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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.