One of the New Years traditions I have is to check out predictions for the next year from a man who I have affectionately dubbed "PBS-Cringe" (for an explanation of that name, see here)
For those who don't know me personally you should know that I avoid predictions like the plague. Not only do I think they are a waste of time but I think they're dangerous because they get people in the wrong mind set by framing the new year based on the perceptions of a person who may not know anything about what they are predicting.
Anyway, I make one exception for PBS-Cringe because he's had a lot of influence with the engineering types in the past and that gives him a certain level of unique insight.
This being the first year I've had a blog I wanted to take the opportunity to comment on a few of his predictions...
1) The personal computer will decline (or continue its decline) as our key IT platform, replaced slowly by Internet-centric devices of all kinds from phones to TVs to PDAs. Everything will BE a PC of course, but we won't call them that.
This is one of those things that should happen but more than likely won't.
The problem with alternate devices is that everyone has a different preference. So while everyone wants a more customized device they never seem to sell well because they never match the requirements of enough users (who all want something just a little bit different).
The PC form factor may stink but it is the form factor that everyone has grudgingly accepted and that is why they continue to get purchased even as all the other innovative computing devices fall by the way side. That said, Apple clearly has designs on this area and if anyone could make it happen I'd put my money on them.
2) This one is really for 2009 but I know we'll see the effects in 2008. The DTV conversion, where U.S. analog broadcast television stations are turned off in February 2009 and we all have to switch to digital TVs or to cable or satellite or buy those DTV converter boxes, well this whole conversion thing is going to be an absolute disaster. I don't expect technical problems at all, but the public won't understand it, the government will blow it, and at the last moment some politicians will even try to cancel it. But it's still only TV, right?
I'm not sure that predicting government incompetence is that hard but an easy prediction isn't necessarily an incorrect one. The only thing that makes me think this won't get pushed off to 2012 is the fact that its already been pushed off before (the original date was 2006 I believe). At this point they almost have to get this done for fear that it will never happen.
That said, while I think some people will have trouble with it I think anyone with an ounce of technical savvy will skate through this just fine. This is shaping up to be a lot more like the Y2K fears than any serious problem.
5) Here's a risky one. Google will bid billions and win the upcoming 700-MHz wireless spectrum auction, which is an auction for frequencies that are actually much more useful for a voice network than for a data network. Then Google will impose its open access rules on the frequencies before either TRADING them to Sprint or simply ACQUIRING Sprint to get that company's WiMax licenses, which are what Google really wanted all along.
This, to me, is a great insight and much more likely than the comical idea that Google would actually acquire Sprint for its cellular assets. I still don't think the Sprint part is going to happen but I do think Google is going to make a serious push for some kind of dominance in the mobile market.
That said, far more savvy companies have tried that in the past and failed. I'm not saying Google will fail I'm simply saying a lot of money and desire is not enough to secure victory on its own.
7) Microsoft will indefinitely extend the life of Windows XP, acknowledging the failure of Windows Vista, which will require another generation of hardware (and another $5 billion in R&D) to finally look good three years from now.
Yeah, this is almost a certainty at this point. I've honestly come to the point where I think Vista may take the crown from Windows ME as Windows' biggest disaster. I can honestly say I've never seen Vista work either fast or well on any PC and any corporate person who is thinking of installing it is to be looked on with suspicion. Even the consumers who usually eat up whatever is handed to them are starting to reject Vista. It's a catastrophe.
That said, Microsoft can take some comfort in the fact that people still aren't jumping to the Mac en masse. The problem with building a cult around your products is that it tends to repel people not wanting to be in a cult which is the only explanation I can think of for why consumers would opt for a PC with an OS from 2001 rather than a brand new Mac.