Get ready for TV shows that look like cartoons, but have no animators on staff. These shows are fully computer generated — whether it's a season of hockey games or Friends-style sitcoms with computer-generated characters. They're not drawn with computer animation tools; instead, they are easily produced with video games. With the video feed, all the producers need are voiceovers from human actors. For now.
Social networking plateaus
Once you have accounts on Friendster, LinkedIn, Tribe, and Ryze — and you've added all your friends — what's left? While these services are fun and have grown a lot in the past two years, I don't see such dramatic growth ahead in 2005. Kudos to them if I'm wrong.
Photo-sharing hits it big
Fun, free services like Fotolog and Flickr can't operate under the radar forever. I'd wager that 2005 is the year people will start to take more notice of these photolog sites. They still have to be easier to use, though.
Simple cell phone
Who needs the cell phone with 28 primary features, twice as many buttons, and an embedded Ginsu steak knife set? I know: early adopter gadget freaks. The rest of us are getting tired of phones with so many features that we can hardly make a phone call. In 2005, look for at least one simplified cell phone to hit the market.
Spam doesn't increase
Email filters at major ISPs are finally getting smarter about filtering out spam. Look for spam to hold steady — or decrease — in 2005.
Apple marches on
Apple's market share of the PC market, on the other hand, will hold steady or increase in 2005. The new iMac has a great customer experience, and Mac is the only brand that runs all three major operating systems (Windows, Mac OSX, and Unix) in one box.
The wrong kind of "viral"
Over 4,000 new Windows viruses were detected in the first six months of 2004. Look for this to increase in 2005, continuing to pull up IT support costs — and drag down Windows users' productivity.
Google starts to put their IPO capital to use. Rumors in 2004 have hinted at a new Google Web browser. Gmail may be ready for full launch in 2005. What else will hit the G spot?
Meanwhile, other new search engines, like A9 and Vivisimo, attempt to carve away at Google's market share. I predict that they will have some success in niche user segments, but Google's overriding simplicity will guarantee its longevity on the top spot for most users.
The Paradox of Choice
The 2004 book by Barry Schwartz becomes more relevant as consumers are given more and more choice online (as well as offline), leading to the information overload that users already face in so many areas.
Mark Hurst is the founder of Creative Good, a New York-based customer experience consultancy. He is a columnist for Fast Company's forthcoming Customer Experience resource center online.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.