On a foul night in New York, where the cold, torrential rain perfectly matched the day’s news — massive fraud at a large investment fund, a failed bailout for the auto industry, the fifth straight decline in retail sales —- Mark Anderson, one of the tech industry’s favorite prognosticators, offered at least a glimmer of hopeful news at his annual "Predictions" dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.
After 8 years of nothing but messages of bad news and fear, the psychological lift of Obama’s inauguration will lead to a short term rebound effect on the market, he said. "I’m guessing it will take three weeks for the ‘Obama Bounce’ to take effect," he said, laying out a series ‘landscape’ scenarios as a back drop for his annual predictions.
Anderson is CEO and founder of the Strategic News Service, the first subscription-based newsletter on the Internet. He counts Bill Gates, Mark Hurd, Michael Dell, and a blue chip roster of tech movers and shakers among his subscribers.
He claims the dubious distinction of being among the first to predict the global liquidity collapse, on CNN World News, way back in February 2007. The 10 year, publicly graded, accuracy rate of his predictions is over 90%, although recently he’s topped that. He says that his predictions for last year were 96% correct.
Over a dinner heavy on red wine and red meat, before an audience of venture capitalists, CEOs, consultants and tech media, Anderson laid out his top 10 hunches for the coming year.
1.) It will be a big year for applications that can play on big screens. We’ve already got our plasma TVs, he said. In 2009, we’ll spend more on ways to use them – video games, movies, etc. "It will all be about what you can do for $100 to add value."
2.) Similarly, the big news in the mobile world won’t be a slicker, newer cellphone — it will be smart phone applications. "We’re talking billions in downloads," he said. In addition, because of their low cost and high volume, smart phone apps have the potential to replace mobile advertising – unless it can be ‘dragged through’ on an app.
3.) The blush is off the China rose. "There are already 15,000 riots a year in China," Anderson said. "The next thing is that people will get shot." China’s GDP is likely to plummet in 2009, and the West will revise its view of the country, recognizing it as a polluted place, rife with economic turmoil and starving people.
4.) 2009 will be the year when flash-based computing will really take off. "This year we’ll see the first computer with no moving parts," he said. That means the shelf life of a computer will expand, which will force the software industry to develop products that last over a longer term. "Everybody benefits," Anderson said.
5.) This will also be the year that wall computing gets traction. Think of the wall computers that CNN’s John King used during the election. They will soon find their way into corporate conference rooms, fundamentally changing the way we collaborate at work.
6.) Carry-along computers will be hot. HP’s mini is already ringing up dramatic sales, and Dell is entering the market as well. These lightweight, inexpensive little laptops, "will soon be the most commonly used computer," Anderson said.
7.) Led by Europe, LTE (Long Term Evolution) will be the preferred technology for 4G.
8.) Not to be left behind, the less developed world will finally see widespread availability of broadband. "Villages in Africa and elsewhere will get broadband and telephony at the same time," he said.
9.) After years of failed promises, voice recognition will finally work right. "We’ll go from being angry with the mechanical voice at the end of the line, to using it without annoyance," he said. "We will finally have continuous speech with no training."
10.) The Internet Assistant will be born. Think of this as your own personal technological concierge that can integrate all your disparate data and put it to work, probably via your phone. In 2009, you’ll be able to say, "Jeeves, I’m going to San Diego on Friday, your IA will book a flight (using your frequent flier account, and scoring your preferred window seat), book a car to the airport, reserve a rental car of the size you like with your favorite provider, book a hotel, and make dinner reservations at your favorite boite. It may even scan your calendar, determine that you have a free evening, and book tickets to the philharmonic.
While Anderson had no predictions for when the housing market, or the broader market would hit bottom, he was optimistic that having a new, competent, team in Washington, that valued science, technology, and innovation, would improve the country’s overall mood.
Market psychology is a powerful force, he said. It’s not surprising that the country is currently in a funk, given that we’ve been bombarded for nearly a decade with relentless messages of fear. "If you did this to a dog, you’d get arrested," he said.
"In 2009," he said, "our psychology will improve, even if our circumstances will get worse."