Sunday, January 10, 2010

What To Look For in 2010

I have installed a few fresh Lithium Ion batteries in my digital crystal ball and am now ready to make some predictions about what products and issues will surface during 2010. It has been interesting to observe that the economic downturn may have slowed the introduction of new electronic devices and services, but for sure there seems to be a continued consumer interest and demand for all things digital.

Revenues of the traditional broadcast networks will continue to decline. Advertisers are becoming much more attentive to other forms of reaching potential customers. For example, rather than using the network the Nightly News, which has become an emporium for geriatric medicines for maladies ranging from arthritis to xenophobia ( I couldn’t think of a “z” disease) advertisers are using the Internet, mobile phones and even video games to sell products. With less revenue for the networks there is less money to produce audience grabbing programming. With weak programming there is a smaller audience. The downward cycle will continue.

This relates to the recent Fox vs. Time Warner spate played out over the New Year holiday. There will be more and more pressure for consumers to pay for TV. We have seen it with baseball and increasingly will see it with other programming. If you want to watch good stuff you will need a pay service. More and more of the best programming will be on HBO and Showtime and less and less on ABC and NBC.

Another trend to look for is the explosion in the capabilities and consumer adoption of smart phones. Once the province of the business community, Blackberries, iPhones and Droids will be as likely to be found in a teen’s backpack as they are now in the lawyer’s briefcase. The mobile phone is no longer primarily a device for ordering pizza or talking with friends, smart phones have become portable offices and mini computers capable of surfing the Internet, finding a good salsa restaurant or purchasing stocks and bonds while waiting in the car to pick up your kid from school. Look for applications that monitor your heart rate for your cardiologist or your Ford 150 for your mechanic.

For all this portable stuff to work, it requires bandwidth. There will be fights over who gets what and how much. Just like real estate, there is a finite amount of bandwidth available in the electromagnetic spectrum and it is filling up fast. The TV you watch, the Blue Tooth earpiece you wear and the garage door opener you use all require segments of the available bandwidth. There will be fights between the traditional radio and TV broadcasters and the upstart mobile phone carriers. The FCC has some very important decisions to make.

The products will get smaller, devices will increasingly be wireless and prices will drop. Let’s hope that the user instructions will be simplified. Oh well , three out of four isn’t too bad.

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