Someone sent me a note about a post I wrote on the 4th Kingdom boards in 2005 (August 3, 2005, to be more precise). It was in a response to a thread about technology and consumer electronics trends, and the original poster gave two examples that were exploding at the times: “camera phones and iPods.” This is what I wrote in response:
Heh, I think the next big thing will be the iPod camera phone. Or, on a more general level, mp3 player phones. There are already some nifty looking mp3 phones, most notably the Sony/Ericsson “Walkman” branded phones (most of which are not available here just yet). Current models are all based on flash memory, but it can’t be long before someone releases something with a small hard drive (a la the iPod). I suspect that, in about a year, I’ll be able to hit 3 birds with one stone and buy a new cell phone with an mp3 player and digital camera.
As for other trends, as you mention, I think we’re goint to see a lot of hoopla about the next gen gaming consoles. The new Xbox comes out in time for Xmas this year and the new Playstation 3 hits early next year. The new playstation will probably have blue-ray DVD capability, which brings up another coming tech trend: the high capacity DVD war! It seems that Sony may actually be able to pull this one out (unlike Betamax), but I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
For an off-the-cuff informal response, I think I did pretty well. Of course, I still got a lot of the specifics wrong. For instance, I’m pretty clearly talking about the iPhone, though that would have to wait about 2 years before it became a reality. I also didn’t anticipate the expansion of flash memory to more usable sizes and prices. Though I was clearly talking about a convergence device, I didn’t really say anything about what we now call “apps”.
In terms of game consoles, I didn’t really say much. My first thought upon reading this post was that I had completely missed the boat on the Wii, however, it appears that the Wii’s new controller scheme wasn’t shown until September 2005 (about a month after my post). I did manage to predict a winner in the HD video war though, even if I framed the prediction as a “high capacity DVD war” and spelled blu-ray wrong.
I’m not generally good at making predictions about this sort of thing, but it’s nice to see when I do get things right. Of course, you could make the argument that I was just stating the obvious (which is basically what I did with my 2008 predictions). Then again, everything seems obvious in hindsight, so perhaps it is still a worthwhile exercise for me. If nothing else, it gets me to think in ways I’m not really used to… so here are a few predictions for the rest of this year:
- Microsoft will release Natal this year, and it will be a massive failure. There will be a lot of neat talk about it and speculation about the future, but the fact is that gesture based interfaces and voice controls aren’t especially great. I’ll bet everyone says they’d like to use the Minority Report interface… but once they get to use it, I doubt people would actually find it more useful than current input methods. If it does attain success though, it will be because of the novelty of that sort of interaction. As a gaming platform, I think it will be a near total bust. The only way Microsoft would get Natal into homes is to bundle it with the XBox 360 (without raising the price)
- Speaking of which, I think Sony’s Playstation Move platform will be mildly more successful than Natal, which is to say that it will also be a failure. I don’t see anything in their initial slate of games that makes me even want to try it out. All that being said, the PS3 will continue to gain ground against the Xbox 360, though not so much that it will overtake the other console.
- While I’m at it, I might as well go out on a limb and say that the Wii will clobber both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. As of right now, their year in games seems relatively tame, so I don’t see the Wii producing favorable year over year numbers (especially since I don’t think they’ll be able to replicate the success of New Super Mario Brothers Wii, which is selling obscenely well, even to this day). The one wildcard on the Wii right now is the Vitality Sensor. If Nintendo is able to put out the right software for that and if they’re able to market it well, it could be a massive, audience-shifting blue ocean win for them. Coming up with a good “relaxation” game and marketing it to the proper audience is one hell of a challenge though. On the other hand, if anyone can pull that off, it’s Nintendo.
- Sony will also release some sort of 3D gaming and movie functionality for the home. It will also be a failure. In general, I think attitudes towards 3D are declining. I think it will take a high profile failure to really temper Hollywood’s enthusiasm (and even then, the “3D bump” of sales seems to outweigh the risk in most cases). Nevertheless, I don’t think 3D is here to stay. The next major 3D revolution will be when it becomes possible to do it without glasses (which, at that point, might be a completely different technology like holograms or something).
- At first, I was going to predict that Hollywood would be seeing a dip in ticket sales, until I realized that Avatar was mostly a 2010 phenomenon, and that Alice in Wonderland has made about $1 billion worldwide already. Furthermore, this summer sees the release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which could reach similar heights (for reference, New Moon did $700 million worldwide) and the next Harry Potter is coming in November (for reference, the last Potter film did around $930 million). Altogether, the film world seems to be doing well… in terms of sales. I have to say that from my perspective, things are not looking especially well when it comes to quality. I’m not even as interested in seeing a lot of the movies released so far this year (an informal look at my past few years indicates that I’ve normally seen about twice as many movies as I have this year – though part of that is due to the move of the Philly film fest to October).
- I suppose I should also make some Apple predictions. The iPhone will continue to grow at a fast rate, though its growth will be tempered by Android phones. Right now, both of them are eviscerating the rest of the phone market. Once that is complete, we’ll be left with a few relatively equal players, and I think that will lead to good options for us consumers. The iPhone has been taken to task more and more for Apple’s control-freakism, but it’s interesting that Android’s open features are going to present more and more of a challenge to that as time goes on. Most recently, Google announced that the latest version of Android would feature the ability for your 3G/4G phone to act as a WiFi hotspot, which will most likely force Apple to do the same (apparently if you want to do this today, you have to jailbreak your iPhone). I don’t think this spells the end of the iPhone anytime soon, but it does mean that they have some legitimate competition (and that competition is already challenging Apple with its feature-set, which is promising).
- The iPad will continue to have modest success. Apple may be able to convert that to a huge success if they are able to bring down the price and iron out some of the software kinks (like multi-tasking, etc… something we already know is coming). The iPad has the potential to destroy the netbook market. Again, the biggest obstacle at this point is the price.
- The Republicans will win more seats in the 2010 elections than the Democrats. I haven’t looked close enough at the numbers to say whether or not they could take back either (or both) house of Congress, but they will gain ground. This is not a statement of political preference either way for me, and my reasons for making this prediction are less about ideology than simple voter disenfranchisement. People aren’t happy with the government and that will manifest as votes against the incumbents. It’s too far away from the 2012 elections to be sure, but I suspect Obama will hang on, if for no other reason than that he seems to be charismatic enough that people give him a pass on various mistakes or other bad news.
And I think that’s good enough for now. In other news, I have started a couple of posts that are significantly more substantial than what I’ve been posting lately. Unfortunately, they’re taking a while to produce, but at least there’s some interesting stuff in the works.