Sunday, January 4, 2009

Throwing in my Two Cents: The Rocket's 2009 Tech Predictions

Nostradamus hat? Check. Crystal ball? Check. Number of my bookie in Jersey? Check. OK, let me throw myself into the circus act of bloggers out there trying to stake some claims over the next 365 days...

Last year I hit a sad 75% on my predictions for 2008 -- let's see if we can crank it up a notch. (I'm also trying to beat the clock and get this crap out before CES this year.)

  • Economic recovery begins in early Q3 for the tech and housing industries.

    OK, this one goes against nearly every piece of bad press that I have read for the last 6 months, but I still believe it.

    Since this is a tech column, we'll leave the housing industry aside for a moment - aside from the incredible resiliency of the the US economy, the tech sector in the US has fallen behind in several key areas: broadband penetration, high-speed wireless penetration, consumer electronic technology, low power technologies (drives, displays, etc), and battery technology. Any entity that misses one industrial or technological innovation leap-frogs over that innovation to the Next Big Thing. (Europe has an unparalleled infrastructure of train tracks, the US creates automobiles and roadways. The US creates unparalleled wired phone lines, Asian-Pacific markets surpass the US for wireless phone systems. Etc etc.)

    Being behind in the technology leadership in the above (and other) areas will provide a window of opportunity for investors, entrepreneurs and established tech companies. Many of the missed opportunities above already exist as half-constructed ventures, lab experiments and business plans... execution out of desperation is sure to follow in the first half of 2009.

    Update: January 16th - Looks like the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis agrees with me, at least. Thanks to J. McCartie at for bringing this to my attention.

  • The Obama Administration revitalizes the tech industry within 6 months of taking office.

    Slightly related to the first bullet point, the Obama Administration is on top of things enough to realize what the economic engine in the US really is, and where we are failing on delivering. After 8 years of starved technology ecosystems, Obama will begin to place money and resources into crumbling technical infrastructures, and lower the barrier of entry for new companies to compete against established companies. The creation of a "Chief Technology Officer" position for his administration is the first sign that they will get this right.

  • MEMS technology for low power / flexible displays hits the market.

    OK, fine - I made this same prediction last year and it didn't pan out - but it's pissing me off that it didn't, so I'm plopping it back on the table, damn it.

    Qualcomm's spin off company (Qualcomm MEMS Technology) is one of the companies focusing on low-power displays through nanotechnology. (In this case, small shutters control the filtering of light from LEDs, as opposed to digital filters which require energy.) As mobile devices get more and more complex, power management becomes a ridiculously huge issue. (I thought the iPhone was bad, but the Android phone with its multitasking OS fires off its various radios in the background without you even being aware of it. The power meter looks like a sweep second hand on a watch.) One of the biggest consumers of power in these devices - minus the radios - is the display. QMT's nanotech shutter system produces the same screen brightness for 1/5th the power consumption.

    In Cambridge, Mass, eInk has created a flexible, color version of its digital ink technology currently found in the Kindle and the Sony eReader. Just because newspapers and magazines are headed the way of "instant photography," CD publishing, and terrestrial radio doesn't mean that people don't want the content - but reading a newspaper on a laptop or iPhone isn't for everyone, and it doesn't duplicate the newspapers current distribution model. (Wake up, stumble outside, pick up newspaper of the wet pavement.) The first instances of eInk's flexible, color digital "paper" will no doubt be to receive your subscription to the NY Times or Newsweek directly to a portable, always on device. (It will put a crimp in the "taking the paper to the toilet" market, tho.)

    My bet (again): expect one or both of these technologies on the market in other OEM's device by Q4.

  • Android phone sales hit iPhone numbers before end of year

    The T-Mobile G1 is projected to hit 1,000,000 units sold when the final tally for Q4 2008 is done. Keep in mind that the phone has hit the 1M mark having only been on the market since late October 2008, and for sale in only 19 markets because of T-Mobile's late-to-the-game nascent 3G service. There are several more phones expected in the next few months that run on any 3G service out of the box, with form factors that mimic both the iPhone and the Blackberry.

  • Digital delivery of home media makes a measurable change in broadcast TV numbers
    I know, everyone is either predicting this or laughing at people who predict it - but you gotta take a stand, baby! We've seen UPN and The WB merge over the past 18 months to the oddly named "The CW." (I miss the Frog, actually.) It's not unreasonable to expect to see additional kerfuffle amongst the traditional TV networks due to erosion of a viable audience base.

    The additional changes could be consolidation or dissolution of one of the four remaining broadcasters, or it could be something more subtle - there is a very good chance that this is the year that a major network or studio backed network begins using the internet as a direct means of distribution to it's audiences.

  • Significant drops in Blu-Ray player prices combined with content publisher pressure to release existing titles in a new format will push Blu-Ray disc sales past DVD disc sales

    I know the debate: did Blu-Ray win too late in this era of media downloads? Do people really want to switch from their DVD collection when upscaling DVD players are just fine?

    Well, all things being equal: no. However, content companies are hungry for ways of monetizing existing content in their catalogs. As the price of Blu-Ray players falls below the $120 mark, content publishers will be incented to migrate more of their catalogs over to Blu-Ray in an attempt to sell you the Star Wars Trilogy...again. (This is the same logic that pushed music content publishers to move from album to tape to CD.)

    With all those brand spanking new flatscreens out there and sub-$120 Blu-Ray players out there, consumers walking into a Tower Records and faced with their favorite movie or TV show in both DVD and Blu-Ray, which do you think you would choose?

  • As Apple pushes deeper into double-digit territory for laptop sales, several serious viral attacks begin in the Mac community. Lack of adequate protection combined with consumer hubris will make the problems significant.

    This one I'll take some heat from the fanboys for - but I'll get through it somehow. Again.

    You've all heard the argument before: the Apple ecosystem is unprepared for coordinated security attacks on their object of desire - but it's a valid argument. As Apple computers push deeper into double digit territory, they become a target for virus writers. It's not really important that there aren't a lot of virus protection software out there for Mac's, what's more damning is the Mac demographic is woefully under prepared.

    Having not grown up in a culture of locking your backdoor, Mac denizens are not in the ritualistic habit of installing virus protection software, updating it and taking all the usual precautions against Very Bad People that windows and linux people have had to deal with for years.

    Pwn2Own 2008 people: 2 minutes. MINUTES. 'Nuff said.

  • At least one other additional security exploits occur in the basic structure of the aging internet protocol and backbones, forcing a rethink of the way packets are carried over the Internets

    It was designed to survive a nuclear attack on the united states... it was not designed to power everything from television sets to light switches. Last year Dan Kaminski discovered and reported a serious flaw deep in the bowels of the stalwart Domain Name System. That code has been in there since Christ was a corporal, and there's more - trust me.

    Like bad roads and crumbling bridges built during WWII, the internet substructure is due for an overhaul - and I'm not talking about move from IPv4 to IPv6.

  • Windows 7 arrives at the latter-half of the year, but the PR damage done by the mishandling of Vista's public perception plus the stillborn Microsoft marketing campaign PLUS John Hodgman ensures a tepid reception to the new OS.

    By all accounts, Windows 7 really is all that. All the reviewers that have advanced copies are tripping over themselves to say lovely things to Leo Laporte on TWiT about Windows 7. "Better." "Faster." "Prettier."

    After the public shitfest that was heaped upon Vista over the past two years it isn't gonna matter a wit. The OS will be released to sound of crickets, and the windows community will be stuck with having to support "downgrades" from Windows 7 to XP - and maintain the codeline for Vista at the same time.

  • Yahoo breaks up into its original component companies, or at least puts them on the auction block, before Q4.

    Yup - it's over kids. Do you Yahoo!?? Uh, no. No you don't. Prepare for recent and distant tech purchases like Flickr, Geocities and Maven to be divested and scattered upon the wind like seeds from a dandelion.
OK, there you go. Take me to task on Dec 31, 2009...but I'm shootin' to beat that 75%, dammit.

Have a great year everyone - let's go make some tech now, shall we?

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