Just you wait and see

As we gaze toward the vista of 2007, we find our e-mail inbox inundated with IT predictions for the new year from analysts, vendors and consultants. From those predictions and our own prognostications we present our forecast for the top IT stories in the year ahead:

Pun aside, Vista

With fanfare, Microsoft Corp. will garner headlines early in the year as it releases its Vista OS to home users, possibly even at the end of January as currently scheduled, avoiding another delay or three. The release splash will give way to headlines that enterprises are following through on analyst predictions and comments from wary IT administrators and are waiting to upgrade. Then will come the security-risk headlines, followed no doubt by the patch headlines.

Content kings

We’ll go with the forecast of analyst Leonard Fuld of Fuld & Associates in Boston that an ongoing story and trend we’ll follow in 2007 will be “the world of information and how it’s monetized.” And we’ll put our money on Google Inc. to continue to lead the pack. The YouTube Inc. acquisition will be but the tip of that iceberg. Google will scoop up other content providers with an eye on their advertising revenue or potential advertising revenue. “There will be other mega deals,” Fuld said in a recent interview. News Corp. undoubtedly will be another company to watch in 2007 when it comes to content, with mergers among more traditional media companies that find themselves increasingly forced to compete with Internet content providers, not to mention the blogosphere and specialty content providers.

Along those lines, Internet-delivered TV is going to find its feet in 2007. We’ve heard that before, but it’s got to happen some year and we think the new year will be it. It might even go as far as the prediction of IP (Internet Protocol) communications guru Jeff Pulver: “Every TV network, film studio and content creator will start to adopt a direct to the Internet and direct to the PDA strategy.”

Hacker’s paradise

Malware, spyware, viruses, worms (oh, my!) will continue to cause major headaches for enterprises, government agencies and ordinary tech users. McAfee Inc. is among the security vendors predicting that hackers are going to target MP3 files, and we can’t think of any reason they won’t. They’re also likely to plant bombs in Internet video links because surfers don’t think twice about clicking on a multimedia link, as McAfee predicts.

There will be at least a couple of cybersecurity threats related to alleged terrorist plots, perhaps even by al-Qaeda itself, but the threats will be unsubstantiated and uncorroborated and we’ll soon enough find other things to worry about.

Spam spam spam spam

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. (Yes, we know we said this last year and we expect we’ll say it again at the end of next year.) We’ll be so bold as to say the way it will get better is that ISPs (Internet service providers) will make it terms of service that users adequately protect their computers (see also “Hacker’s paradise above”) and ISPs will (gasp!) cancel accounts of users whose computers are overtaken by spam-sending zombies. Meanwhile, prosecutions will continue under various national and state laws aimed at putting a lid on spammers.

Who’s Zuning who?

Apple Computer Inc. will continue to dominate the market for personal entertainment devices. OK, we know that’s a big “duh!” But it will be an ongoing story in 2007. Microsoft’s Zune won’t have much traction. Some analysts, Fuld included, think that “Microsoft will gain share.” We can roll with that, but we think it will be a limited gain because Apple’s iPod is so solidly entrenched and because it’s just not as cool to have any other kind of personal entertainment device, even if iPod users are locked into getting their music from iTunes.

Scandals aplenty

At least some of the defendants in the Hewlett-Packard Co. spying scandal will cut plea agreements, trying to avoid prison time or reduce sentences. The scandal will, however, be in the headlines off and on throughout the new year, as will other corporate scandals. On a related note, U.S. legislators are expected to soon make it illegal to use “pretexting” — pretending to be someone else to obtain their telephone records — but we also envision lawmakers will make it illegal to obtain other personal records in such a manner. Other scandals will ensue in the new year. We won’t go so far out on this limb as to say which companies and executives those will involve — the crystal ball gets a little cloudy in that regard.

Wi-Fi heaven

Urbanites, even in some smaller cities, and travelers to those cities, will enjoy the global boon of municipal Wi-Fi networks, which will continue to get up and running throughout 2007. Just the other day, we stayed in close touch with a friend stuck in an airport as he made gate change after gate change, losing contact only when he boarded the plane. Soon enough, the stretches of disconnection will be even briefer for many of us. Whether that will make us happier or more harried has yet to be seen, but the Wi-Fi Universe is going to unfold in the new year.

That level of connectivity will lead hardware vendors to release smaller devices with keyboards that are actually usable and both mobile professionals and gadget lovers will embrace the new gizmos, which will give Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry real competition.

Open-source lovefest continues

Increasing numbers of computer users, including governments globally, will switch to Linux and open-source applications, particularly as an option to Windows Vista. Microsoft will continue to cozy up to open-source vendors. Red Hat Inc. will survive the coziness of its competitors with the software monolith. The open-source community will continue to be vocal about that sort of coziness, expressing concern and even outright disdain as open source becomes more mainstream. But the community will manage to keep its edge because it doesn’t have to deal with bureaucracy and hierarchy.

Web 3.0 and beyond

We’re hearing murmurs regarding Web 3.0. Apparently, pundits are skipping right over Web. 2.5, even before Web 2.0 is fully realized. One thing is for certain: the Web is where it’s at. Collaboration, wikis, blogs, mashups, user-generated applications are all going to be big in 2007. And the debate over definitions and what exactly is Web. 2.0 or 3.0 or … will continue throughout the new year and beyond.

Consolidation galore

Besides mergers and acquisitions among the content providers, we see more consolidation throughout IT markets. Oracle Corp. will continue to be a big spender. CA Inc. will dabble in acquisitions. Microsoft, as always, will buy companies with interesting technologies. This could be the year that Gateway Inc. gets bought. Ditto for Palm Inc. The communications provider market is bound to have fewer players by the end of 2007 as companies try to keep up with the competition, offering VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol), wireless, Internet and other services all in one package.

Analyst Jeff Kagan predicts “this next wave of competition will be the hottest we have seen since the mid 1990’s. And even hotter.” He sees separate devices such as cell phones and landline phones and TVs working together. “When the phone rings, we’ll be able to see who’s calling on the television screen and answer it on the TV or on the computer or on the phone because it will all share the same network.” The new year, he says, will be the turning point for all of that to happen.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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