It’s a new year, and it’s time for pundits — even part-time pundits like me — to make their predictions. For someone who loves tech products, it’s an even more titillating time, because CES will bring an avalanche of them. So here are 7 key tech trends for 2007, and a measurable index (my prediction) for each one.
Simplicity. People are getting tired of a storm of buttons, menus, and options, and industrial designers are starting to notice. The Apple phone, if one comes out this year, will not have a keypad. Keypads are inelegant, and Jobs hates that shit. If Apple can convince consumers to buy an MP3 player with no screen, it can get us to buy phones without keypads (it’s just possible that an Apple phone will have a hidden, slide-out keypad, but I doubt it). Many other cellphone makers will follow suit.
STATUS 1/9/2007: Nailed it. The iPhone does not have a keypad.
UPDATE 2/20/2007: A WSJ story on the iPhone says “Mr. Jobs was adamant from the start that the centerpiece should be a touch-sensitive screen. He deplored the keyboards on portable email devices like Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry and Palm Inc.’s Treo….”
Interconnectivity. Applications will continue to get hooked up, linked up, and mashed up. Web service vendors that don’t offer a way for users to create mashups with other web services will be increasingly marginalized. However, as 2007 ends you will realize you’ve never used one of these mashups more than once or twice.
Mobility. Everything is getting smaller, more portable, and more wirelessly connected. This will continue. There will be several PCs this year with folding keyboards and small screens, enabling them to fold up into the size of a CD jewel case or a pack of index cards. One of them might even be usable.
UPDATE 1/10/07: Check out the OQO Model 02. Not small enough, but surprisingly usable.
Interactivity. Sites and services that offer interaction via real-time chats and interactive audio/video conferences will zoom in popularity as they get easier to use, and as people look for meaningful human connections online. Someone will combine the expandability of a wiki with the real-time WYSIWYG multimedia-ness of a shared whiteboard to create something completely new. A wikiboard?
Half-asseditivity. Wikipedia will continue to grow — and, spurred by its ability to mobilize thousands of unpaid, under-qualified volunteers, dozens of other sites will try to imitate its example. The result will be even more half-assed, incorrect, unchecked text, audio, and video, with a few gems lurking in the trashheap. Wiki backlash will peak when the authors of Wikinomics are forced to take down their own wiki (or else restrict editing to a small cadre of trusted individuals).
Advertisitivity. The massive cash spigot that is Google AdSense will continue to attract individuals and companies who want to scoop out just a tiny bit of that flow. As a result, sites that are not buried in ads will become increasingly rare. The ad-content ratio on several major publishing sites (as measured by pixel area on the home page) will surpass 50%.
Greenitivity. Being green (using less power, producing fewer greenhouse gases, and consuming fewer resources) will become increasingly important to consumers. Companies will adopt real, substantive reforms initially as marketing stunts — and then will expand these reforms as they discover being green can save them money. At least one major tech product in 2007 will be touted as completely recyclable/reusable and low-power.
Status 1/9/2007: At CES, the Consumer Electronics Association is unveiling MyGreenElectronics, a site devoted to promoting low-power, low-resources products.
Gigantivity. Yahoo is already taking heat for its seeming inability to make coherent sense out of its zillions of products. Google is starting to stumble, with a botched Blogger upgrade, decreasing quality of search results, and even server slowdowns. Microsoft is launching an extremely risky upgrade to Office. At least one of these companies will apologize in 2007 for having made a serious product design mistake.