12.27.09

2010 Predictions

I’ve quietly been compiling a list of predictions for what’s going to happen in 2010 for the past few weeks, and it will be fun to look back in a year and see how I did. There are a leisurely 40 predictions – some bold, some straightforward – but I’m sure the unexpected will make 2010 one we’ll never forget. Let me know your thoughts, and feel free to disagree. So, enough chatter – here’s my predictions:

  • Mobile / Hardware

  • 1. iPhone AppStore backlash continues and Apple does nothing about it.
    Apple has alienated developers and pushed away many prominent evangelists with its tyrannic policies around AppStore approval, regulation, and ambiguity. While the debate has certainly expanded in to mainstream media, I don’t see Apple changing its ways, at least not when it doesn’t need to. It will need to when an open alternative platform rises in popularity, but for now it’s Apple’s way or the high way.
  • 2. Mobile CPA monetization in games gets hot.
    Incentivized CPA offers are already the De facto way many Facebook game developers choose to make money. It makes sense that CPA on the iPhone is soon to follow. A few small companies are making inroads now, but none are having the breakout success publishers are with social games on Facebook – it’s coming though. I predict 2010 will be a big year for CPA monetization in mobile social games.
  • 3. E-Reader device popularity continues to rise. Amazon polishes its Kindle and B&N struggles to create comparable demand for Nook.
    Amazon has established itself as the digital marketplace for goods, and I predict that B&N will struggle to make the transition.
  • 4. TechCrunch effectively loses CrunchPad lawsuit, but JooJoo fails anyway.
    Plenty of controversy here with contradicting stories from the two parties involved. Taking a step back, I find it hard to believe that Arrington – a previous lawyer himself – would neglect the opportunity to get assignment of intellectual property rights if there was any legitimate opportunity to do so. Regardless, the JooJoo is terribly overpriced, and skepticism around the lawsuit will make buyers wary of purchasing the device from a potentially ill-fated company.
  • 5. Verizon doesn’t land with iPhone.
    I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think Verizon will land the iPhone for a few reasons. Verizon started a huge campaign against AT&T which undoubtedly didn’t go over too well with the folks at Apple. Apple even partnered with AT&T in an ad campaign in response to Verizon’s attacks. Verizon’s flagship smartphone is now the Droid, and I find it unlikely that Apple will expand its GSM hardware to support Verizon’s CDMA network. I do hope Apple does prove me wrong though.
  • 6. Microsoft struggles with Windows 7 Mobile and remains irrelevant in the mobile space.
    Windows 7 Mobile has been postponed in to obscurity, closing Microsoft’s window in the mobile market.
  • 7. Apple Tablet launches with pseudo-iPhone OS complete with AppStore.
    Lots of speculation here, but a tablet would give Apple an entrant in the leisure-reading market that is sure to make mac fans drool with envy.
  • 8. Android proves itself as a formidable competitor to Apple and becomes second overall to iPhone by year’s end.
    The Droid is hands-down the best non-iPhone phone on the market. While Android doesn’t have the polish that comes from the user experience prowess at Cupertino, it does have the advantage of diversification that could prove it a formidable competitor. Apps published on the Android platform have the disadvantage of being on multiple device types with no least common divisor, but at the same time it is a blessing. I think that Android will slowly and incrementally find itself the flagship smartphone (and generic device) operating system, and I think 2010 will be the year that this starts to become evident.
  • 9. Palm continues to push out mobile devices with little demand.
    Palm had all its marbles in the Pre basket, and unfortunately the folks at Apple cut a hole in the bottom. Enough said.
  • 10. Square realizes its bottleneck is additional hardware, so it gives card reader away for free.
    Jack Dorsey’s Square project is one of the most intriguing startups of 2009. After the smoke from the fireworks clears, I think Square’s main problem will be convincing people to get additional hardware. Without the additional hardware, the service is useless, and I’m not certain that consumers will be able to see tangible value in the service without testing the product first-hand. To combat this, Square needs to make acquiring the hardware as frictionless as possible, so I believe they’ll release the reader for free. Alternatively, they could remove the external hardware dependence by utilizing the built-in camera on smartphones and apply some OCR in a similar fashion to the way Red Laser reads barcodes.
  • Acquisitions

  • 11. DropBox gets acquired.
    Great service getting rave reviews from just about everyone who uses it. They recently announced 2 million users and are growing at a clipping rate. Because I think 2010 will be a year lush with desirable exits, I wouldn’t be suprised to see Dropbox get picked up.
  • 12. GitHub gets acquired.
    GitHub has quietly been building a base of extremely sought after users that any company would love access to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a nice exit for access to a great product/team with valuable users.
  • 13. “Spray and pray” investment model becomes validated as a few players have significant exists.
    The “Spray and Pray” model of angel investors like Ron Conway and incubators like YCombinator has been under a lot of scrutiny since its inception. I expect 2010 to be plush with exits including a number of companies backed by these spray and pray investors, largely validating the model.
  • Geo

  • 14. Facebook will not enter the geo space in 2010. If it does, it won’t be through an acquisition.
    Most experts say that Facebook is poised to take over geo. I would agree with that statement, but I don’t think it will happen in 2010. Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny for it’s recently changed privacy policies. Everyone knows that FaceBook wants its users to be as open as possible, much to the cry of privacy zealots everywhere. Adding location data to the mix only adds fuel to the fire, and I think Facebook will wait until its other privacy issues have cooled down. That being said, if Facebook does jump in to the nascent geo arena this year, I do not think it will be via acquisition (of a service like Foursquare or Gowalla). Facebook would likely make location an additional type of status/wall-post update, and very little of the code from existing services could be ported over easily, so it would simply be a talent buy (which does frequently happen). As a definitive prediction (and one that many disagree with), I don’t think FaceBook will enter the geo space this year, but when it does, it will be a force to be reckoned with.
  • 15. Foursquare has breakout year. Gowalla grows but is labeled “cute”.
    Foursquare has attracted exactly the same crowd that nurtured Twitter to media stardom, and I still can’t figure out what a lot of illustrated icons on Gowalla are for. Gowalla’s design is nice, but if anything it’s too nice – pretentious even.
  • Browsers / Software

  • 16. Firefox hits peak in 2010 and will slowly be replaced by faster browsers.
    Firefox 3.5 recently enjoyed the position as the most popular browser, but I believe 2010 will be the year it’s overall market share peaks. Users are fed up with its inefficient memory use, poor startup times, and bloated plugins, and faster alternatives will make Firefox’s reign at the top short lived.
  • 17. Google Chrome hits double digit market share as extensions and mac availability catapult adoption.
    Chrome is fast, and I like fast. In a few years time, I expect Chrome to replace Firefox as the most popular browser, but for 2010 double digit market share is a good start. Chrome is promoted on two of the most eyeballed real estate spaces in the history of the world: Google.com and Youtube.com; if anyone can push a browser down peoples’ throats, it’s Google. Safari is forever plagued to be “the mac browser”, so while it is fast in its own right, Windows users will mostly stick to alternatives.
  • 18. Jolicloud project does not gain significant traction as Chrome OS steals its thunder.
    As much as I love to see the small guy succeed, I don’t see Jolicloud getting a significant install base as entrants will saturate the market and have much greater marketing power. It’s unfortunate for Tariq Krim as his previous startup, Netvibes, also directly competed against Google’s personalized start page. At least he’s in the arena.
  • 19. Rockmelt, despite the prowess of its investors, does not gain significant traction as its competition can leverage significant real-estate space.
    It’s hard to bet against this team backed by these investors, but I can’t see a Flock successor making inroads in the highly competitive browser space. But if I’m wrong, everyone involved will be very, very wealthy – and that’s why startup culture is awesome.
  • 20. Adobe CS5 makes biggest splash in the “Objective-C is hard, here’s another way to make iPhone applications” space.
    Adobe CS5 will include a very interesting feature to allow flash developers to export their projects as native iPhone applications. This means that the tens of thousands of flash games around the internet can be easily ported to the iPhone – and I expect it to be huge.
  • Web Services

  • 21. MySpace moves away from being an identity hub, integrates FaceBook Connect, strengthens focus on digital media, but sees traffic continue to drop.
    It’s no secret that MySpace has been having an identity crisis recently. They’re struggling to figure out who they are, and in the process, their traffic is plummeting.
  • 22. Wave slowly insinuates itself in to your work and personal life after assets and talent from the EtherPad help with interface and performance improvements.
    Wave was one of Google’s first products that wasn’t created out of user demand, and all users seem to have been doing so far with it is hand out invites. Users are begging for a reason to use the product, but it will be awhile until Wave is completely part of your online work flow. Google’s recent acquisition of Etherpad should help with performance and interface issues, and over time (not necessarily in 2010) I expect Wave to be used by the majority of active email users.
  • 23. Twitter releases analytics product for businesses.
    Twitter is rumored to have been working on a premium analytics product for businesses for quite some time. I expect something of this nature to be announced this year as a more definitive revenue model comes in to light.
  • 24. Twitter continues to grow, but not at the same rate it did in 2009.
    2009 was a huge year for Twitter. Following the election, Twitter was part of every type of media coverage from daily news to sports games. I expect Twitter’s growth to continue (though recently it’s been stagnant), but not at the rate it did in 2009.
  • 25. Tumblr more than doubles traffic and breaks in to Alexa top 150.
    Tumblr has quietly built a web service with staggering traffic numbers. It currently ranks 230 worldwide on Alexa, and I expect it to break the top 150 – top 100 might be pushing it, but anything’s possible given its explosive growth in 2009.
  • 26. Facebook introduces redesign, users protest, Facebook doesn’t do anything about it.
    Nothing new to see here, move along.
  • 27. Facebook makes major push to get people to organize friends in to lists.
    One of the most under-utilized feature on Facebook is Lists. Facebook needs users to create lists so it can slowly allow more and more of the site to be open to external sources, like search results. Users using lists are also more likely to feel comfortable sharing more information on the social network, and that is Facebook’s sole intention. It may be an algorithmic “suggested best friends” or a requirement, but I expect Facebook to make a major push to get users to organize their friends.
  • 28. Facebook Connect moves closer to being De facto login.
    Everyone is using Facebook Connect. It’s dead simple. OpenID is cute, but anyone who wants users, data, and brand familiarity (which is everyone) will go with a proprietary solution – for good or bad. This isn’t so much a prediction as an observation: Facebook will own your identity, and that will become even more apparent in 2010.
  • Search

  • 29. News Corp continues to threaten removing itself from Google’s index, but it wont.
    Rupert Murdoch has threatened repeatedly that he’s going to remove News Corp’s content from Google’s almighty index. I’m calling bluff – News Corp can’t really be that stupid (well they can, but I wouldn’t bet on it).
  • 30. Bing beats Google to integrating innovative features.
    Microsoft’s shining online star is Bing, and it has repeatedly beat Google to implementing social features. BingTweets was first to marry Twitter with web search results. Bing then followed that up by striking a deal with Twitter to provide tweets front and center. This was shortly followed by Google’s similar announcement. I expect this trend to continue: Bing has something to prove and less to lose, so it will be first to integrate cutting-edge features. As a result…
  • 31. Bing passes 15 percent search market share.
    Users are growing wary of Google’s omniscient power, and Bing is a great search engine. Bing already has a 10% market share on search (Google has an impressive 65%), but users like the overall search innovation coming from Redmond. Case in point, compare the two companies’ iPhone apps. Google lets you do voice search and links to their other apps, but Bing’s iPhone app takes it a step further. Bing lets you do voice transcribed map directions (and search), and is much more tailored for local search, which is much more pertinent for a mobile device.
  • Tech Trends

  • 32. “Netscape IPO moment” begins tech IPO eruption.
    The stars seem to be aligning, and 2010 looks to be a boisterous year for tech IPOs. Likely suspects include Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn, Tesla Motors, ExactTarget, and Yelp.
  • 33. Founders Visa movement generates a lot of talk, but unfortunately no action.
    The Founders Visa movement has generated a fair amount of discussion as a possible way to aid the ailing economy. Proponents cite the number of large companies founded by foreign workers and speculate how many more large companies could be formed if people could freely come to the United States to start companies. It should be trivial for highly motivated entrepreneurs to stay in the country and start companies, but nothing in government moves quickly. Unfortunately, I predict that there won’t be any progress made to offer foreign entrepreneurs a Founder’s Visa in 2010 with all the other issues at stake.
  • 34. Augmented Reality shows a few cool use cases, but has slow consumer adoption.
    Augmented Reality faces the same problem as the Segway: both are extremely awkward to use in public. I don’t want to get laughed at holding a gizmo up to my face as I look up information about my surroundings – I’d look absurd. Society’s general acceptance of extreme technology use will change, and so too will the adoption of Augmented Reality. I expect to see some cool demonstrations of what is possible with the intersection of technology, cloud information services, and real-world scenarios, but I don’t expect it to all happen any time soon. We’re still at least a decade away from fabled devices like those conjured at MIT to being more commonplace.
  • 35. The online music website “convection oven” pattern continues.
    2009 was not a good year for sreaming music startups. iLike, LaLa, and iMeem all had asset fire-sales, and this illustrates a larger “convection oven” pattern of music services: quick rise to the top, law-enforcement, death, and recycle. Several similar services await what I believe to be a similar fate, including Project Playlist, MySpace Music, Pandora (which barely dodged royalty hikes), GrooveShark, TheSixtyOne, and the beloved Spotify.
  • 36. Privacy and data integrity issues force enterprise customers towards “private cloud” solutions.
    A big movement right now is the transition from old mainframe data warehouses to more efficient and powerful “private cloud” solutions powered by technologies like Hadoop. I expect to see the demand for data integrity and privacy to force enterprise customers away from public clouds like Amazon and toward a secure private solution.
  • 37. CPA offer providers will try to appear to be consumer friendly, but will continue to do use shady tactics to make money.
    The great CPA scandal that recently erupted with Facebook applications was one of the more intresting tech stories of 2009. Stories surfaced on how far CPA marketers are willing to go to make money, and I don’t expect the market to purge its sins in one night. Expect to see several cases of CPA publishers and advertisers being called out for scammy tactics in 2010.
  • 38. Aol.’s rebranding efforts don’t have desired effect by turning the company around.
    You know a company is desperate when its logo is a goldfish. If anything is going to turn Aol. around, it’s an extreme brand change to make the company seem cool, relevant, and different. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything can keep the S.S. AOL ship afloat – they’re just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
  • 39. Microsoft’s online Office products fail to win any fanatics.
    Microsoft has had little success with web products, and I predict that through 2010 its only success will be Bing. Google’s online productivity suite has years of polish and won’t be taken down as the market leader any time soon.
  • 40. HTML5 video support has slow adoption as most large vendors find flash good enough for now.
    Eventually video will not require additional browser plugins, but complete HTML5 adoption is years away from being a reality. There are many problems with HTML5 video including browser compatibility, fallback issues, and user control issues (video buffers automatically). Ultimately, there is very little reason for large vendors to implement HTML5 video standards when Flash has 99% market penetration and I don’t see any making the switch in 2010.
  • Bonus: RSS faces death as filtered content recommendation systems on social services emerge. They, along with most real-time startups, struggle to find a revenue model (in 2010).
    People almost get enjoyment out of claiming “RSS Is Dead”. The main problem with completely switching off RSS and on to Twitter is that there is a lot of noise – not to say that RSS isn’t noisy either, but it’s at least generally focused. The complete switch for me will occur when a service can leverage the vast amount of data collected by these social services and curate it in to a personalized feed just for me. Companies and investors are bullish on the real-time space, and I expect to see this service come to light this year. That being said, it is unclear to me that real-time content services have any significant revenue advantages over almost-real-time content services. Accordingly, I predict that there won’t be any services which figure out a way to monetize the added value of extreme recency in 2010.
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