The 2012 Crystal ball

With a new year kicking in, it’s time for a new batch of predictions.

Business

One of the easiest predictions to make is that Facebook will go public this year, and it will manage to do so in a very successful IPO. I suspect that this may actually be the high watermark for the current boom cycle as Facebook is the most successful of the companies that were born of the Web 2.0 cycle. In a fashion similar to what happened with the Netscape IPO in 1995, the Facebook IPO may create a small window of opportunity for many other companies to go public.

On the private end of the spectrum, I think we will see the following companies see some form of liquidity event via either acquisition or IPO: Twitter has a strong chance of being acquired by Apple, which will quickly merge the offering into all of its products; Another possibility is that Twitter and Tumblr merge to create a mico-blogging powerhouse spanning both ends of the country. Meanwhile, Foursquare will be acquired by Facebook or GroupOn in a share-only deal, because its revenue number will continue to be anemic when compared to its valuation. Facebook will go public but disappoint as the hype around the stock will reach fever-high in the lead up to the offering and fail to see a major bump afterwards.

When it comes to Google, we will see the company continue its integration of Google+ into everything it does, with the biggest impact being the move to migrate all Orkut users to the new service. This will create an outcry in countries like India and Brazil, where Orkut has been popular but will leave many in the American media to wonder what the big deal is as Us customers have mostly left already.

Meanwhile, a lot of the companies that went public in 2011 will meet some strong headwinds as the rigor of the public market make it much more difficult for them to maneuver. Expect some changes at GroupOn and Zynga, with many people questioning their business models and long term viability.

Media

For a couple of years, there’s been a slow ramp up to the integration of the Internet with television. The rise (and to some extent fall) of Netflix, along with the entrance of new players like Hulu and Amazon, have made video distribution on the big screen one of the areas where the Internet and television have already intersected.

However, other areas of interaction have, so far, not been quite as successful. Apple is still treating AppleTV as a hobby, Google has mostly failed so far with GoogleTV, and other players like Roku and Boxee have, to date, been only adopted on the fringe.

In 2012 all that changes as the TV screen takes center stage in a way that a new generation of smart phones arose after the 2007 iPhone announcement. First of all, we will see some increased standardization around how to deliver content to TV screens, with agreements from TV set manufacturers like Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Vizio agreeing to some level of standardization. Apple and Microsoft will continue to push technology that allows to move data from their devices to the large TV screen. Expect the Xbox to have some kind of tie-up with the Windows Phone and Windows 8 platform.

Meanwhile, cable companies will start opening up their platforms with some software development kits allowing to access content on the set top boxes they use. Once the Motorola acquisition is completed, Google will start transitioning the Motorola set-top boxes, which are a large part of the cableTV market, to GoogleTV, increasing the footprint of the service in the marketplace. Along the way, we will also see GoogleTV become more streamlined and less ambitious, focusing on delivering Android apps to the big screen instead of trying to rebuild the whole TV industry.

The concept of cord-cutting will continue to gain support but will not yet jump into the mainstream consciousness. With shows now being available exclusively on the likes of Netflix, we might see some interesting positioning whereas some TV carrier will offer Netflix as a premium service.

Politics

Social media will dominate the political cycle in 2012, with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and Meetup becoming part of the political operative tool belt. However, traditional electoral models will continue to be disrupted by the rise of distributed networked organizations like Occupy Wall Street, Wikileaks, or Anonymous. Except those players and new ones built on a similar model to have a substantial impact in terms of registering new voters and getting those voters to the polls in elections in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.

In the US, the 2012 electoral cycle will see Republicans select Mitt Romney, a candidate most of their electorate is not very excited about, to run against Barack Obama. With the unexpected support of Occupy Wall Street and its splinter organization, Obama will win re-election as issues around economic disparities and job creation continue to be big topics of discussion. Meanwhile, Congress and the House will remain at roughly the same levels as the electorate hopes for better stewardship in the future.

In Europe, expect to see incumbents toppled in many countries: with major elections coming up in France, Spain, Russia, and Finland, it is possible that we will see a major change in political alignments across most of Europe, along with an increase chance of protest in those different countries. In Russia, in particular, we may see the internet play a crucial role in organizing protest if there are questions regarding voting irregularities.

The continuing protests in the middle east region may also lead to substantial changes in governance in several countries including Bahrain, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. During the presidential elections in Iran, we will see increasing clampdowns on internet sites as the government tries to shut any means of communication available to large groups of protesters. Meanwhile, in Syria, the skirmishes that exist today will turn into full out war.

… and of course, the easiest prediction to make is that the media industry will continue to push for more restrictions on the Internet, leading to more activists pushing back.

Technology

2012 is going to be an explosive year for technology.

First of all, we will see HTML5 roaring back, as many companies realize that it is cheaper to build in HTML5 and that the gap between platform specific code and HTML5 is shrinking. The introduction of WebGL, and proper implementation of geolocation and caching within mobile devices will give developers the ability to develop applications in HTML5 that can rival some of the offerings of native code. This is a move that will be resisted by platform makers like Apple and Google as it will loosen their stranglehold on their respective platforms; however, the split side of this is that effort is that some large companies will look to free themselves from said control by creating HTML5 instances of their own products.

On the mobile end, the Microsoft/Nokia will get some real traction with Windows Phone 8 becoming a strong third player in the mobile market. Apple and Android will continue dominating the market with Microsoft still being a distant third. RIM’s position in the market will substantially worsen and will either be sold or head  into bankruptcy.

Enterprise cloud strategies will continue to grow, leading to a growing divide between companies that can get efficiencies through the use of cloud computing and companies that are kept by different regulatory frameworks from being able to realize the financial gains offered by such model.

3D will be a hot buzzword, with the introduction of consumer-oriented 3D scanners and 3D printers that will push the idea of scanning and printing your own plastic parts. This will lead to some controversy around the concept of 3D objects piracy popping up in the media, with little actual evidence to back those fears. On the 3D projection end, we will see the rise of designer 3D glasses and the first glasses-free 3D television hitting the market, as we as a few consumer-grade 3D cameras. At the same time, we will see more and more technology to upscale 2D to 3D, in an attempt to develop a larger consumer market for 3D technology.

On the PC end, netbooks will disappear as a category and the hot new trend will be to offer thinbooks that mirror much of what Apple is offering with the Macbook Air product line. The introduction of a new Windows OS will also lead to new form factors for notebooks that will sit somewhere between a tablet and a computer. Solid State Drive will aso increasingly become standard on new computers and we will see Apple actually announce they are getting rid of traditional hard-drive in all their product offerings. This will lead to their being able to announce that all their hardware can now run for at least 7 hours on a single charge.

Microsoft’s transition attempts with Windows 8 will encounter strong headwinds from the enterprise and may be met by consumers with some level of suspicion. The move to a more touch-centric offering will leave many customers frustrated when they upgrade.

Any which way, we will be revisiting those predictions at the end of the year and see how well (or badly) I did. I wish you, dear reader, a very happy new year and look forward to a continued dialogue in 2012.

 

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