battling for the smart phone brass ring, while Windows Mobile fades away; Google docs (and others)/Chrome browser/HTML 5 are creating what MS feared from Netscape in the mid-1990s: The browser is the app; the web is the OS. We’re close to that today, and this reality keeps chipping away at the future earnings of the Windows OS and Office cash cows.
  • Speaking of Microsoft: Ballmer gone: I think there are better than even odds that Ballmer will not be CEO at the end of 2010. He may see the handwriting on the wall, or he may be pushed out (the latter seems more probable), but he’s the wrong person at the helm for Microsoft at this tenuous point. Ballmer’s old school and works with physical product; the future is virtual and completely new school. Ballmer is print media; Microsoft needs a Facebook/Twitter moment/idea. Ballmer won’t deliver same. (Who will? Aye, there’s the rub!)


I dunno, I think this is this simplest, cleanest explanation about the way SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not worth paying for, much less endorsing:

Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.

Derek Powazek – Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists

Make sure to see his follow-up – basically a reply to the comments to the original article (as good as original article): “Seo FAQs.”

I agree with him fully: SEO is, to me, building correct sites (not images with text, AIR or Flash etc. [today!] ). Good content; good design. If you can’t get those two together (content/design), yeah, you’re in deep doo-doo.

SEO – the black magic offered by name only today – just games the system; possible short- or long-term bump. Who can say? Yep, that’s part of the problem.

I’m betting on good content/design vs. SEO “magic.”

Person/Thing of the Year

Tomorrow, Time magazine is scheduled to announce its annual “Person of the Year.”

It’s the usual mix of personnel on the short list, some of which I don’t get (Steve Jobs? Why this year? Obama, of course etc.)

It’s not on the list, but my choice for Person/Thing of the year would be the smartphone.

Yes, the iPhone – which completely redefined this niche – is two-and-a-half years old, but – to me (yes, a techie) – today’s smartphones are so prevalent and important that they have, in many ways, stopped being phones.

They are hand-held computers.

And ever since the iPhone took it to this level, every phone that came out since has tried to one-up it (I don’t think anyone has; Droid is close).

This is the year of the outcry of the Apple App Store blocking apps, of Android really taking off and the Droid almost equaling the iPhone, of the high hopes (dashed, to a degree) for the Palm Pre etc.

This was the year when there was no going back. You don’t have a phone, you have a smartphone. If you don’t, your next phone certainly will be.

And the app store that works with your smartphone has become nearly as important as the phone itself – and the app store’s importance will only increase as all phones become somewhat equal.

That was one of the big drawbacks to the Palm Pre when it first came out – it had an app store with only a few dozen apps.

Android, with its open and familiar Java architecture, made making apps easy and appealing for many – the Android App store, one year young, now has 20,000 apps, approximately 2/3 free.

This is less than the iPhone’s 50,000 apps in its first year, but Android came second. Apple had first-mover advantage, and – to be honest – a cult-like following.

I work with many people who have only a cell phone, and virtually all of them have an iPhone. They can post to Facebook or Flickr with it, take pictures, text friends, listen to iTunes on it.

Oh – they sometimes even use it to place or take a call!

I’ve been through a lot of tech shifts (yes, I worked at a dot-com start-up during the internet boom/bubble/burst), and this smartphone shift is as significant as the migration of, well, almost everything to the web.

Location is the next frontier on these small computers, and this space is already getting cluttered.

And neat ideas/solutions are being developed.

What comes next with regard to smartphones?

Almost anything.

Which is why I consider the smartphone to be the person of the year.

Update 12/16: Time has named Fed Chief Ben Bernake as its person of the year. Yes, he was the point person (with Geithner and Obama) on keeping us out of a depression, but he has not really been seen as entirely competent (to be fair, what superman could be “competent” under these conditions?). Krugman has a funny take on Bernake’s honor.

Snow Job

1979 Real Snow Job. Car boxed in

Ah, now is the winter of our discontent…

Or, winter has begun: First big snow falling.

Hey, it’s Chicago – that’s what happens. The local news is treating this like Weather Porn, it’s the Apocalypse and so on.

Yep, have to shovel. Have to clean off car.

(NOTE: Pic from years ago, when there was significant snowfall)

Cats and sleep

Taylor sleeping
Taylor sleeping

OK, I agree with Kevin Drum about cats’ sleeping habits. I think anyone who has (non-kitten) cats would agree with him.

He says:

What do cats do when they’re home alone? The folks at Nestle Purina PetCare’s Friskies division installed cat-cams on 50 cats in order to find out, and they’ve now announced the results:

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats’ time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

Uh huh. Look: I work at home. So I know exactly what my critters do between the hours of nine and five: they sleep.

I’m with him. Six percent sleeping?? Maybe kittens…but older cats? At least 60%.