Monday, January 05, 2009

Looking to 2009

Last time I reported on the predictions I made about a year ago concerning electronic products and services that would be developed during 2008. As we begin another year I am going to go out on a limb again and put in writing my 2009 predictions. Perhaps with some fresh batteries installed in my LED powered crystal ball, I’ll get more right than wrong.

Much to my consternation as a manager of a broadcast TV station, I don’t see the upcoming analog TV broadcasting shut down as going smoothly. For sure, the majority who are using cable or satellite services on February 17th will find that the event will be a non-event. Nevertheless, there are still many people who receive TV over-the-air using an antenna who are looking at this change as a sort of Y2K non-event. In other words they don’t need to worry about it. When they wake up on Wednesday morning, February 18th, and “Today Show” is not there they may feel differently. Look for the days and weeks following the cut off to be a great time to be in the antenna and digital set top TV converter business. Seriously, if you know someone who may be unaware of what they need to do - perhaps the elderly lady at church or the nice old man down the street - ask if they need help getting a converter.

Big is not always better. Look for electronic products to continue to shrink in size. Nanotechnology will be a hot area during 2009. The ability of engineers and designers to pack into very small packages a host of applications and machines is nothing short of awesome. Especially in medicine, there will be introduced a whole generation of small machines designed to be implanted in the body to perform some task of diagnosis. This miniaturization will also allow mobile phones and mp3 audio devices to get smaller with storage capacities ballooning.

Speaking of storage. Look for the cost of all digital storage to continue to go down. Once only the province of data centers at P&G or GE, disk drives measured in terabytes will be available in stores in the $100 price range.

GPS technology will continue to be integrated into all sorts of mobile devices. Keeping taps on the toddler in the park, the teen at the mall or Fido in the back yard will continue to be easier with small homing devices. Look for more mobile phone networks to adopt a clone of the iPhone tracking software that allows iPhone users to see where friends and colleagues are located at any given time. Yes, you can turn it off.

Mobile video will also get a push this year. As broadcasters finish the conversion to all digital transmission, some will begin to use a portion of the signal to send video programming to mobile and hand held devices. The technology has been in test mode for about a year and will be rolled out in some 20 markets nationwide during 2009. The adoption by consumers of this technology will be based on how well broadcasters can fashion programming that is appropriate for the small hand held screen. Also, I see the adoption of this technology as geographically dependant. For example, in New York or other cities that have the majority of commuters using public transportation, the ability to watch a news program while sitting on a bus or train en route to or from work would most likely be a viable service. I think the jury is still out for other applications and the willingness of consumers to pay or advertisers to embrace.

One of the outside influences that may slow down the distribution of these and other products and services during the coming year is the flagging world economy. Already we have the major manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and LG announcing cuts in exports to the US and other major markets. The “gee whiz” products will most likely not get the attention of a consumer base concerned about mortgage and car payments.

In 12 months we’ll see how I did. Happy New Year!

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