For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a text file with my large, high-level predictions for the industries and companies I’m tracking. Now I’m going to make part of it public. (I wrote these in February.)
Apple is going to enter the television market. Samsung will be blindsided. Vizio will become the only worthy competitor in the market. It’s going to look exactly like the MP3 player market in 2001. Once again, software is the key.
Semantic/contextual/intelligent web searching will kill Google if Google doesn’t disrupt itself. Eventually. Google search is a terrible experience for normal people. They don’t know which links they can trust. Some service in the future is going to curate the top 100,000 or 1,000,000 queries into a list of great, precise results. Siri would be a great interface into that kind of system. “Siri, what camera should I buy?” would probably give better results than this. (How that curation or improvement in quality will happen is anyone’s guess.)
Amazon is in a tough place; the Kindle Fire has to be improved, but at a $200 price point, they’ve locked themselves into a very bad situation. They can’t improve it substantially without increasing the price, and they can’t increase the price without spoiling their target market. It is also unlikely that they can compete on quality with the iPad. Given Amazon’s poor financials in recent quarters (presumably due to losses from the Fire, at least two quarters ago), it’s hard to predict how far Amazon will go with the Fire. My prediction is that they will attempt to make it better but, given the imposed constraints, fail. The Fire will be forever relegated to the “cheap junk” category for Tablets. Hilariously, it’s still the best non-iPad tablet you can buy.
It will take at least a decade before anything on the internet will come even close to “killing Hollywood”. The driving force behind Hollywood is extremely well-produced, expensive content, with a ~50% success rate. Hollywood is a network of financial underwriters tied inextricably to the content they produce. No web startup can replace this fundamental need. And I’m not sure what disruption would look like; I hope it does not include a reduction in production quality. Netflix, YouTube, and HBO are the ones to watch here. (Hulu is going to end up dead or bought; it is owned by the very interests it needs to destroy.)
Previously unconnected devices are going to gain free wireless 3G/4G internet connectivity, similar to Whispernet. There is no reason why extremely low bandwidth wireless devices cannot have a lifetime service plan baked into the initial cost. The carriers should love this. Ebooks are just the start; imagine clocks and watches that update themselves, home energy usage monitoring devices, heart monitors, in-car traffic systems, and things we haven’t even thought about yet. Three things need to happen as prerequisites: wireless radio hardware needs to get smaller (Bluetooth LE is a good case study for this), it needs to get way cheaper, and wireless network capacity needs to at least quadruple. The Kindle started this trend, and I’m kind of surprised that it hasn’t become more popular.
Nokia & Windows Phone
Nokia will popularize Windows Phone and Microsoft will almost certainly end up buying them. Windows Phone will eventually be successful, if moderately.
Infrastructure as a service
Soon, there will be a viable competitor to Amazon’s EC2 and S3. It’s not entirely clear how or why, but Rackspace has managed to fail at this. Amazon has developed a huge amount of trust in AWS as a brand, and the bandwagon effect is becoming stronger. Rackspace’s cloud has always felt kind of like a toy to me. Last year, an engineer working on Rackspace Cloud told me he “wouldn’t use it for [his] startup’s mission-critical infrastructure.” That’s ridiculous.
Facebook will continue flailing around, trying to figure out how to effectively monetize on mobile. Currently, the company does not make any money off mobile users. The S-1 mentioned this as a risk briefly, but I think it is Facebook’s single most important and pressing problem. I am pretty sure this will include some kind of Facebook Phone, built from the ground up to be “social.” And ads on the mobile stream. But their effectiveness hasn’t yet been proven.
Zynga will continue to move off the Facebook Platform and onto mobile marketplaces like the App Store and its own social gaming network. Zynga has discovered how to partially monetize mobile, and they don’t need Facebook for that (quite the opposite, in fact; Facebook will slow Zynga down on mobile). The production quality of Zynga’s games will improve, but they will continue to blur the line more and more between gambling and gaming (err– “play”). Before Facebook’s IPO, Zynga’s stock was being traded as a proxy for Facebook’s. There are still residual effects of this, and I think it’s a huge mistake; Zynga will become a powerful company independent of Facebook.
Barnes & Noble will continue pushing the Nook, but will ultimately fail. If the Nook were the only e-reader out there, it would actually be pretty awesome. It’s a solid product. But given the competition–from Amazon’s incredibly well designed Kindle and Apple’s iPad–the Nook doesn’t stand a chance. It’s a great product. But it’s niche. It will not save Barnes & Nobile.
These were on my list, but have since come to reality:
MacBook Pro, retina display. Perhaps as early as the next MacBook Pro release. This is a huge step forward in computing, and something normal people can actually appreciate. I don’t think people who work in tech understand just how shitty LCD technology is today; we’ve become complacent. Retina screens will be the largest leap for computing in a decade.