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Weekly Column

Always Certain, Sometimes Correct: Bob's Fearless Predictions for 2008

Status: [CLOSED] comments (137)
By Robert X. Cringely

A new year has arrived and with it another predictions column, possibly my last. As longtime readers know, the routine here is that I first review my predictions from a year ago and either revel in my brilliance (good luck, actually) or admit my failure (all failures are real, nothing is simulated and no special or computer effects are used). Then I get to go on and make 15 more predictions for what will happen in high tech during the coming 12 months. Let's get to it!

A year ago I predicted that Apple would release something I called "iTV," that actually turned out to be the Apple TV. That part was correct, but I also predicted a bunch of flat-panel MacTVs that didn't happen. So I get this either half right or half wrong but let's be tough and say I got it wrong. Ouch.

I said that Apple would settle with, taking a license to Burst's patents. This was correct, though not for the dollar amount I would have liked to see, but still correct.

I said Apple would drop Akamai in favor of a different edge-serving CDN (content delivery network) -- possibly Apple's own or one Apple-labeled but Google-owned. This was clearly wrong though I still see it coming, probably this year.

I said no one DRM technology would emerge as the winner and no Internet-only song would win a Grammy or even be recognized as existing. This was correct.

I said AMD and Intel would continue to beat the crap out of each other with customers gaining but wondering why there is no software that supports those new 8-way processors, as both compilers and third-party developers failed to keep up. Correctamundo.

I said Sony would solve its Blu-ray laser diode problem but suffer production difficulties with the Cell processor. This one is hard to call since Sony actually got out of the Cell processor business entirely, selling its production facilities to Toshiba. But since PS3s are not out of stock at my local Best Buy, I guess I got this one wrong.

I wrote that Microsoft would ship Windows Vista SP1 despite the fact that Vista structurally wasn't supposed to even require service packs. SP1 shipped, so I was right.

I wrote that Microsoft's Zune 2.0 would appear, wouldn't be brown, but people still wouldn't buy it in volume. I got that right.

Here is one I got wrong, though it came closer than a lot of people realize. I labeled 2007 as the year the net crashed in the USA, with video overwhelming the Internet as we all learned that the broadband ISPs have been selling us something they can't really deliver. We stumbled through, though, thanks to ISPs blocking ports, capping bandwidth, shaping traffic, and imposing local multicast while claiming they were doing none of these. Why the lie? Because we came closer to a breakdown than ISPs wanted to admit. Still, it didn't happen so I got this one wrong.

I wrote that we would see two kinds of large cap tech and media companies: those that destroy shareholder value quickly by acquiring companies (eBay buys Skype) and those that destroy shareholder value slowly by not acquiring them (Best Buy passes on both MySpace AND Facebook). This is vague enough that I'll claim it.

I said some company (possibly Yahoo or Google) would buy Feedburner. Google did for $100 million so I was right.

I wrote that there would be more venture money than good deals to spend it on and a decided lack of IPO activity -- both correct -- leading to malaise on Sand Hill Road.

I wrote that the tide would begin to change for outsourcing and offshoring because a new class of CEOs would say the old class of CEOs was filled with idiots. This was wishful thinking on my part. It will still come to pass but didn't happen in 2007 so I was wrong. Idiocy continues to reign.

Though there were 15 predictions listed last year only 13 were real predictions. One was rhetorical and another was just me being a smart-ass. Of the 13 actual predictions, I got eight correct for a dismal 61.5 percent score. I am ashamed.

But I'm not so ashamed that I won't still take my shot at predicting events for 2008. I hope some of these really surprise you. Like my mind, they are in no particular order.

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.

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?

3) Cisco will acquire Macrovision, though what they'll do with TV Guide I can't imagine.

4) Venture capitalists will become disillusioned with their investments in technology companies that make all their revenue from advertisements. It's not that these companies will fail, they just won't make enough profit to justify their insane valuations. Think Facebook.

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.

6) IBM will have several quarters of bad earnings, will try to sell Global Services to private equity firms who don't really want it, then end up financing the transaction itself to save Sam Palmisano's job.

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.

8) Not only will Bill Gates be retiring from Microsoft in 2008, CEO Steve Ballmer will, too. No word yet on his successor.

9) As part of its transition from a PC company to a consumer electronics and content company,

Apple will introduce -- and trumpet in a huge media show -- its replacement for the mouse. Really.

10) A 3G iPhone is coming. I know the CEO of AT&T already blurted this out, but I had it first so it goes on my list.

11) Apple will introduce a subnotebook/tablet computer/media player.

12) Along the same lines look for OS X to bifurcate clearly into two lines -- Mac OS X and plain OS X (for devices like the iPhone) with Apple licensing (non-Mac) OS X to a few companies, including Sony.

13) Here's one that will totally blow your mind: Apple will build into some Macs support for the Windows API, allowing Mac and Windows apps to run side by side with no need for virtualization software except to run Linux. This fits with Apple's surprising new role as a competitor to HP and Dell for the business workstation market. But what's REALLY surprising about this is it will all be with the permission of Microsoft, which will still get a license fee from Apple, though in this case it is for just licensing the API and promising not to keep any of the APIs secret. Therefore, could the logical successor to Windows Vista actually be OS X? Only if Apple licenses Mac OS X to other companies, which I don't see happening.

14) I still see Apple dumping Akamai for a Google-based content distribution network.

15) Season 2 of NerdTV will finally premiere.

What do you think will happen?

Comments from the Tribe

Status: [CLOSED] read all comments (137)

The sales of HDTV displays will fail to meet tipping points necessary to carry the mandated transition date to completion.

Broadcasters will exploit loopholes by retreating from terrestrial broadcasting to Internet streaming, satellite and cable, effectively marking the death knell of off-air television.

Joe Schuch | Jan 16, 2008 | 4:11PM

Interesting that Bob's prediction about IBM was just debunked with the earnings report tonight.

ibmr | Jan 17, 2008 | 11:29PM

NerdTV2.0 is the new Duke Nukem Forever.

I think there is more chances that we will see the Optimus OLED keyboard appear than season 2.
Oh wait, Optimus was a CES!

Robuka Kenderle | Jan 18, 2008 | 1:43AM