Scoring 2011's predictions

Last year I did a number of predictions that were (pardon the pun) pretty much predictable, but it’s worth doing a short re-cap.

Last Year

Last year, I started my little list with:

1. There will be a new iPhone, and more wannabe clones

2. There will be a new iPad, and more wannabe clones

Both the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S popped out of the oven largely on schedule (even more so if you discounted all the speculation), but what amazed me was that besides the usual clones, we now have people cloning the clones - i.e., Chinese manufacturers like Huawei churning out all-black and all-white plasticky Android devices that echo a third-rate carbon copy of a blurry photo of an iPhone but that share, for instance, Samsung’s distinctive aesthetic choices for the bottom bezel and buttons.

It boggles the mind, really, because it’s not as if they were actually cloning successful products to begin with.

3. There will be some new Apple gadget for news sites to gush over

Well, not really - if you discount incremental improvements, there were no new gadgets, and that is probably for the best - Apple is still driven by focus on as few (and wildly successful products) as possible, so the only point of note here is that we’re being peppered with a lot of speculation regarding the Apple TV.

I’m curious about how that might turn out, but not really interested until Apple gets more European content deals in place - the ecosystem’s not really there yet, even though it’s now mostly at the point where it was when the first iTunes content deals were inked in, so I give it a 50% chance of being news next year.

4. Lion will come out and bring back the simplest possible tiling window management strategy to our desktop with a vengeance (i.e., full-screen)

Ye gods, I wish I’d been wrong about this one. The current full-screen implementation is simply wrong (for lack of polite terms) for multiple displays, no matter how effective it is on a laptop.

I missed the bit where Lion would take hour-sized chunks out of your life by insisting on relaunching every single app you’d been running the day before and getting every app to restore all the confidential documents you’d been working on when opening something else, but those (despite being both well-meaning and, again, wrong) are preferences you can turn off.

Full-screen still needs to be fixed, but I don’t think that will happen soon.

5. Some other hitherto unassailable corporation from the heyday of the PC industry will be bought out and re-branded

Yeah, I was rooting for Adobe to get the Macromedia treatment on themselves, but that didn’t happen - they’re (smartly) reinventing their business, and despite riling up every single Creative Suite customer out there with licensing changes, they’re likely to make it through then next few years.

Still, it’s not as if both software houses and PC manufacturers aren’t eyeing each other warily (but hungrily). The big news in this space during 2011 was HP’s prosthetic foot - after nearly shooting both feet off during Apotheker’s short reign, they seem to be hobbling back on track, but I honestly can’t say where to.

6. Yahoo will shutter another random property, further tripping themselves up

I only got the second part right. Can’t say I noticed anything major in their online strategy other than the apparent lack of same.

7. Google will launch six to seven new shiny things which will be heralded as the next best thing since sliced bread by the cloud computing pundits, and quietly shelve two or three that were actually useful

Oh yeah. Nailed it, even though it was predictable as heck. Missed the awful redesigns, though.

8. Microsoft will plow ever onwards, incrementing version numbers of everything and (eventually) pissing off Intel until they actually lower their prices to reasonable, non-highway-robbery values

I actually think Microsoft is starting to get their act together, even though they’re still not quite there yet in terms of focus. Windows 8 seems positively rational in comparison to what they’re doing to Office, and I suspect their dithering where it regards ARM support will eventually make Intel somewhat more rational as well - although truth be told that buying Intel chips hasn’t felt as much of a rip-off this year.

Let’s see where that will go in 2012.

9. Nokia will keep dithering where it regards their OS strategy

Well, Series 40 is still around (and, thankfully, Qt seems to be alive and well), the N9 is their flagship device in Europe right now, and Windows Phone hasn’t made it here yet (officially - you can actually buy imports, but not in volume), so I’d say that I only got this right due to their massive inertia.

The writing’s on the wall, though. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were (formally, some would say) bought by Microsoft, although I’d be very sad to see their Qt stuff go (I couldn’t care less about all the rest, though - Qt is the only thing they’re doing by themselves on the platform space I actually like).

10. Everyone will keep going on about how X should buy Y and turn them into a profitable business, when X is actually in deeper trouble than people want to realize

Taking a cue from above, maybe this last one is currently true of Nokia. It did turn out to be true for Sony Ericsson, which will be absorbed into the Sony hegemony next month.

And in 2012…

Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest. I can make some educated guesses (some of which were already outlined above), and a sizable portion of the list would probably still work for 2012, but, the current state of economic affairs in Europe makes the whole exercise seem rather pointless - there’s little point in musing about innovation and the tech industry at large when your back porch is flooding.

Still, I’d likely toss in Windows Mobile as a probable success story - it’s light-years ahead of Android (even ICS) in user experience, and if carriers were to get their collective heads out of their, uhm, seats and start putting user experience first instead of going iteratively ballistic about controlling everything their customers do on handsets (believe me, Carrier IQ is only the tip of the iceberg), it might get the recognition it deserves next year.

After all, it’s the first thing out of Microsoft in years (besides the MacBU’s stellar work, that is) that made me think that they finally had someone aboard that knew how to do UX, and it deserves to go a lot farther - maybe even farther than Windows 8 itself1.

Those three wishes?

Never came true.

  1. SSDs are still pricey (even though the gap has narrowed somewhat), and even though the Air significantly dropped in price, a laptop with 2GB of RAM and only 64GB of storage is hardly more usable than an iPad for me - so no Air this yea (and likely not in 2012, either).

  2. Apple still hasn’t put out an ARD client for the iPad - which hasn’t stopped me from using it as my main home machine, through which I access a multitude of regular computers while putting up with the quirks of raw VNC and SSH. Were it not for my newfounded interest in development, I’d probably never care about using a laptop again.

  3. Even though most VNC and SSH clients have since developed hacks and workarounds to provide nearly full keyboard support on the iPad, basic stuff like app switching is still missing, and judging from the gestures debacle, I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.

Still, I’m going to stick to these three wishes for next year - persistence and focus tend to pay off, even if in rather unexpected ways sometimes.

And, of course, there are a few personal wishes to consider - some of last year’s paid off, some didn’t, but one can always hope for the best.

  1. Which, by the way, I don’t expect to do much for Microsoft until there are truly viable alternatives to the iPad - and for one of those to come along, it will probably take a little more than a year - plus all the companies I know that are able to do full end-to-end product integration seem to be tied up being copycats, which is sad. ↩︎

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