The Tech.pinions Predictions For 2012

by The Tech.pinions Team   |   December 22nd, 2011

It’s fun to make predictions. Luckily none of us are in the predictions business but it’s fun to analyze, speculate, and simply hope for interesting things to come prior to each new year. This year, rather than have each of our columnists write a number of predictions we decided to have each submit two. So below for your reading pleasure is our bold proclamations for the technology industry in 2012.

Peter Lewis

1) The existence of the Higgs Boson, also known as “the God particle,” finally will be confirmed in 2012 as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva ramps up to full power. Not to be confused with the Higgs Boston, which confers Mass. to Beantown – I’d love to take credit for that line, but The Onion beat me to it – the Higgs Boson is a theoretical subatomic particle whose existence would take humankind a step or two closer to understanding the very nature of matter, the mysteries of space and time, and the future of the universe, which could come in handy in case you’re trying to decide whether to buy or rent. This very tiny particle will be the biggest science story of the coming year. At the very least, it will justify the estimated $4.4 billion cost of one of the largest and most complex pieces of technology ever built, not counting Windows Vista.

2) This was the year of Big Data and Cloud Computing. Next year will be the year of trying to actually move Big Data through the Cloud at useful speeds. Scientists in 2012 will achieve a breakthrough in sustained data transfer speeds on wide-area networks, paving the way for government and academic transfer rates approaching 100 gigabits per second. Unfortunately, you’ll be very old, or perhaps even up in the clouds yourself, by the time such speeds are available to personal computer and mobile device users. In theory, you’ll be able to download the entire Library of Netflix in 14.4 seconds, but. In practice. Your movie. Will. Download. And download and. (Go get a cup of coffee.) Download. Like. This. On the bright side: I predict that the average broadband speed in the United States in 2012 will finally catch up to the average broadband speed in South Korea in 2002.

Tim Bajarin

1) Netbooks will make a comeback.
In 2011, netbooks fell out of favor with consumers as tablets became the hot mobile product. The education market is still interested, though. If vendors bring out netbooks that look more like Ultrabooks but are priced between $299 and $350, these types of products could strike a nerve with consumers again. Of course, they would have lower end processors, a shortage of memory, Android as the OS, and could even just ship with the Chrome Browser on it.
Although they may only be a small part of the PC shipment mix, I believe there is still real interest in a lightweight, very low-cost laptop. While Ultrabooks will fit the bill for those with more cash on hand, a fresh generation of netbooks could find new life at the very low-end of the laptop market.

2) Ultrabook-tablet combo devices will become a big hit.
Ultrabooks with detachable screens that turn into tablets could be the sleeper hit of 2012. Also known as hybrids, the early models of this concept used an illogical mixed operating systems; Windows when in PC mode and Android when in tablet mode. But by the year’s end, both Windows 8 for tablet and Windows 8 for laptops will be out and these hybrids will be completely compatible. I expect to see solid models of this type of hybrid by quarter four.

Patrick Moorhead

1) Smartphones and Tablets erode PCs even more than expected
Smartphones and tablets will disrupt consumer PC sales even more than anyone predicted. The “modularity effect” will start to engage where smartphones and tablets, when wirelessly connected to large displays and full-sized input devices, can replace a PC for basic usage models. That sefment of consumers will be willing to pay even more for their smartphones and even less

2) Auto check-in subsidized phone or service launched
The first phones with private “auto check-ins” for stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, malls, and gas stations will be launched in exchange for an additional $49-$99 subsidy. Competitive deals and loyalty benefits will be presented to the consumer based upon where they are checking in. The auto check-in will only automatically be shared with the company providing the subsidy and not be public, unless the consumer decides so. The phone will be marketed to middle-income, younger consumers who are willing to trade privacy and advertising for cash.

Steve Wildstrom

1) A major professional sports league will do a deal with Microsoft for over-the-top streaming of live games via Xbox. This will be a major step in breaking the iron triangle of content owners, networks, and cable/satellite distributors and will increase Microsoft’s lead over Apple and Google in streaming content.

2) The U.S. government will conclude its antitrust investigation of Google without bringing any charges. The EU, however, may take a harder line, so Google won’t be out of the woods.

Ben Bajarin

1) Google will sell the Motorola hardware division. When I wrote back in August about why Google should buy Motorola, I didn’t intend it to be a prediction. Even though a week later they actually did buy Motorola. For me it was more of a theoretical analysis of what I thought Google should do and what would be best long-term for Motorola. Given that the patents are what Google is claiming is most valuable to them, once the acquisition is complete and the active lawsuits are settled, Google can legally sell the hardware division and still keep the patents for future protection. If Google truly wants to maintain good relations with their customers, it behooves them to get rid of the Motorola hardware business.

Although, I wouldn’t sell this business until 2013 if I was Google. Just in case their current partners like HTC and Samsung for example begin to shift their loyalty to Windows Phone or even perhaps webOS. This would inevitably hurt their market share and could lead them to go the vertical route, which they would need to Motorola hardware division to do.

2) Google will launch a Chrome based tablet, probably called the Chromepad. It will be priced at $99 and only be used for browsing the web and web services through Google’s Chrome OS. It will be highly disruptive and usher in the era of low-priced, web and web app only connected tablets.

BONUS Far Out Prediction

I’d like to throw in a bonus wild prediction. I think it would be great and completely re-shape the broadcast and over-the-top TV landscape. Microsoft will buy DirecTV and integrate it with the XBOX 360 and all future US-based XBOX’s going forward.

From all of us at Tech.pinions, Happy Holiday and have a great New Year’s.

The Tech.pinions Team

Tech.pinions is dedicated to bringing you the most informed opinions on the technology industry.
  • jfutral

    Ben. You are one of my favourite writers in general and not just here at tech.Pinions. But ChromeOS is dead. It might have a chance as an ultrabook OS, but even that is a long shot. Google’s big push in tablets is Android. If they expend any resources for ChromeOS as something other than a hobby (ala Apple and AppleTV) they are diluting potential. It might have an impact as the browser of choice within Android, but that’s about it. Your article about ecosystems pretty well explains why ChromeOS is dead.

    Joe

    • benbajarin

      Thanks Joe, I really appreciate that.

      My thinking is that there is the world now and then there is the world in 5 or (maybe longer) years. I do believe that there is an opportunity for web only connected devices. This would will take quite some time to get to, which is why the ecosystem play is important right now and for the forceable future.

      The idea of a screen that is only based on the web, (no native installed apps) is something that I think will become a reality and become more of a foundation for computing when web or browser based software becomes more mainstream.

      Chrome OS is simply a browser based OS and to be honest I think it is more important to Google than Android in the long run. My prediction of a chomeOS tablet is simply to provide the foundation for a tablet that does not install apps but only browses the web and web apps. Think of it as a affordable web connected smart screen in every room. Since browsing the web is a heavy use case for tablet consumers this make sense in a more general sense. Google could be one that could subsidize this idea and get the cost to $99 for a tablet that just runs the Chrome browser, which is all Chrome OS is.

      I know this is a hotly contested debate but I do believe that sometime in the future the client server model becomes more prevalent. What is important is that the browser needs to access all the key hardware elements.

      I think the ecosystem still plays out but it evolves more around the browser and services ecosystem than native software.

      I am planning a more detailed analysis of this using the web app framework for a column in January.

      • jfutral

        I can see that as a possibility, although I hate the idea of a return to dumb terminals of days gone by. Should that be the likely outcome, though, Google would probably do better leveraging the Android brand and hide ChromeOS as the next iteration of Android rather than start from the ground up again. Google doesn’t do well creating new markets, just repackaging old ones (search, Android, Buzz, Google+, etc.).

        Although it could be an opportunity for a not yet existing company.

        Joe

        • benbajarin

          Yeah, it is an opportunity that is for sure. Maybe webOS gets leveraged as the web connected and web integrated OS / platform for people who want to go more web integration and lower cost?

          I don’t think all software will go web / browser only but much of what the mainstream consumer market does can probably suffice.

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