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Most Intriguing Predictions for 2011

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Year-end lists are a cornucopia of helpful recaps, heated debates, and hours upon hours of lost productivity. But as delightful as ranking this year's best episodes of Breaking Bad can be, it's nowhere near as fun as reviewing predictions from a year ago and seeing how wrong analysts were. "Twitter Will Fail." "Facebook Goes Public." "Ballmer Resigns."

No matter how convinced experts can be on a particular guess, there still will be more than a few completely incorrect assumptions. And yet, every year, there's always another round of predictions to pore through.

So rather than wipe the egg off my face this time next year, I've compiled the predictions that I found to be the most intriguing -- however likely or unlikely they may be.


Facebook Embraces Targeted Advertising
"Facebook's fortune, meanwhile, couldn't be better. While I don't think the company will IPO next year, its 'Like' buttons will allow the company to seize control of the so-called 'interest graph.' In plain English, Facebook will understand both our social connections and our interests, providing the holy grail of targeted advertising." (Pete Cashmore)

Chrome OS Struggles to Find Its Place
"While I originally gave Google's Chrome OS a 'wait and see' rating, I've now used the super-simple operating system extensively and I'm unsure there's a place in the world for it. The number of tasks you can complete on a Web-only computer is somewhat limiting and unless the devices carrying the operating system are both extremely affordable and highly desirable, it's hard to see why consumers would choose this option over a tablet device or a fully-fledged $300 netbook." (Pete Cashmore)

Near Field Communications Has a Slow Start
"Near field communication chips have been around for some years, but their time looks like it's finally coming: a phone could soon become your credit card or be used to organize payment and transport, for instance. Google's new Nexus S includes the technology, and rumours are that Apple's new iPhone will too. Initially, however, NFC is likely to be fairly limited: buildings, for instance, have already begun to build NFC chips into their signs so customers can automatically add contact details. It's only when NFC becomes a ubiquitous, standardised technology that it will make a difference – but that time seems increasingly inevitable." (Matt Warman)

Everything Is Connected
"This trend has been present throughout 2010, but it will accelerate throughout 2011: every device, from the television to your phone to your fridge can now have a web address. That means you can email a picture straight from your mobile to your picture frame already; in future, as internet godfather Vint Cerf has suggested, the cork in a wine bottle will have an address too. That means it will email you to tell you today is the best day to get it out of the cupboard. Equally, home automation will allow lights, energy heating and more to be controlled remotely, without the need for comprehensive rewiring." (Matt Warman)

Facebook Buys Skype
"The acquisition of Skype would provide Facebook with a huge group of users that complements its own. Functionality will be quickly added to enable a small telephone symbol next to Facebook contacts that are online. Initially the service will be restricted to Wi-Fi connections, but the potential for expansion will be clear. Operators will be powerless to stop this trend and they will see their revenue from roaming calls dip further." (CCS Insight)

Nokia's Success Hinges on MeeGo
"Nokia will have to deliver with MeeGo if it doesn't want to be written off in the smartphone innovation race. Their current strategy will have to translate into financial gains or face a reboot by 2012." (Julien Theys)

Biggest Turkey: Paid apps for Android, Symbian and BlackBerry.
"There's a strong correlation between a willingness to spend $$ on apps and willingness to give Steve Jobs $300 gross margin per device. Everyone else counts their pennies & will go for cheap/free wherever possible." (Dean Bubley)

Data Management Will Become a Real Industry
"Facebook's highly publicized move to allow users to download their data in bulk is a stand-in for any kind of real change (with all due respect to Dave Recordon and others). It's a gesture at best, far from any notion of true portability. But, it's still an indicator that we're getting closer to our long-held vision of data that is accessible and transportable and managed by its rightful owner — you (whether 'you' is an individual, a family, a group, or an organization)." (Josh Jones-Dilworth)

Subscription Services Will Be Popular, But Not Profitable
"Streaming music services have been around for a while now, but what's changed in the past year is the number of devices you can access them on -- everything from the iPad to Roku to the Xbox Kinect to the upcoming Chrome OS devices. The ability to listen to music on-demand across a variety of devices is sure to be a hit among consumers -- it just remains to be seen how these services will monetize." (Brenna Ehrlich)

Ping Will Never Take Off -- Never
"Apple's new social network, Ping, launched to much excitement this year, only to disappoint those of us in the media who were keen on replacing MySpace with a new locale for music discovery. Why? Well, there were scant few bands on the site at launch, and two months out of the gate, the site boasted only 2,000 artists. (The process to get an account on Ping is not as simple as creating a username and logging in; Apple needs to vet bands before granting them access.)

"In the ensuing months, Ping has made an effort to become more social, adding Twitter integration and social playlists, but the site's focus -- predictably -- seems to be more on commerce than social. For example: Yes, you can create and share playlists, but you can't use your own songs to build said playlists -- you must assemble them from iTune's song previews. So, basically, by sharing playlists users are creating free advertising for iTunes rather than trading tunes.

"Yes, MySpace may be suffering some financial woes (and a bit of an identity crisis), but it's obviously a much more social sphere than a place for commerce (which may explain the financial woes). Case in point: It just added a suite of fan management tools for artists. Ping may not die this year -- Apple is a tenacious beast -- but I don't see it gaining any traction either." (Brenna Ehrlich)

The Next Computing Environment: The Bed
"With the evolution of the smartphone into a powerful and personal computing device, we have become comfortable with the smartphone as a computing device that we carry in our pockets. You can also see tablets as mobile computing devices that people are growing comfortable with carrying in their handbags and backpacks. In fact, the tablet form factor is beginning to boldly go where few computers have comfortably and intuitively gone before -- the bed. Some of you might find this shocking, while others may find it laughable, but it's true. Our ethnographers and social scientists have begun to see an interesting habit emerging: the mobile computing device you take to bed. Let's face it, tablets really are a great way to watch TV in bed or play games and not disturb the person sleeping next to you." (Brian David Johnson)

Flash Still Won't Matter on Mobile Devices
"Flash 10.1 was a big improvement, and I expect that Flash 10.2 will be even better, but I still don't think Flash is going to become a massively adopted mobile technology." (Christina Warren)

Wii Want HD
"Even though Nintendo emphasizes the quality of its gaming experience over the technical quality of its graphics, an HD gaming platform from the company is long overdue. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said that a Wii successor wasn't in the offing yet, declaring last June that the company would announce a new console when it runs 'out of ideas with the current hardware and cannot give users any more meaningful surprises with the technology we have.' In my opinion, one of the last surprises remaining is that Nintendo's flagship gaming console is still running standard-definition video." (Charlie White)
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