Last year I left a few predictions hanging about. They were so extensive (and yet so vague) that I've pretty much decided I won't repeat the exercise this year - if only because it's impossible to try to gather links to pieces of information that prove (or disprove) any of the predictions, since it's simply too much hassle to go hunting for links on holiday.
But let's see what I got (and didn't) get right, shall we?
- Yes, 2005 was indeed the Year of MP3, although one can't really say that happened due to the ROKR (or any other music phone). Save for the W800, most music phones (like the N91 and the W900i) were either repeatedly delayed or sunk without a trace. The iPod's repeated success really ought to have sunk in by now.
- Carriers were pretty quiet where it regards "music stores", but most aggressively marketed their "real ringtone" services. I still have trouble with the notion of "WAP storefronts", so I'll skip this one as a miss.
- Mobile data pricing did creep downward, but not in the way I anticipated - here in Portugal it actually took us longer than I expected to get decent mobile flat-fees (we now have a Eur.30 flat fee for UMTS data from all three carriers)
- Video calling didn't become a reason to ban camera phones. In fact, it was hardly ever mentioned (which reminds me of my ISDN days - video calls have been possible for more than a decade, and we all know they aren't in general use).
- Exchange did get more mobility features, although it took Microsoft almost a full year to deliver them - and it is likely to take them even more to get them widely deployed, since IT departments aren't exactly flush with cash this year (or will be the next). They did not, however, deliver any sort of real solution for attachment handling.
- Symbian has been pretty quiet of late (and I haven't really had time to track their moves behind the scenes.
- As I predicted, it took Nokia half a year to get the N70 out, although I would be hard pressed to consider it "substantially better" than the 6680 (at least with that cramped little keypad). The N80 and the other N-Series have mostly been pushed back to 2006, so that leaves the new Series 40 devices, that have, indeed, started filling every niche (even to the point of evolving upwards in the range, with the 6280 being very close to a Series 60's capabilities).
- I was wrong, however, on there being new Series 90 launches. There wasn't any real follow-up to the 7710 (the 770 was a wildcard, and it's Linux-based), and even the Series 80 only got a minor update in the form of the 9300i. They are, however, getting a lot more creative (even baroque) on case designs.
- Samsung did turn out to be a very competitive third player this year, churning out model after model. It did not, however, do anything useful regarding syncing support.
- As the V600i/K600/K608/K750i/W800 amply demonstrate, SonyEricsson was able to shrink down the V800 and deliver more than a match for the Series 40.
- Windows smartphones have made a lot of fuss in the press, but their high prices (and not carrier choice) was the main factor preventing them from taking over the smartphone market.
- Although I have no re-publishable figures, the PDA market is indeed a bit wobbly - largely due to the shift to smartphones. The standalone PDA seems to be headed for extinction, but not just yet.
- RIM kept on increasing their market share (despite NTP's worst efforts), and although the Wi-Fi model is US-only and they still haven't delivered an UMTS one, they've delivered a CDMA one and have been dropping a lot of hints at the possibility (as yet unconfirmed) of catering to consumer tastes and including a camera.
- Palm was the big loser this year, and although I couldn't have predicted their switching to Windows Mobile, I was right in predicting that they wouldn't deliver anything revolutionary.
Wireless and Broadband
- Well, HSDPA isn't there yet, although the industry buzz has in fact shifted a bit in its direction. Still, WiMax is much "cooler" and still has most of the press coverage, even if it still doesn't have any real footprint. The reason for all that enthusiasm seems obvious to me: since WiMax appeals to those pie-in-the-sky diehards that keep dreaming of disturbing the existing telco marketplace (or rather, to those who persist in believing that the only way to create new business is by disrupting existing ones).
- I've pretty much lost track of Qualcomm's patenting efforts, but I wouldn't be surprised to pick up their annual report and see a very large licensing revenue.
- Wi-Fi is still a mess, to the extent that I can't really judge if it's become significantly worse or not.
- ADSL has flattened out indeed. Portugal's prices are still above the European average, but we have to thank the incumbent for that.
- No Metro Ethernet yet - at least not anywhere I know of.
- Well, they did surprise us - with the mini, the switch to Intel, with the nano, etc., etc. I think we can leave this up as a recurrent prediction, no?
- Ah, was I ever right about the Longhorn/Vista features that would trail the Tiger launch... In fact, they're still coming. I could have done with some of Tiger's own "features", though...
- Yes, iCal still sucks.
- Yes, Address Book still doesn't know how to retrieve more than one e-mail/number/etc. from LDAP queries.
- GarageBand still doesn't have a "publish to iTunes Music Store" feature, but we got podcasts instead - an arguably more popular choice, harking back to the CB Radio mystique.
IT and the Internet
- No, Google didn't launch a browser, an online Office suite, or anything like them (although we got a lot of unforeseen goodies this year).
- I have mostly ignored the Office 2006 hype, but I did note that:
- They mostly butchered Groove to tie it in to SharePoint and existing Office features
- They are still pursuing a change in licensing model (although the details are still solidifying)
- It is, in fact, slightly incompatible with previous file formats (it is said to save by default in the new ones)
- It might actually not be late this time (although I'm willing to bet that the Mac version will be, and that it still won't include a decent Outlook replacement)
- Windows Server 2003 is, in fact, still Microsoft's best product at this point (at least until Windows Update blows my boxes out of the water like it did to XP), but I didn't notice any relevant inroads in the SME market - mostly because I didn't pay attention, since I'm told that there were some very aggressive licensing deals done over here.
- SIP and VoIP are indeed taking off. More VoIP clients were launched in 2005 than browsers (always a good thing), the press (including TV, which aired a piece about Skype's video-enabled version during prime time today) have been going ape about it, and regulators are finally looking at it in earnest (and this is where my Disclaimer kicks in).
- Skype did in fact fix their buddy list support, and have been striking deals left and right - interconnection, hardware, you name it.
- Apple has completely ignored Mono this year (probably because they're completely focused on Objective-C, but most likely because they just don't care).
- Mono did in fact reach parity with .NET of a sort, mostly due to the intensive work done in Windows.Forms. I haven't seen any new FUD emanating from Redmond, but they did release all those free development tools this last quarter - whereas Mono is still a bit lacking in that department.
- IBM did not pick up Mono, and is content in eroding Sun's margin in the server business (although Sun seems to be doing a very good job at self-destructing in the enterprise segment). They are, however, still building their Lotus/Notes family, and have hinted at integrating SameTime with VoIP and Jabber.
The Media Revolution
- H.264 is relatively popular at the moment, but it doesn't seem to have displaced DivX yet - the encoders and decoders work and churn out good results, but they still require a bit more CPU than is generally available and are likely to need another year to settle down. But anyone can pick up HandBrake and start enjoying it today.
- The media center appliances market seems to be largely missing in action - Windows Media Center is definitely not a household name, and even the "extenders" that Microsoft licensed failed to make a significant splash (including their own, which you may know as the Xbox - I hear there's a new model out...).
- Sony has released very few specifics of what the PS3 will be able to do in any way, but judging from the PSP and LocationFree, my current bet is that it won't be that much of a PVR.
- BitTorrent is still the most widely-used protocol on just about any broadband access network. It has, however, crossed over into legitimacy - in the sense that it's in widespread use for all sorts of media and package downloads (including, of course, Linux distributions).
- There are still no decent program guides out there. There are, however, an increasing amount of video podcasts - and the iTunes store, which is a lot more interesting.
Linux and Open Source
- Fedora and Ubuntu seem to be, in fact, the current main choices for Linux users - hard-core or choosy users will stick to Debian or one of the many variants of RedHat, but, as always, there are a lot of niches to fill.
- Gnome is still in the lower 2s, and has been making an effort to improve configuration - even before Linus wrote "let them eat cake", erm, sorry, "use KDE".
- There has been a rather timid effort to include desktop notifications in both KDE and Gnome. None of them even come close to Growl's smoothness and usability, but nobody seems to be using SIP either.
- KDE has in fact evolved somewhat into a more presentable desktop - in the sense that the themes aren't too baroque for general use, although the "faux Aqua" icon look is still a bit much on just about any theme.
- OpenOffice is still not usable on the Mac, and despite some progress, it doesn't seem to be getting much closer.
- Linux on laptops surprised me by becoming a palpable reality - i.e., one that works away from a power cord (and without five meters of UTP cable) for a significant length of time - but even if I got lucky, it bears reminding that it's not painless to setup, and still works properly only on a few instances.
There was one thing in 2005 that I never really believed would happen: Corporate blogs (like the Office blogs) and all sorts of CEO musings laid bare on the net. I never really commented on those, but just replace "PowerPoint slide" by "blog post" on this cartoon, and I think you pretty much get the gist of things:
And that's it, I guess. Expect a few more musings on what 2006 will bring, but nothing as elaborate as last year's...