A Cynic Predicts IT and Media in 2011
(Prove me wrong or shut the heck up.)
1. Everything that’s old will be new again. Last year brought us the return of 3D from the 1950s, cloud (a.k.a. the new and improved mainframe), thin client (the dumb terminals for said mainframe), and iPad, the new and improved tablet PC. This year will bring us another batch of rebranded, repackaged technology sold as revolutionary. Which is ok because none of us are ready for true innovation (see #10)
2. Markets will stay irrational longer than companies stay solvent. For example, data center companies will continue to take losses, go out of business, or get acquired on unfavorable terms even as all indications point to extreme shortages in data center space by 2013.
3. A large firm will overpay to jump on a bandwagon that has long left reality. For example, a cloud computing company with no hope of success will get acquired for silly dot-com economics money by a provider with more money than R&D success. The new division will be trumpeted as the key to the company’s future through most of 2011, with division heads appearing in every press release and photo op. It will lose separate branding by beginning of 2012, its management will depart shortly thereafter, and all operations will be dissolved by 2013. Everyone who furiously cheered on the acquisition in 2011 will say it was obvious in hindsight.
4. Someone will found another content delivery company citing the explosion of online video, with bonus points for becoming a specialist in 3D video streaming or some other hyped innovation affecting <1% of the market. This company will fail without garnering much notice.
5. More and more routine peering disputes will be recast as net neutrality debates. The word “peering” will not actually be mentioned or explained anywhere in mainstream press. Genuine net neutrality infractions will get lost in the din of network and content providers crying “wolf.”
6. The media and entertainment industry will step in another PR morass related to content protection and hoarding, most likely by crippling a legitimate outlet for content like Hulu or iTunes. Rootkits, requirement of continuous Internet connections to access purchased content, and more lawsuits against widows and orphans also offer good odds. Renewed wringing of hands over mythical billions lost to piracy to ensue shortly thereafter.
7. A top media exec or senior government official will expose an understanding of technology on par with a cargo cult shaman on a Pacific island. This person will inevitably be put in charge of the committee on using or regulating the very technology he or she fails to grasp.
8. In the wake of Wikileaks, bans on USB thumb drives and CD burners will be followed by bans on all peripherals with output across most governments, their contractors, and businesses that think security theater is reality. Thousands of hours will be lost on the most routine business and government tasks as highly qualified specialists transcribe info they cannot get digitally with a pen and paper. The volume of information leaked / lost to corporate espionage will remain unchanged or increase as workers have to override all security restrictions, including reasonable ones, just to do their job.
9. An analyst firm will publish a series of papers on a new market with a 3-5 letter acronym. Its competitors will follow suit creating their own acronymic or catchy name. Several hockey stick projections of billions of dollars in revenue will be created. None will be correct within an order of magnitude, and no papers will be written on this hot new market by 2013.
10. The pendulum will quietly begin swinging in some way that will change technology markets radically, but not until 2018. The first PR-fueled mainstream story on it (and a dozen other inventions) will hit by the end of the year and it will be the hot new trend for the next 5 years. No actual large-scale impact will occur during those 5 years, and by the time one of the 2010 vintage inventions does go mainstream, the media’s attention will be on the next shiny bauble. Candidates include:
- Storage densities that make local replication cheaper/faster/better than on-demand streaming for non time-sensitive content. In other words, “all media that ever was” in a box. Thus continues the pendulum swing that started with mainframe (centralized), client-server (decentralized), peer-to-peer (very decentralized), and cloud (centralized again).
- Fundamental physical limitations in one of the innumerable “progress laws” (Moore’s law being the founding and best-known of the bunch) that make some computing component the new weak link, and associated workaround. As a past precedent, caching in memory and processor is the best-known workaround discipline for the I/O bottleneck that has been the weak link for the last few decades.
- Practical prototypes of some technology that was impracticably ahead of its time during a previous wave of enthusiasm (e.g. quantum computing or holographic storage).