Gazing into my crystal (liquid crystal, of course) ball, the haze clears and 2006 looms large. Here is what the future holds for us in the coming year:
1) Google Launches All-in-One Suite
I've been expecting this for some time, as have other folks, I'm sure, but I think 2006 will definitely see this announcement. Google will, I predict, launch a converged, multi-purpose, browser-based work environment -- lord knows what it'll be called, maybe GoogleDesk or something like that. Anyway, it will incorporate and integrate many of the disparate services that Google currently offers plus add a few. GoogleDesk will integrate Google search, Gmail (plus an enhanced contacts management function), Google Maps (auto-mapping of contacts, natch!), Blogger (for publication/hosting of created content), a new mini-suite of document tools based on the OpenOffice standard (so you can create word processor documents, spreadsheets, and presentation files), GoogleBase (the use of which will become more obvious with time), and Google News (of course). All these will be wrapped up in a browser-neutral (although I wouldn't be surprised for Google to cozy up to Mozilla to enhance Firefox with some special goodies), Java-based interface. Personally, I eagerly await this.
2) The HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war ends...Blu-Ray wins
Yes, Sony will finally be able to claim a victory in the format wars. After so many failed attempts at ruling the world (cue Pinkie and the Brain theme) -- Betamax, minidisc, all the various flavors of Memory Stick, etc. -- Sony and friends will edge out the HD-DVD group and Blu-Ray will become the de facto format for HD content. That is, until something better comes along almost immediately, but hey, that's a prediction for next year.
3) The Linux-based replacement for Palm OS comes out
To limited acclaim in the West, it is immediately adopted by a significant number of Asian companies for its cheap, flexible architecture. The number of devices (almost entirely phones) running it by the end of 2006 will be around 10 in Asia and zero (maybe 1 or 2) in the West (US + Europe).
4) Nokia will launch a Linux phone
Following the nascent success of its Linux-based 770 Internet Tablet, Nokia launches its first phone using a Linux-based OS. It mimics the S60 in look and feel. It does well, but not markedly so, causing much speculation and debate around the web about whether Nokia is abandoning S60 entirely.
5) Democrats regain control of US Senate, make gains in HOR
The margin won't be enormous, but the Senate will once again be in the familiar (and, arguably, beneficial to the electorate) position of being led by the party not in control of the White House. More negotiation will result in 2007 and something a wee bit closer to "democracy" will return to the US shortly thereafter. Still a long way from acceptable, but closer.
6) Windows Vista will launch, Apple users yawn
Windows Vista (launched in early Q4) will excite few, especially in the corporate ranks, due to the combination of a lack of "must-have" improvements and unattractive licensing structures offered by Microsoft. The 17 or so flavors of Vista will also leave consumers puzzled over which version is best for them and ultimately wait until they replace their hardware to upgrade. Given that processor speeds aren't increasing much and hard drives are getting easier to replace, there will be fewer changing out their PCs. Microsoft faces a tougher year than usual next year regarding financials; Windows Mobile and Xbox divisions still not profitable (but closer).
7) Digital/HDTV makes big inroads
2006 will be the year of the migration to HDTV. Falling HDTV set prices (especially DLP and LCD), plus an exciting bounty of converging digital content, will usher in a period of rapid adoption that will continue into 2007. Content providers will actually start getting significant numbers of complaints when they broadcast non-HD content on their HD channels, leading to fewer programming lapses.
8) Satellite radio subscribership grows, but limited
Sirius and XM will continue to gain subscribers, but neither will top 10 million by the end of 2006. Someone will launch a mySatelliteRadio service that lets users listen to their personal music collections via satellite receiver (think MP3.com's old model applied to satradio). The RIAA will eat it for lunch, with a few hundred new downloading lawsuits for dessert.
9) TiVo is acquired
I don't know by whom, but I think this will happen within the next 12 months.
10) Resurgances of sci-fi/fantasy TV shows
The recent success of Battlestar Galactica and Lost, and the big money that the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises generate cause network television studios to start prepping more science fiction and fantasy content. A friend of mine thinks I'm daft to predict this -- we'll see. If not next year, then 2007. Or not.
OK, those are my predictions. I may add some more...come this time in 2006, I'll look back on these and, well, probably LMAO at how poorly I forecast the future. Until then, have a good one!