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2007 Predictions

This year marks the 10th anniversary edition of the TNL.net predictions for the year ahead. In past years, I’ve been batting above 50 percent in terms of predictions, except when it comes to naming what will happen with specific companies. The trends are generally correct (or in some case, early) and I always look at this game as a tough challenge. So, without further ado, here is my list of predictions for 2007:

Mobile

Last year, I declared that video would be big in the Internet space and this year, I believe that mobile will be a major focus.

The devices

While mobile devices will continue to grow on the existing curve, adding more processing power and more memory, they will also add a number of features with are significantly different from the ones we’ve been accustomed to see on a mobile phone. Cameras will increasingly become just a tick on the feature list and location-aware devices will become more prevalent (they will sport a GPS chip).

The new features will come in 3 key areas: first, more mobile devices will be able to multi-task, allowing users to use functions on their phone while making a call at the same time. The multi-tasking will extend to wireless services too and people will be able to surf the web or use internet-based application at the same time as they are making a phone call. A key hardware change in those mobile devices will be an increase in the number of phones (and other mobile device) that not only have a GSM or CDMA chip but also sport a WiFi receiver. This will allow the devices to run across a variety of networks. I suspect (and am probably going out on a limb here as my guess is that this would be early) that some of the devices will conform to the 802.11n WiFi standard, and will use that technology as a bridge to 3G because 3G deployment in the United States will be slow.

The second big hardware innovation in mobile devices will be the presence of RFID readers and chips that will allow users to use them for person-to-person or person-to-business commerce, turning mobile devices into electronic wallets. Deployments in Near Field Communications for credit cards have already started to happen on a trial basis in cities like New York.

The third big hardware innovation in mobile devices, in my mind, will come from the fact that some devices will be DNLA certified, allowing them to exchange, photos, music and videos with other devices in your house.

The services

This year, the rise of mobile services will be powered by a sharp drop in the price of data service offerings from mobile operators, with some operators offering flat-rate all-you-can-ear services to their customers.

In the content arena, the most popular type of service will be near-CD-quality audio downloads. There may be some offerings in the streaming audio market but I suspect that those will be very limited. The second most popular content service, in the mobile space, will be mobile video, with TV and user-created content (mobile YouTube and competitors) filling that gap. Those services will be advertising supported, with revenue sharing agreement between the mobile operators and the content providers.

Map services will also enjoy some level of success. The recent introduction of Google Maps on the Treo platform can be seen as an example of that trend and location-aware device will offer richer experiences in that space, with live traffic info, weather, and maybe some advertising being part of the offerings.

However, content will not take the forefront on mobile services, which will still be dominated by communication as the primary type of application. In that space, though, regular phone service will not be the predominant form of communication. SMS and MMS will be integrated with instant messaging platforms and email, to provide a complete communication package. Expect features like the ability to send text messages to multiple parties at once to start appearing, allowing for chat-like interfaces on phones.

As a result of those changes, social networks will also start integrating mobile applications more closely this year. MySpace and other networks like it will offer integrated solutions for mobile blogging, podcasting, and vlogging, as well as integrated chat and location aware social networking services. Dating services will be another arena to go mobile with the ability to identify matches within your general area.

Wrapping up the offerings will also be limited trials in the videophone space, leveraging off new next generation 3G infrastructures. The videophone trials (and 3G in general) will still be limited offerings by the end of the year, due to the high premium charged for such services.

On the voice end, the introduction of WiFi on some mobile devices will give rise to VoIP mobile applications. If the devices sport 802.11n receivers and such infrastructure is deployed, services around that space could eclipse traditional voice traffic.

Apple

Due to the added power mobile phones now have, the iPod is threatened. Apple makes a defensive move by unveiling the Apple ecosystem, centered around use of media in general and of the Apple iTunes store in particular. With the introduction of its own offering in the mobile space (an iPod with phone functionality and not a phone with iPod functionality) and in the living room (the already pre-announced iTV components), Apple presents a strategy that allows for simple integration of all their components into a digital lifestyle offering.

In the non-media space, Apple bundles blogs and wikis with the new version of OSX and starts offering Web 2.0-like functionality on its Xserve servers, in a bid to get a spot in enterprise racks. They will also merge in social networking features in their calendaring and address book applications, allowing for a more integrated experience.

In another bid for enterprise positioning, Apple will include virtualization of other Operating Systems natively in the next version of OSX, allowing their computers to run Windows and OSX applications side by side under OSX. The feature will take some of the existing Apple bootcamp attributes and turns them into an equivalent of Parallels.

In a surprise move, Apple will also announce that it has signed a partnership with Google, which will offer the Google Apps for your domain as a replacement for the .mac service offered by Apple. The service will now be available either as a free ad-supported service, or on the same premium service offering as before without ads.

On the hardware end, Apple will endorse 802.11n as their standard for media distribution, equipping all new computers and the iTV device with receiver cards so it can leverage off the higher speeds offered by that standard. Because of its long-standing relationship with Sony, the company will also decide to side with BlueRay as their standard for next-generation disks, equipping their new laptops with drives following that standard.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s oft-delayed Windows Vista will finally be released but adoption of the new operating system will be lackluster as few of today’s computers can support it. The same will be true of the release of Microsoft Office 2007, as most users feel perfectly OK with the version of those products they have running on their desktops.

With the major release of updates to the Windows and Office platforms behind it, the company will focus efforts in other areas. In the console market, Xbox 360 will become the dominant game platform, due to slow adoption of the PS3 platform. Microsoft will innovate heavily on that platform, leveraging its positioning in the living room to offer more movies, more TV shows and other types of services around it. Meanwhile, the company will also work on a major revision of their Zune offering, offering a new version of the iPod competitors that will be better received than its predecessor. However, Zune 2.0 will not make a major dent into the iPod market. On the web end, Microsoft will consider the acquisition of either Yahoo! or AOL as a way to shore up its MSN offering and adopt a more aggressive stance in its fight for online advertising revenue.

Virtual Currencies

There will be more talk about the digitization of money this year. Microsoft will use its Microsoft points as a new form of currency that can be used not only on the Zune marketplace and the Xbox live marketplace but also as a way to pay for goods and services online with approved merchants. This will be followed by support for a payment solution (like Google Payment or Paypal) in a stake to get a stronger foothold in that space.

Google will continue pushing its Google Payment engine, moving it to an international base before year end. Meanwhile Paypal will continue expanding its lead in the space and will start offering virtual credit card numbers that will be usable on any system and tie back to Paypal on the back-end.

But the big stories in the virtual currency space will be around the rise of virtual worlds like SecondLife and others, which will see their own virtual currencies rise against the dollar. Their will be discussion about the power those virtual worlds operators have over money flows and calls for regulations of those currencies (and possible taxation of revenue made in those virtual worlds) in several countries around the world.

Virtual Worlds

Speaking of virtual worlds, there will be a continuing explosion in the growth of this phenomenon. By year end, SecondLife alone will have over 15 millions residents, but will be experience growth pains. At least one other major virtual world operators will appear in the space but most corporations will rush to SecondLife.

The initial hype that started appearing in the mainstream press about SecondLife will give way to a number of negative stories, probably talking about some of the darker aspects of the virtual world phenomenons, including gold farming, the sex trade, and gambling. Some politician will use the negative press as a way to grab headline by calling for a government inquiry in the dealings of virtual worlds operators.

While I declared 2007 the year of mobile, virtual worlds will come of close second in terms of highlights for the year. I suspect that LindenLab will surprise people by announcing that it will open up its platform and present the underlying components as a new standard for the web. The company will then start offering their grid software as a standalone application that corporations can install on their own servers if they want more control. LindenLab will also allow companies to use customized version of their thick client that could be branded with company destinations and other goodies.

Due to LindenLab’s strength in the space, many companies will consider acquiring it but many will be turned off by all the negative press and potential for government involvement.

Media

Mainstream media will continue trying to co-opt successful bloggers and will also turn its attention to successful podcasters and vloggers. New stars will emerge online, develop followings there and make the jump to mainstream media, while the reverse path will be taken by mainstream reporters and actors, who will increasingly start vlogging and podcasting (they’re already blogging).

Pressured by lower viewership in their traditional timeslots, TV stations will start posting more content online, with at least one TV station offering all its primetime slate online in and advertising supported fashion. Smaller video distributors, in the meantime, will start investigating using bittorrent for distribution of their content. Some old TV show will see its archive fully posted online and will start receiving a new stream of revenue as a result of that online appearance.

Meanwhile, ad revenue will continue to shift to web, and media will reluctantly follow. By year end, most newspapers will have combined their print and online newsrooms, and many will be cutting back on print to focus more on their online presence. As part of this shift to online, we will also see increased reliance on user generated content, with some newspapers offering blogs to their readers and encouraging active participation in making the news.

However, most of those efforts will not generate the expected returns as Google gobbles up increasing share of overall internet ad revenue, and starts expanding to audio and video. Discussion in the traditional media will start shifting to whether Google is too powerful for everyone’s good.

Death of the website/webpage

Another important shift in the media space will be the death of the concept of traditional website or web page as a result of increasing consumption of content via RSS or through distribution of widgets that can be embedded in other people’s sites. People will move away from the term web site and start talking about web properties. Because content will not necessarily be consumed in the creator’s site, there will be discussions of a new for new advertising/revenue models for such content and a need for new metrics to identify reach and audience. This will present a new opportunity for companies in the web analytics space.

As the web page is no longer seen as the best way to measure the success of a web property, the CPM will be on its last gasp as a model for selling online advertising, replaced largely by cost per click (CPC) and increasingly by cost per action (CPA) as the way to sell ads online.

Web 2.0

There will be increasing verticalisation in the web 2.0 space, with social networks, search, and web service offerings becoming more focused this year. However, this will also mean that many companies that were only single features will not be able to adapt and will die. Others will continue to be acquired for sums in the under $100 million category and few, if any, will go public.

Tagging will become more and more implicit, with less and less users actually doing the tagging and more and more tags being generated algorithmically. More applications will start looking at people’s behavior and creating the appropriate tags or making the appropriate modifications in the background.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for web 2.0 as Enterprise 2.0 becomes a reality. Use of blogs, wikis and VoIP behind the firewall commonplace at most large corporations and other technologies introduced as part of web 2.0 (AJAX, podcasting, etc…) will become more common in Global 100 corporations.

And speaking of the enterprise space, enterprise search will be huge, with Fast and/or Autonomy being acquired by Oracle, HP, or Microsoft. More focused will be paid on creating strong search solutions for the unstructured data on intranets and IBM will be a major player in the space.

Conclusion

At year end, many of those predictions will be wrong but a few will be correct. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep everyone up to date and hopefully will keep providing great content throughout the rest of the year.

I think 2007 will be another banner year and believe that we are looking at another existing set of new developments. Feel free to comment below and tell me what you think I may have missed (or point me to other prognostications, as I haven’t had time to get to my aggregator since Christmas).

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