Predicting the Future
A friend just asked me to “predict the future” since a major magazine is asking around for ideas of what'll happen next year.
Here's what I just wrote him. I included some of their questions so you can see the format
> The time has come for us to start formulating those trends for next
> year. So, I'm contacting you and a small group of colleagues from
> industry, research, and academia to ask for your predictions for 2002.
> When you have a spare moment, please try to think of specific events
> that are likely to have a widespread impact next year. What's going to
> be on everyone's mind and in all the headlines?
George Bush will learn to use a big word properly. Oh, wait, that's not quite what you're looking for.
> 1) Will a software company start selling “web services” applications
> in volume next year, and if so, will other software companies quickly
> follow suit?
Yes. Microsoft is going to turn on its HailStorm services early next year and I know that I'll probably pay a few dollars a month so that I can upload bigger files to my MSN Train Simulator Fan Site. It looks like Microsoft is gonna be the first big fish out there, but some smaller fish will beat them to the punch (who? Wall Street Journal? AOL? http://www.plumbingsupply.com/? My bet is that Pud of http://www.fuckedcompany.com figures it out before all of us — although I have a feeling his site will get fucked itself sometime in 2002 cause there won't be any more companies left to go out of business).
The one issue that will continue to be raised is “does Microsoft's Passport service/division need to be broken away from Microsoft.” Now that they are forcing users of nearly every Microsoft product to join Passport, I think we'll hear a lot of pressure, both from Microsoft's competitors, and from the government that Passport should be taken away from Microsoft and split out as a separate company.
But, I hate giving Microsoft all this free press. Maybe Windows Product Activation will blow up big time on them, no one will buy Windows XP, and we'll all ignore Microsoft and go on with our lives. Hey, we can dream, can't we? It +could+ happen.*
Seriously, the media will rediscover that there is money to be made on the Internet and folks like http://www.plumbingsupply.com/ will get discovered as examples of “eCommerce survivors of the shakeout.” Dang, even pet stores are doing OK. http://www.arcatapet-online.com/ is run by a friend of mine up in Eureka and his business has been going up this year. One thing forgotten by mainstream press is that even while the dotcoms were blowing up, millions of people were joining the Internet for the first time. They are still looking to buy stuff and folks who have realistic business plans and who don't spend their money on Superbowl commercials and Aeron chairs are coming out of this economic turmoil just fine.
We'll see the emergence of “star bloggers.” Folks who get huge audiences every day. We're already seeing some of that with Dave Winer http://www.scripting.com and Chris Pirillo http://www.lockergnome.com.
> 2) Will speedy wireless networks based on the 802.11b standard gain
> large numbers of users in 2002, and if so, will those networks make 3G
> wireless service unnecessary?
Yes, all my friends are putting in 802.11b networks. Actually the big news is 802.11a, which is based on 5GHz frequencies, and gives somewhere around 40mb bandwith rather than the 11 that 802.11b gives.
Will it make 3G wireless service unnecessary? No.
While all my friends have 802.11b, they've all made it impossible for me to login using their networks. If you're walking around downtown Palo Alto, for instance, you'll see that Fawcette Technical Publications has an 802.11b network transmitter in a window on Lytton Ave., but if you don't work for Fawcette you can't use that network. So, 802.11b is only good for local stuff (in your own home, or in your own office). Yeah, Starbucks will turn on a network but you'll need to pay for that and their passwords will only work within a block of a Starbucks. We'll still need 3G service, especially now that Ricochet is out of business.
Update: Glenn Fleishman disagrees with my conclusions. Isn't this cool? We're having a conversation again. Thanks Glenn! You're probably right. I ride the train to work almost every day. That's two hours a day on the train away from 802.11b networks. I would be a good candidate for 3G networks. Are there enough people like me to make these services worth it? You're probably right that there aren't.
>What about other trends?
I'm watching how computers are being used in the K-8 market, and one thing I'm noticing is that those kids are building some extremely complex multimedia applications using digital video and Flash and other stuff like that. Is it revolutionary? No, but it's nice to see teachers using computers in non-rote-learning situations.
Other trends? 3D is here in a big way. Microsoft's Train Simulator is still high on the sales charts (Flight Sim is unbelieveably cool), and every other game that's high on the sales charts, like Max Payne http://www.actiontrip.com/reviews/maxpayne.phtml uses 3D stuff that's just incredible. I think we'll see 3D make a comeback in some way for non-game applications. Not sure how, yet, but a high percentage of PCs are now being sold with decent video cards that let you do very complex 3D visualizations.