Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unexpected tech trends and predictions for 2009

Unexpected tech trends and predictions for 2009
Christopher Null: The Working Guy
Sun Dec 14, 2008

People will buy iPhones. Intel will introduce more powerful microchips. Video games will continue to be popular.

Predicting what will happen in the tech world in 2009 isn't all that tough: The big trends are plain as day, and it doesn't take a psychic to forecast some of the more mundane happenings.

But what about some of the less obvious developments that tech 2009 will bring? I put on my Carnac hat this weekend with the hopes of offering some insight into the unexpected, less hype-fueled, and more obscure happenings we're likely to see in the year ahead, technology-wise. Weigh in in the comments section to let me know if you agree or disagree!

GPS Everywhere - With the exception of super-cheap gear, GPS is going to explode in 2009. Cell phones won't just incorporate GPS nearly universally, you'll see GPS move into more and more other gadgets, including cameras and even hybrid MP3 player and other devices. And applications that make use of GPS technology -- as we're seeing the start of with the iPhone and Android -- are going to grow rapidly. But fundamentally, people will ask in droves: Why buy a standalone GPS unit when your phone does the job just as well?

Blu-ray Ascending - It pains me to predict this, but I believe Blu-ray is going to grow in popularity and market share vs. DVD. Why? Manufacturers are likely to aggressively cut prices on hardware and discs, which is about the only thing that will get consumers to buy this stuff. They have to: Otherwise Blu-ray risks fading away altogether. That said, the overall market for packaged media will likely shrink in '09, with DVD taking the bulk of the hit.

Video on the Go - Watching TV on your cell phone has been huge in Asia for years. Now it's time for mobile video to really make its mark in the U.S., as broadcasters are becoming down-right desperate for new markets to tap into.

It's All About Windows 7 - Windows Vista is functionally dead already. No one will willingly upgrade to Vista now that Windows 7 is just a year away. And when it finally arrives (some predict December 2009 for a release date... but that's speculation), expect a flood of software to be Win7-ready at launch, unlike the pathetic trickle that accompanied Vista. PC manufacturers are down-right drooling for this release to lift them out of their current, Vista-driven agony.

Green Tech Hits the Mainstream - There's a ton of "green" hardware on the market these days -- from bamboo hard drives to solar gadget chargers -- but 2009 should see a substantial focus on environmentalism across the mainstream industry, from decreasing reliance on heavy metals and hazardous chemicals to broader recycling programs.

4G Remains a Niche at Best - WiMax hasn't made much of an impact to date, and it's unlikely that will change in 2009: It's just not fast enough nor does it have a large enough footprint to merit switching carriers and/or investing in new hardware. I can't imagine the major WiMax backer, the troubled Sprint, will find funds to invest in the massive amount of infrastructure it will take to get 4G going in earnest, at least not in '09. Competing technologies have an even grimmer outlook and are certain to be no-shows until 2010 or later.

Android Becomes Competitive - The first "Google phone" was met with an emphatic and resounding sigh, but the beauty of the Android OS is that innovation keeps rolling along quite handily. I expect to see some great strides in the software and the hardware that runs it (the homely T-Mobile G1 isn't making many fans) such that by the end of 2009, Android could actually be competitive with the iPhone.

Discounts Get Silly - Black Friday wasn't the end of absurd deals on tech. I'm predicting hefty price cuts throughout the tech industry to be sustained -- or deepened -- as the year wears on and manufacturers and retailers alike attempt to jump-start their business in the hopes of getting an economic recovery started.

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