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Three Unexpected Internet Trends for 2012

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New media on steroids, the death of junk mail, the great social shakeout -- they're coming, say experts!

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As we say "good riddance" to 2011, we must, tradition dictates, look ahead to 2012. But why must we, you may well ask. Predictions tend to be way too predictable, too "more of the same." Literally: "The Cloud will grow even larger in 2012." "Facebook will get even more ad revenue." "Amazon will devour the rest of the civilized world."

So what else is new? Well, here are just three things from all of the countless stories predicting what will happen in 2012 that could be of relevance to the investor, and they're certainly not more of the same.

New New Media on Steroids: Mark Anderson, editor of the Strategic News Service, argues persuasively in a Forbes guest column that people are now ready to pay for a broader range of online content. He foresees a bonanza of media and technology opportunities as a result: "Get ready for new devices, new content, new bundles, new connection techniques, new distribution channels, new aggregators, new pads, new phones, new players, new self-published authors, new garage bands, new consumption models riding on social networks: there is nothing but high energy in the content consumer market. People are now ready to spend subscription money for this sector, and the publisher response will be huge." Whew!

The Death of Junk Mail: IBM (IBM), in its annual list of predictions of the top five technologies that will become commonplace within five years, says junk mail will die, but not of a lingering illness. In fact, the company says, junk mail will become so personalized, so relevant to the individual recipient, that it will no longer be considered spam.

IBM also predicts that you will be able to use your mind to control devices, wearing a device that reads your brain activity.

The New York Times points out that IBM is actually conducting research on many of the future developments it mentions, so there's an element of advance advertising in its predictions. Hey, if the company can pull these things off, it deserves the free publicity.

The Social Shakeout: Gartner Group, in its annual list of predictions, forecasts that the investment bubble in consumer social networks will pop in 2013, and the bubble in enterprise social software companies will pop in 2014. Gutsy call, but it might be wise not to count on their timing being all that accurate.

Weekly Web In Brief:

Apple Will Reinvent TV, But Not Soon: Apple (AAPL) has been reinventing bits and pieces of TV for years. It's got a mini-TV device, and a set-top box, and of course various devices that display TV programming among other uses.

But it's still working on the big picture, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The report says that Apple is working on its own television model, one that would use wireless streaming technology to access movies and other content. It would be controlled using an iPhone or iPad.

The story appears to be based on sources from the entertainment industry that have had talks with Apple. The Journal stressed that the talks were highly preliminary and even "vague," and included no discussions about licensing or other issues.

Fashions by Google

Google (GOOG) and Apple are secretly working on "wearable computers" according to the New York Times.

So, big deal, it's called a watch. Some of the ideas are just that, like a curvy iPhone that slips around your wrist. But others seem to have potential to free up attention span, like the miniscule computer peripherals that would communicate information to your phone.

It's good reading, anyway, for a peek inside the super-secret Google X laboratory.

Twitter Gets Billionaire's Bucks: Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has announced his Kingdom Holding Co. will invest $300 million in Twitter, after months of negotiations. That is estimated to give him a 3% share of the company.

He also is the second largest investor in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS).

The news immediately gave rise to questions about whether the Saudi prince, who is a nephew of the king, might try to use his influence to censor or otherwise influence Twitter policy, particularly if the "Arab Spring" popular movement spreads to Saudi Arabia.

But the prince apparently is more interested in growth company investing than in politics. And in any case, as GigaOm.com points out, the Saudi government could pull the plug on the entire Internet anytime it wants.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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