It’s that time of the year again. Slows news cycles, the Tiger Woods saga clogging the airwaves, and everyone is looking forward to starting off fresh for the new year. 2009 was an interesting year in technology. In the first half of the year, you rarely read about new companies getting funded, startups launching, and it almost appeared that the legs got taken from out of the startup technology space. It was a tough year for startups and small businesses.
Some of the positive highlights were the mainstream emergence (and acceptance) of Twitter and social media as a viable distribution platform for content. The Real-Time web replaced the Semantic Web as the new buzzword, and everyone wanted information quicker, faster, and more in depth. Newspapers continued to flounder, and blogs gained more credibility as reliable information sources that could break news as quickly as the big players.
In 2010, we have a great deal to look forward to. An improved economy, a (gasp!) viable health care plan, and maybe some new opportunities available for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Here’s my technology predictions for 2010.
1) Google Wave will continue to flop and will eventually fold
As someone that loves technology, especially web technology, it troubles me to say this, but Google Wave is useless. It is supposed to act as a replacement for e-mail, IM, and chat rooms all grouped into an ambitious interface. The problem is, it is beyond user unfriendly. For the people that I connect with on Wave, they are your typical early adopter techies. People that can figure out interfaces fairly quickly. Even they are clueless and rarely use it, opting for gchat instead. Google Wave, like all Google products, get tremendous free press (and expectations), because one day they are supposed to take over the world. Google Knol was supposed to be a Wikipedia-killer in 2009, and we see how far that went. I expect the same thing for Google Wave, and by the end of 2010, you will not be able to register new accounts.
2) Importance of real-time will soften. Real time search is overrated
Real-time search is a fun topic. It’s going to transform how we search for information, and the power of publishing content from anywhere with any device is transformative. How monetizable it is, will be another question. When Michael Jackson passed away, I learned it firstly on Twitter, but it was similar to how I would get a text message from a friend letting me know.
Twitter and Facebook enables me to connect with others that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to, with a velocity of information transfer augmenting word of mouth. There are going to be those that will do a google search and only want real-time results, but I suspect that it will be a minority. YouTube is a video search, but I haven’t read too many press releases that suggest the earnings from that are more than a scratch on Google’s quarterly earnings. I think with the notion of real time is great in theory, but how sustainable is it, when folks inevitably game the system?
How do you filter spam, and still make it real time? The PageRank system is bulletproof because it has several components to make gaming the system increasingly difficult. I suspect that it’s virtually impossible for a true Real-Time web. When the Real Time spammers come out, is the integrity of the search listings going to remain? An influx of spam would immediately turn me off.
3) Twitter won’t be nearly as big as predicted
Yeah, I said it. I’m a major Twitter user, but as a conversational platform, there’s nothing out there that’s better. As a source of information, there’s nothing out there that’s better. As a multi-billion dollar company? I don’t think so. Yes, there are a minority of folks that will pay for analytics and better tools, but how many have to pay for it, at what cost, to make it a billion dollar entity? With new (and active) Twitter users decreasing on a month over month basis, you wonder if that many folks who aren’t on Twitter will get on Twitter. I wrote before about how with Facebook innovating in response to Twitter, it has decreased the need for many who would have gone to Twitter, to go to Twitter. I also think there’s a clear distinction between a conversational platform and an information distribution platform. If you parse out what percentage falls in either category, you may find that Twitter is more a chat room (difficult to monetize) versus your real time news (monetizable).
4) Toyboy woozees will take off
Woozees, the programmable toys that have a wifi connection is simply a game changer. They have taken the concept of a regular toy, and created a development platform to make the toys more dynamic. Think Teddy Rupskin meets the iPhone. The opportunities are endless and if they can own the development platform standard, they will do quite well.
5) Facebook will continue its dominance
Facebook innovates like no other leading company. They have perfected the social graph, created a relatively open platform, and are growing like a weed, despite being in the lead. They overtook MySpace and even forced MySpace to position itself from a social networking site to a content provider. They acquired FriendFeed in 2009, and unless Twitter does something dramatic, Facebook will continue to be the king of the hill. Facebook and Twitter will soon add geotagging, which should swiftly threaten apps like Foursquare.
6) iPhone will be on non-AT&T carriers
I’m highly biased, by AT&T has given me the worst phone service that I have ever experienced. Those commercials that show the map of coverage comparing Verizon and AT&T are spot on. Apple has to be concerned because it reflects poorly on the iPhone since they are married to each other. Rumors are circulating that in the next year, the contract will end and Apple will be able to negotiate what provider(s) they want to go to. With the relative success of the Droid, Apple will probably look to increase their market share, and will go away from an exclusive contract. The iPhone will either have to be on T-Mobile or AT&T because the frequency (GSM) that the iPhone uses can only work for AT&T or T-Mobile networks while Verizon, Sprint use CDMA. They’d have to engineer a brand new CDMA iPhone for that. I’d still take T-Mobile any day over AT&T. AT&T is going to need more than Luke Wilson to save the day.
7) Smartphone adoption will start driving down data plan costs
Coupled with number 6, there are going to be a battle with smartphones, as the number sold continues to accelerate. If carriers don’t lower their costs, they are risking losing customers because someone inevitably is going to set a price war in the same way that a carrier first offered unlimited minute call plans. A phone in 2010 without Twitter, Facebook, and seamless surfing of the web is a thing of the past. I can’t really imagine using a phone that doesn’t have downloadable apps.
8 ) VC funding will continue to escalate
There was an uptick in VC funding of startups towards the middle to the end of this year. It stems from signs of a stabilizing economy but I think it has more to do with the fact that these funds are sitting on a boat load of cash and still need to put these funds to use. They have used the capital needed to stabilize their portfolio companies and are ready to do business once again. Next year, look for total capital invested by institutional funds to increase markedly over 2009.
9) The newspaper business model of charging for content and blocking Google would work, but none of these publications will ever try and see if it would work
It’s more of a gut feeling, but people are willing to pay for content if it’s high quality. When I open the Sun Times, I see too many Associated Press articles. Why would I pay for that? I want hyper local news that’s quality, and gives me a perspective that’s informed and worth paying for.
So what do you think of these predictions? Any predictions of your own?