How Omarstradamus 2012 predictions played out, and a look at 2013
Dec 19, 2012 (Austin American-Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --
2012 may not have been a year with lots of big bombshell shifts in the tech industry. Instead, trends that were already happening became more entrenched, like the rise of tablets, the mainstreaming of smart phones, the growing influence of social media on politics and culture, and the convergence of TV and the web.
At the end of 2011, I put on my Omarstradamus hat of mysticism and made some predictions on what this year would bring. Let's take a look at how those prognostications played out, then look ahead to 2013.
Last year I said: The end of video game consoles would begin as cheap mobile games took over and dedicated hardware became less important.
What actually happened: Nintendo introduced the Wii U last month, an interesting second-screen system with a tablet for a controller. It lacked the buzz of the original Wii and had a modest debut with a slate of interesting games and mixed reviews. Microsoft and Sony have yet to announce successors to the aging Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 consoles, and while game sales are still pretty strong, it's going to take a radical re-imagining of what game systems offer and how they're sold for another generation to succeed. The Wii U is already beginning to feel like it won't live up to expectations.
Portable game consoles like the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita also seem stuck in neutral. The 3DS did not take off the way Nintendo hoped, and despite some high-quality hardware, the Vita has not been a breakout hit. Games on mobile devices like phones and tablets seem to be where people's eyes and thumbs are parked now.
Last year I said: Microsoft and Apple would face off for control of living room TV watching and Netflix would try again to get out of the DVD business.
What actually happened: We're still waiting for Apple to introduce a TV set. Microsoft has expanded its TV offerings on Xbox 360 and Netflix, still an increasingly powerful player in streaming video, wisely kept its mouth shut about DVDs this year. The interesting shift has been companies like Roku offering Apple TV alternatives that are becoming increasingly popular and efforts by cable and satellite companies to offer more streaming video options. Even Nintendo's Wii U is being touted as a new way to watch and buy TV and online video.
Last year I said: Facebook would continue to grow and have a record-setting IPO. Live chats on Facebook would influence the presidential election.
What actually happened: Boy, was I wrong about Facebook's IPO. It was much weaker than expected despite the company's proven track record for making money on advertising. Facebook did grow past a billion users this year, but its influence as a water cooler destination has waned compared to Twitter, Buzzfeed and Reddit, which landed President Barack Obama for an "Ask Me Anything" chat with users in August.
Last year I said: Social media location check-ins would fade as Gowalla shuts down and Foursquare tried to figure out a way to shift to another kind of service.
What actually happened: Google, Facebook and even Foursquare itself have not been able to save the idea of checking in at locations to alert your friends or get discounts, an idea that feels passe. Instead, new ambient location apps like Highlight, which alert you to what's around you without the need to check in, seem more like the future, even if they're far from mainstream.
Last year I said: Wearable sensors would get cheaper and small enough to be worn all the time, tracking our fitness and sleeping habits.
What actually happened: Despite my disappointment in its actual performance, Nike's FuelBand, which tracks your physical activity, appears to be a big success. Products like Fitbit and a redesigned Jawbone Up are drawing positive attention, and apps continue to improve to help us keep fit and recognize our daily patterns. It's a trend that's still on track.
Last year I said: Apple will introduce a 15-inch MacBook Air, as well as redesigns of the iPod, the iPhone, iPad and iMac. Apple may roll out its own streaming music service under pressure from services like Spotify.
What actually happened: These were pretty easy ones to predict and all came true except the 15-inch Air. Apple did bring sharper screens with "Retina Display" technology to some of its pricier laptops. It introduced two new iPad models this year plus a smaller iPad Mini. Surprisingly, Apple still hasn't created an iTunes monthly subscription service or announced any major moves in TV for 2012.
Not too bad! Now here's five quick predictions for 2013:
_Yes, an Apple TV: It may not be until the end of 2013, but Apple's all but announced that it plans to get into the TV hardware market. It may take longer for Apple to get the details right than originally hoped, but expect an HDTV with Apple software built into it, finally, and for rivals like Roku, Boxee and perhaps even Amazon to try to get there first.
_Amazon makes a big move: Emboldened by its success in e-readers and tablets, Amazon will try to extend its empire, perhaps with a smart phone (a dumb idea) or its own TV or online entertainment and TV channel (much smarter).
_Social media shakeout: A big backlash against Twitter culture will take hold as people begin to get burned out on being constantly connected and many begin to abandon social media in search of less all-consuming ways to communicate. "I'm taking a Twitter break" will be an oft-heard boast in 2013.
_Microsoft's worst year: Bad buzz on Windows 8, weak Surface tablet sales and a lack of adoption of its online Office products will lead to a huge run of bad luck for the software maker that will shake up its already shaken PC partners, too. Beware, HP, Dell, Acer and the rest.
_Mobile wallet payments denied: Reality will catch up to the hype of mobile phone payments. Too many competing standards, confusing sign-up and hardware requirements for merchants and customers, and a nagging sense that this doesn't make things much easier, more convenient or secure compared to paying for things with plain old plastic will continue to keep the mobile wallet concept from taking hold.
(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)
DIGITAL SAVANT MICRO: WHAT'S A 'CHROMEBOOK'
A few readers who've been pricing laptops for the holidays have been asking about Chromebooks, a relatively new category of inexpensive laptop computer.
With their low prices, small screens (about 11-12 inches) and emphasis on portability and versatility over power and performance, Chromebooks sound an awful lot like netbooks, which were all the rage a few years ago. But Chromebooks, introduced last year, don't use Windows or Mac software. They use an operating system by Google and use free online services like Gmail, Google Drive (for web-based data storage), YouTube and Picasa. Recent changes allow some of the services to be used offline when the machine's not connected to the Internet via WiFi or 3G. Relying so heavily on Internet services and not being able to run apps that run on Windows or Mac could be seen as drawbacks by some, however.
Models made by Samsung and Acer offer fast boot-up times _ under 20 seconds _ weigh about 3 pounds or less and are priced starting at $199. The concept got a boost last week when Samsung and Google announced that Chromebooks will be offered to public schools for $99 in partnership with DonorsChoose.org. Teachers can sign up up to purchase up to 30 machines by applying to DonorsChoose before Dec. 21.
Omar L. Gallaga: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more technology news on Omar L. Gallaga's blog at austin360.com/digitalsavant.
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