By Michael Rau
January 6, 2009
So, what would the new year be without a few cheap predictions?
The thing that makes tech predictions fun is that the very nature of technology means you'll probably be wrong, so it means columnists like me have a chance to stretch a little bit with a certain amount of impunity.
With that in mind, away we go!
Let's start with Apple. After all, what other company more consistently defies prediction?
Yes, Virginia – the $99 iPhone is coming. A pre-print catalog page from an offshore producer of iPod and iPhone cases was recently leaked online showing a silicone case for the new device. While not a slam dunk, this is usually a good indicator of a pending product release.
Based on the picture, the device looks like it will be virtually identical to the existing iPhone, but perhaps ¾ of the size. What accounts for the $100 price difference, I can't tell you, but a good bet would be the smaller size and less static memory (maybe 1 GB?).
Also, many predict that Apple's exclusivity agreement with AT&T will end, and the iPhone will be offered by other carriers.
Next, it looks like Apple plans to produce an iPod Touch with a much larger screen – perhaps 7 or 9 inches diagonally – that will serve as the basis of a so-called “netbook”.
Remember that the iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without cell service. It does, however, have wi-fi. Fire up the Safari browser or Mail, and you'll be off and running. Plus, the Touch can run any of the apps offered through the iPhone App Store, thus expanding it's usability exponentially.
Next, I think Macs are going to make some major inroads into enterprise this year. From what I've read, even some of the most Microsoft-loyal IT managers are getting sick of the amount of time they have to spend dealing with Windows instabilities and security holes.
Now, with the economy tanking and budgets drying up, reliability, security, and maintenance costs are more important than ever. Running Macs in enterprise environments is cheaper; a lot cheaper.
Finally, the eternally underappreciated Mac Mini will emerge from the shadows of it's bigger brothers as it gains a major upgrade with more power and capacity.
The 25th Annual Macworld Conference starts Tuesday and we'll get an early sense of the accuracy of these predictions then, so now lets look towards Redmond, WA and the boys at Microsoft.
Windows 7, the much anticipated successor to Vista, will likely be released in the last quarter of 2009. This should be great news for users stuck with running Windows. Vista turned out to be a huge flop. In fact, fewer than 1 in 5 enterprise users adopted Vista.
The reason for this is obvious: As they've always done, Microsoft engineered Vista with absolutely no appreciation for simplicity. The OS is massive and clunky, requiring huge amounts of memory. And while the interface is quite attractive, the system in many ways operates worse that its predecessor, XP Pro.
Microsoft promises Windows 7 will be simpler, requiring fewer resources, and will enhance security. Of course, we've heard all that before, but I'm going to keep an open mind (as well as crossing my fingers).
The other major change at Microsoft will be in terms of long-term strategy.
Microsoft intends to move away from being a supplier of software to being a provider of online services. Many companies, most notably Google, are trending this way.
Here's an example of how this would work:
Instead of a company going out and buying X number of licenses for MS Office, they would instead subscribe to a service through Microsoft where the software is actually on MS servers and all the work you'd do in Office is accomplished using a Web-based interface. The company would pay a subscription fee based on the actual number of users.
Microsoft sees this as a more profitable future, and they're probably right. Online applications are becoming quite powerful and sophisticated, and don't require manufacturing, distribution, or retail marketing.
And speaking of Google, I just want to mention one thing: Android.
The Internet giant's recently introduced platform for mobile devices made some huge inroads with its first appliance, the G1 phone. This particular device, while not terribly exciting itself, should be the precursor to the introduction of more innovative and powerful devices running the Android platform over the course of this coming year.
As I stated in an earlier column, Android could become the most powerful mobile platform available if, and it's a big if, Google provides developers the latitude to create third-party applications for the platform without the restrictions imposed by Apple on iPhone app development.
There's one more thing worth contemplating as 2009 begins:
We'll soon have a new president who by all accounts is a bit of a geek (and a Mac user). But what I really find striking is that Barack Obama will be the first president to actually have a computer at his work desk.
What do you suppose that indicates for the coming year?
Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.
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