Not the first, not the last, technology predictions for 2010

December never fails to make me cringe. I know full well that journalists will be filling my inbox all month long with countless requests to guess what next year's hot technologies will be.

I can understand why they would. Trying to predict what comes next in tech has always been an important way for businesses and consumers alike to make the right decisions about what to buy -- and what to avoid -- in the months ahead. Like the groundhogs who have been doing something similar for generations, we all want to know what's coming so we can plan more effectively for the future.

Fine, fine...I'll do it

Being the good little soldier that I am, I'll do my best to give them folks the answers they need. Virtualization? Absolutely. Anything green? Without a doubt. Wireless? That's about as sure as shooting fish in a barrel. Then I'll put my crystal ball away for another year before pulling it out and replaying the process yet again, albeit with slightly updated predictions.

Carmi Levy: Wide Angle Zoom (200 px)No one ever bothers to...Okay, I take that back. No one except Joe Wilcox ever bothers to measure whether these predictions are on the mark. But I don't see small business owners prowling the aisles of the local big box store with these end-of-year or end-of-decade prediction articles in hand, zeroing in on the stuff the analysts thought would sell.

I realize I'm selling my profession somewhat short, but we're no more clairvoyant than the next guy. Indeed, clairvoyance isn't what being an analyst and making annual projections is all about. Because we spend all day, every day, studying this stuff, we certainly have lots of hard-earned insight. We can certainly speak to the forces that may be driving one particular technology faster than another. We also understand, innately, what all this could mean for the average person or organization using these new tools. But asking us to list them in precise order of priority, or predict where Company A's market share will be at this time next year is about as precise, productive, and effective as choosing the trifecta at a soon-to-be-shuttered racetrack.

Still, my curmudgeonly attitude aside, I realize nothing I do or say will stop the annual ritual. So since I can't beat 'em, I may as well join them. Here's how I see 2010 playing out:

  • Lots of wireless carriers will claim to have 4G or 4G-ready devices, networks and services. They'll all be lying. They might want to wait until the ITU actually ratifies one or more of the dozen or so proposals in front of it before laying claim to a technology that, as of today, doesn't officially exist.
  • Apple's App Store will more than double in size to over 200,000 apps. The actual number will matter less to the planet, and to the average user, than it does today. Its competitors will continue their futile efforts to stay in Apple's numbers orbit. They, too, will be wasting their time.
  • The term "netbook" will officially be banned in my presence. It's a really small notebook, people. Why it merits its own name when other machine sizes don't is beyond me. No one calls 17-plus-inch laptops "heavybooks", so they?
  • Palm's comeback stalls as developers stay away in droves and carriers move on to the Next Big New Thing. It simply lacks the resources to maintain a consistently full product pipeline, and will be a lovely acquisition target by this time next year.
  • Google's Android becomes The Next Big New Thing as consumers and businesses alike learn that platforms matter far more than devices. Platforms that advance the state of the mobile Web services art -- which Android will do in spades as developers improve their skills on it -- may even remain The Next Big New Thing well into 2011.
  • Microsoft's Windows Mobile 7.0 finally ships, but turns out to be too little, too late, and fails to stop the company's mobile slide. Since it hasn't yet converted its Danger acquisition into a strategic driver of future mobile growth, Microsoft will be actively looking for a new acquisition target next year to re-energize its mobile ambitions.
  • Apple finally kills its iPod Classic. The Shuffle isn't too far behind: Do we know anyone who owns one?
  • The iPhone won't grow a keyboard. Apple's single-form-factor strategy has worked nicely so far, so it sees no reason to mess with a good thing.
  • The mythical Tablet won't ship in 2010, but unseen forces at Apple's Cupertino campus will nevertheless continue to enjoy pulling the strings on the most masterfully conceived shadow marketing campaign ever.
  • Windows 7 will continue to do well in the market. Lots of folks will continue to whine about Vista. Not because there's any point, mind you. Just because.
  • Office 2010 will ship. The Office 2003 holdouts still complaining about Office 2007's radical new interface will continue to be the ones least likely to actually own legal copies.
  • Facebookers, Twitterers, and bloggers will continue to post frightening volumes of private information online, and will continue to scream bitterly when their boss (or mother, or spouse, or mistress) finds out about their so-called "private" postings. I predict the Internet in 2010 will be just as private (namely, not at all) as it was in 2009. And every year beforehand, too. The rest of us will continue to be entertained by folks who still don't get it.
  • Speaking of Facebook, it will introduce more changes to its interface as it zooms through half a billion users and becomes a UN-recognized nation. Users, who all pay nothing for the service, will howl to anyone who will listen that Mark Zuckerberg ruined their lives.
  • Google's relentless campaign to own every shred of data we've ever created, owned, or touched picks up steam thanks to legions of users who, in the rush to start using the latest doodad from Mountain View, still refuse to read the Terms of Use statement before clicking the "I Agree" button.
  • I will polish off my crystal ball around this time next year, because maybe this prognostication thing isn't so annoying after all. Just don't hold your breath waiting for any or all of these to come true. Sometimes, technology should just follow its own course.

Carmi Levy is a Canadian-based independent technology analyst and journalist still trying to live down his past life leading help desks and managing projects for large financial services organizations. He comments extensively in a wide range of media, and works closely with clients to help them leverage technology and social media tools and processes to drive their business.

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