Remember how all those other tech blogs were doing 2010 reports back in 2009? Remember how you were reading them in that awkward place between Christmas and New Years, when you had nothing else to do but see Avatar again? Ha! Plebes! Anyone can do a prediction list in the weeks before the year being predicted...but it takes a true prognosticator to peer into the future year while that year is actually underway!!
OK, fine. I'm late. This prediction list is late by three weeks. Whatever. At least now I have claim being right if I "predict" something that happened last week, right? No? Fine. Here we go...
- Apple Tablet Lives, Receives Traditional Apple Fanboy Responses
Considering that the Apple event happens in, oh, 5 days now and that you'd have to be completely asleep at the switch to not realize there's a tablet just around the corner, all that remains is the prediction over the response to the unit. It's going to be priced in Apple dollars, that's for damn sure, so will people buy it? Undoubtedly yes. There's the Apple contingent who would buy anything and everything that Cupertino puts out, so the market success of the product will carry it through release #1. What remains to be seen here is whether this will be placed in the "iPhone" or "Apple TV" category of success.
The reality will be that it will appear somewhere in the middle. While portable consumer devices are an overwhelming success story for the company - and for technology at large - the success of Apple from a market acceptance point of view gets murkier as the devices become productivity tools. The Apple TV and Mac Air products were not a success by any real measure, and for all the hype around traditional Mac computers, they still can't seem to break into the double digits and stay there.
The success of the Apple Tablet will depend on a few points that none of us will be clear on for a few days: pricing (people are guessing in the upper $800's at the time of this writing), connectivity (AT&T? No thank you.), content (Apple does amazing things with content partner deals), usability (long their forte), and lifestyle niche. (How does this fit into the users current computer ecosystem?)
We'll know the full extent of the story after all the hullabaloo of the launch dies down and the numbers start to roll in - definitely by the end of Q2 - as to whether or not this thing is an iPhone or an Apple TV.... but for my money, it's going to be more like their Macbook line: popular among the cool kids (and so a money and PR generator for Apple), but too expensive for the mainstream to be considered "a hit."
- T-Mobile Moves to the Second Place Spot Behind Verizon
Every year I shoot from the hip (and often hit my own foot in the process - thanks Yahoo!) on at least one prediction, and this one is it. Dissatisfaction over AT&T's service and arrogance has reached an all-time high, Verizon's attack ads on the lackluster AT&T service are having a measurable impact, analysts have come out and said that they need to spend $5B just to reach par with their competition, and de la Vega has lost his fraking mind by putting the "blame" for the networks woes on the cutting edge early adopters of AT&T technology. (The 10-point powerpoint slide presentation the charmless de la Vega gave as a "keynote" at CTIA back in October was mind-numbing in both its blindness to its future and in its stumping for why we need to charge for tiering.)
What does all this have to do with T-Mobile? Well, while de la Vega is out there blaming all of you iPhone users for breaking his network, T-Mobile has quietly built out the most stable 3G network outside of Verizon in less than 2 years, and is currently retrofitting its brand new infrastructure to support 4G (via LTE) and HSPA+. Combined with the continued rollout of Android handsets, better marketing, GSM reliance, and a still failing Sprint, it won't take long before frustrated subscribers jump ship.
- eBooks Open Up
With the floodgates of eBook opened up (you should have seen the eBook section at CES 2010...companies I never heard of had some form of eBook reader), and the impending semi-thud of the Apple table showing up, eBook OEMs are going to have to stop their divvying up of content providers and open the doors to all comers.
Steps have started in this direction late last year: Although they provided support for the open EPUB format in 2008, Sony changed its primary distribution format from its proprietary Sony DRM format to exclusively use EPUB. This means that books I purchase on Sony's eReader store can now be used on any eBook that supports EPUB. Similarly, Amazon recently announced that it was cutting new deals with publishers, and allowing 3rd party developers to develop "apps" for the Kindle. (What a weird, lame, step sideways.)
All of this will culminate this year with the Kindle, Sony eReaders, Nook and other entrants to focus on selling hardware on its own merits, rather than locking readers into certain hardware based off of which book or periodical you want to buy.
Apple, of course, will continue to do its own thing and lock you into their ecosystem...and you'll just continue to buy into it, won't'ya? Sheesh.
- 3D Television Makes a Frightening Sound When It Expodes on Impact, Scares the Children
I just bitched about this in my CES 2010 review, but Jesus Christmas...seriously Sony / LG / Pioneer / Toshiba / DirectTV / etc? No one wants this. No one.
Sure, we all loved Avatar. I loved Avatar. The new TRON is going to be awe inspiring in 3D. It really will. But, good God, man...we all just spent a crapload of money on flatscreens in 2008, and you just convinced us to buy Lawrence of Arabia again on Blu-Ray. Do you think we're all gonna throw those out to buy $3000 3D monitors and new content in 2010 so we can, do what, watch the occasional effects movie or sporting event while wearing dork-vision spectacles? Do you seriously expect us to put those freakin' things on to watch Jay rape Conan?
I only hope that the amount of money you have put into R&D and rushing these things to production, as well as the money you are about to spend on marketing, doesn't lead us all into another recession as your rocket flames out at high altitude and slams into the pavement below at supersonic speeds.
Jeez, call me when you can do this 3D crap without the glasses, please. I'll be about ready to replace my flatscreen by then.
- The New Cold War Begins
Google and Hillary Clinton on the same side of the fence. Oh, what wonders have we wrought?
Unless you have been living under a rock, or really absorbed in NBC late night politics, by now you've heard that...uh, China has allegedly been trying to hack gmail to get email from potential dissidents. This prompted a response from Google (ok, it was self-serving for a number of reasons, but still...a response) as well as the US state department. For it's response to all of this, spokespeople at the Chinese Foreign Ministry have issued a "bite me" statement, claiming that China has an "open internet" and the US should mind its own business if it doesn't want to harm Sino-American relations.
Part of the benefit of being 900 years old, is that I do have a bit o' a memory the last time this sort of talk was bandied about - all that's missing at this point is someone banging their shoe on a podium claiming that they will bury us.
China is huge, and becoming an economic superpower in a world where information can no longer be tightly controlled by nation-states. The United States is an economic superpower recovering from a huge blow to its populace and ego. The stage is set for a showdown that has happened before, and the results are often not pretty - patriotism takes a back seat to xenophobia, the good of the people takes a backseat to national principles. Global economic recovery in 2010 could be hurt by an internet-fueled cold war redux.
By the way, Ms Clinton? China? My gmail password is "WishIHadAProperGavel2." Just trying to save everybody some time.
- Porn Goes the Way of Do-Do-Dildo
Jeez, I had lot I could have gone with for the header.
"Porn No Longer Thrusts Hard into Consumers"
"Porn Runs Out of Viagra, Millions Disappointed"
Alright, alright...I'll get to the point. CES shares its venue each year with the Adult Entertainment Expo. While not as large or throbbing (alright, alright...I'll stop) as CES, the AVN is an important event in the porn industry. Like every other industry, they spend a few days doling out awards, patting themselves on their backs, and discussing new tech and film potentials. The event is seriously hyped, and traditionally takes up a few floors of the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.
While attendance was up over last year by 10%, mostly due to the low $10 admission price to get walk ins, the size of the venue was significantly reduced, taking up only a quarter of its space last year. In an excellent piece in the Daily Beast, Richard Abowitz discusses "Top 5 Reasons Porn-for-Profit is Dying." Among his arguments is, of course, file sharing - but more interestingly he holds the confluence of two interesting issues higher than piracy (or at least equal to piracy) for the rapid demise:
1) It's no longer taboo. The internet has demystified porn, and made it "acceptable" to a certain extent. (Parents, close your eyes for the next part.) It's no longer considered a big deal if your girlfriend lets it all hang out online, sometimes its even a matter of pride. (Oh sure, you'll never get a white collar job again, but why quibble?) The end result is the same effect you are seeing in online media vs traditional media: there's more free content out there, so why pay?
2) World of Warcraft. OK, not World of Warcraft specifically, but online gaming. Let's face it, the vast majority of porn-obsessed fans are the adolescent-to-20-something crowd who have a limited amount of time and money. It would appear that the discretionary dollars that used to go to "Nurse Nancy's Bedtime Videos" (I made that up, I swear!) now get converted to Linden Dollars to buy a virtual pair of jeans. It turns out when competing for dollars and time, porn loses.
Online pay-for porn killed the back-alley porn shops, and this new combination of pressures looks like it is doing the same to online pay-for-porn. Still a financial powerhouse, porn is no longer the 800-pound gorilla it once once. Rocket prediction: by Q4 of this year, online pay-for-porn will realize less than 25% of its 2007 numbers.
What will Ron Jeremy do now? Become a Starbucks Barista? (All together now: ewwww!)
- Pressure is on IPv6 to Not Screw Up
A lot of natural resources are scarce these days: clean water, oil and gas, IP addresses.
Quick recap: the IPv4 protocol is the system of 4, 3-digit numbers that most of you see when you are setting up a new computer or internet device (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx), but is the primary "phone number" system used over the internet for moving traffic from place to place. IPv4 was developed in the late 70's and put into place in January of 1980, replacing its aging predecessor. Like all technology from that era, it was planned with remarkable shortsightedness, and lack of imagination for the future.
OK, that's a little cruel - IPv4 is based on a 32-bit addressing scheme, anything more back then would have been expensive to implement. Still, I maintain it was a failure of imagination to not conceive of a future where every lightswitch and RFID tag would have its own internet address.
Well, like the old MS-DOS 640K memory limit, time's up kids. IPv4 can hold only about 18M private addresses (or about 270M multicast addresses), and it doesn't take a research analyst to imagine that the world is dangerously close to that many internet addressable devices. Not everyone can just use these addresses, there is an agency in existence, the NRO (Number Resource Organization) that doles these things out, but according to their most recent accounting this month, there's less then 10% addressable space left...which is annoying since just a few months prior, they were saying we had 18% of the addressable space left. Why? Uh, the geek equivalent of an accounting error.
Fortunately, there is a savior. IPv6 is the next iteration of the IP addressing standard, and the addition of those two extra triple-octal numbers allows for 64-bit addressing, as opposed to 32-bit addressing. This effectively gives IPv6 enough room for 3.4×1038 (340 trillion trillion trillion) unique addresses. Yay! We're saved.
Sort of. IPv6 has been around for a few years: the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, for instance, were a notable event in terms of IPv6 deployment, being the first time a major world event has had a presence on the IPv6 Internet at http://ipv6.beijing2008.cn/en (IP addresses 2001:252:0:1::2008:6 and 2001:252:0:1::2008:8) and all network operations of the Games were conducted using IPv6. As cool as that was, OS's have been slow to adopt, and when they have it's not been pretty. Vista, Windows7 and recent OSx incantations have included IPv6 in their protocol stacks, but have added them in a ham-handed way, often causing collisions between in-use IPv4 protocols and the newer IPv6 protocols.
Nothing like a little pressure to help clear the mind, and running out of IP addresses might be just what the doctor ordered. Rocket prediction: 40% of traffic carried via IPv6 addresses by end of 2010.
Yeah. I think I'll lose this one too.
- Bye-bye Hulu
At least in its current viewership numbers. I take no great pride in this prediction, but I do think that Hulu will be seriously crippled by year's end, if not completely shuttered.
With the purchasing of NBC by Comcast, Hulu's future is in serious doubt. NBC is a major stakeholder in the internet streaming service, and Comcast has just rolled out Fancast as its own streaming solution for its customer base. You do the corporate math.
And while you're cypherin', Jethro, factor in the dozens of other papercuts that Hulu has been dealt recently: content providers pressuring them to shut off alternative access channels, like Boxee; worse than expected ad revenue causing it to consider charging; and restricting content to less than a seasons worth for many of the shows that it carries.
Again, it doesn't fill me with joy to make this prediction, but I hope Hulu didn't spend all of its dollars on Superbowl ads and Seth McFarland.
- FCC Not Withstanding, Tiered Pricing Internet and Mobile is Coming.
In January the DC district court posed to blow the legs out from underneath the FCC, by stating that the Comcast/Bittorrent throttling argument was a compelling argument to keep the FCC's hands out of internet regulation. (See, if I had written this in December, like I was supposed to, I would have come to a different conclusion. Yeah yeah...I know.)
Oddly, rather than doing handstands, Comcast's response to this was to back away slowly while muttering...uh, hahaha...uh...that's not exactly what we meant. Herold Feld has a good analysis of this on PublicKnowledge.org where he claims that the reason for Comcast's reaction is that ISP essentially do not want the FCC pulled from the debate because they need an adult in the room. If the FCC is removed from the conversation, then when a crisis occurs the blame and responsibility fall on the ISPs, not the federal government.
Suffice it to say, the story is far from over - but it will culminate in a tiered pricing structure from at least one of the major ISP (land or mobile) by end of 2010. Let's hope it doesn't wind up being a disaster - a tiered structure is fine, actually, if implemented correctly. If not, however, it could mean the difference between the promise of the internet and the greed of big business.
- Good Out of Horrible: Technology Breaks the Logjam of Giving
The recent natural disasters in Haiti were horrible. People's futures and lives will never be the same - and the outpouring of understanding, solidarity and support from the rest of the world (except for that jag-off Pat Robertson) has been heartening and awe-inspiring.
Now, we've seen this story played out before: natural disasters and human atrocities claiming the attention and sympathy of the world. Yet, while people are concerned and give support, few take action. The reasons for this are entirely human. When tragedy strikes someone you don't know half a world away, there is a disconnect between the empathy and a call to action. Those who do should be praised, but all too often, most of us do not. Finding your credit card and a number to call to send relief funds to take time, and that time often jars your mind out of the empathy you are feeling. If we are honest with ourselves, we've all experienced this.
This time, however, there was a different component added: this time, the International Red Cross set up an SMS toll road for its international response fund. By texting “HAITI” to 90999 from your cell phone, $10 is donated to the relief effort and added to your cell phone bill. In today's cell obsessed environment, it was a no brainer. The message was distributed by the Red Cross via Twitter and Facebook, and response was immediate. By January 19th, this SMS campaign has raised $22m, or a full 1/5th of the relief dollars generated by the Red Cross for Haiti.
This was a watershed moment - prior to this, the Red Cross' highest bar for technology-based giving schemes was $400,000. (In other words, an increase of 55 times.) Social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the ubiquity of cell phones, the willingness and generosity of ordinary citizens, and the ease of the methodology have all converged at the right point in time to create a new way of giving that decades of tax breaks, philanthropy, and doe-eyed children pimped by last years actors on late night television have been unable to accomplish.
Over the next year, the Red Cross, UNICEF, and other organizations will begin to combine their databases and cross promote, using cell phone technologies and social networking to redistribute the wealth properly to areas of the world that could use it.
And it bears repeating: By texting “HAITI” to 90999 from your cell phone, $10 is donated to the relief effort and added to your cell phone bill.