Prediction Time is Here Again

Predictions dominate the blogs and columns this month. My own score for last year’s predictions is dismal. Macworld Expo didn’t change it’s name; it lost it’s star keynote (Steve Jobs). There was no Apple TV with an LCD display, nor any kind of Mac tablet or netbook (so far). Well, at least I was right about cool iPhone apps appearing in droves, and the iPhone with 3G was a no-brainer.

One of my favorites every year has been I, Cringely — The Pulpit/PBS by Robert X. Cringely (a pseudonym). His lastest entry “End Game: Cringely’s predictions for 2009 including the coming showdown between Apple and Microsoft” is worth reading (he is closing down this column and starting another on his own site).

I agree with his assessment that Microsoft has reached its peak of influence, that Google has reached its peak of technical excellence (with Android), and that neither company will be grow much larger than they already are (and Microsoft may in fact shrink). Microsoft will roll downhill for a number of years. Google will maintain its leadership position and will remain a good investment, but I don’t expect anything insanely great from the company until the financial crisis is more manageable and advertising revenues come back to normal.

I also agree that Apple is the big winner. It will continue to grow its Mac market share, and the iPhone will make up for a softening iPod market. Lots of pundits believe the company has a tablet/netbook in the wings, as well as a cheaper iPhone, and that we’ll see both before June. Apple also may go through with Cringely’s prediction of a head-to-head battle against Microsoft Office. And if you are looking for signs of true innovation, you will find it in the iPhone’s App Store. It is simply incredible how easy it is to get streaming radio, locate interesting restaurants, find out about events happening wherever you are, carry books and documents with you, and of course access Web sites and Web services. The iPhone app ecosystem is only six months old, and already Pandora has seen its free app downloaded by 2 million users.

One Netbook Per Old Laptop (ON-POL)

Ian Lamont of The Industry Standard offered a thoughtful analysis in “Netbooks: An opportunity for Windows, and a threat to Linux
as to why the nascent netbooks market give Microsoft the edge. Lamont
theorized that Microsoft learned a thing or two regarding the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, and that Microsoft tipped its hand with the new Windows 7 operating system by demonstrating it on a netbook. “The
attraction of converting an old laptop to Ubuntu or some other Linux
distro fades when the cost of getting a brand-new Windows netbook is so
cheap…. Considering it’s now possible to get a new, Internet-ready
netbook with Windows XP for just $350, it’s safe to say many people
will simply not bother with the hassles associated with putting Linux
on an old laptop.”

Fighting back against spammers

By hijacking a working spam network, researchers have uncovered
some of the economics of being a spammer. While the tiny response rate
(less than 0.00001 percent) still means that a big spam operation can turn
over a few millions in profit every year, it also suggests that
spammers may be susceptible to attacks that make it more costly to send
junk mail. According to the researchers, the profit margin for spam may
be meager enough that spammers must be sensitive to the details of how
their campaigns are run and are economically susceptible to new
defenses. See “Study shows how spammers cash in” for details.



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