** This post originally appeared on TechVibes. Â Go read it there.
I have a spotty track record for timing on predictions, but that doesn’t stop me from making them. Â Having studied the influence of technology and media on societies, and having worked in the technology business now for almost 24 years, starting at 17 as a retail computer salesman, I have seen a lot come and go.
Amazingly that has not hampered my optimism, and I see 2012 as a pivotal year for a number of really key reasons — including what I think will be the tipping point for smartphones and apps in the mainstream; the prominence of IP in all media; the growing intersection between social media, mobile communications and politics globally; and the continued resistance of media companies to the Internet and the ethos and consumer behaviours that it brings along with it.
In an effort to handicap my wildÂ speculationÂ , I will qualify each prediction with a classification of either: SAFE BET, FIFTY-FIFTY, BOLD, or LONGSHOT. Â So, purely for your amusement, away we go:
- SOPA Will Pass to Become a Law Â (FIFTY-FIFTY)
Media companies are key players on the US political spectrum and they have no small influence on elections. Â 2012 being an election year, Â SOPA is particularly well-timed to expose the vulnerability of US Politicians to their constant need for cash. Â Media Cos and their executives will look hard at the positions of politicians on the issue of SOPA and Copyright in general when it comes time to write campaign cheques. Â Silicon Valley has thus far been milquetoast in their response to SOPA, though consumers have not. Â However, in US politics these days nothing matters less than the views of the
- RIM’s Co-Whatevers Will Step Aside Â Â (SAFE BET)
Reality has already beaten me to it on this one, with trial balloons floating up from the RIM Boardroom that it’ll be looking for a single outsider Chairman to replace the Co-Chairmen-in-question, of whom I have not been uncritical. Â From there, it’s only a matter of time until we see Â the outright departure of Messrs Lizardis and Balsillie from the executive ranks completely, which I suspect will slip just under the wire toward the end of 2012. Â This will all come down to how well they have stacked the board in their favour, or how much inertia is building within the dissident shareholder ranks at RIM. Â My guess is: THEY HAVE; and A LOT.. in that order.
- A Country Will Indefinitely Block The Internet Â Â (FIFTY-FIFTY)
I actually think that the influence of social media on the Arab Spring was overstated. Â That said, authoritarian regimes are not generally ones to quibble. Â Somewhere, likely a country in northern Africa, one such regime will paralyze its own economy by cutting off the internet for a period of months as it attempts to quel a well-organized Awakening. Â This will in the end accelerate the demise of the dictator and that of its people, and will never be tried again. Â As a bonus, email solicitations to help the cousin of whatever General wire you $25 Million for safekeeping will decline by 15% for a time.
- Online Dating Will Go Mobile Â (SAFE BET)
I have made a very specific bet in this category in creating Tingle (which we began working on in the summer of 2009). Â With the astonishing growth of smartphones, consumers want to do more and more on their mobile devices. Â Web-based dating sites are rapidly becoming the dinosaurs of social networking, and even those with mobile apps are being challenged by upstarts. Â To be frank the pace of this shift has been astonishing even to me, though I predicted it: in April 2011, Match announced that growth of mobile use of its service was at 135% YoY, and a total of 30% of its users were now mobile.
- The Canadian Venture Capital Business Will Revive Â (BOLD)
Almost two years ago, tax code changes (repealingÂ the dreaded 116) signaled that it was going to be a whole lot easier for US Venture Capital to flow north to Canada. Â And, in many instances, it has. Â This left the Canadian VCs out in the cold, already queasy from some shaky investments in the 1999-2005 period and unable to close new funds in the face of US competition. Â Suddenly, though, things have changed. Â With iNovia and OMERS both announcing significant new funds and changes afoot throughout the VC industry in Canada, not to mention a few big exits, there’s suddenly a lot happening. Â Let’s see if it sticks to the wall this time.
- Canada’s Government Will Redesign SR&ED Â Â (SAFE BET)
Early last year, Canada’sÂ governmentÂ floated trial balloons that it was displeased with the $3.5Bn/year SR&ED innovation tax credit program. Â Then in December, it sent stronger signals. Â The program, which is of significant value to Canadian tech startups, also happens to be the object of considerable abuse and an increasingly engorged industry of SR&ED service providers — two things that the government does not like. Â We in the startup community will need to be diligent to ensure that the Harper government does not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
- Microsoft Will Replace Ballmer Â (BOLD)
Things have, obviously, not been going well in Redmond. Â The company is in decline and morale is at an all-time low. Â And in September, Fortune quoted the notion that “Steve Ballmer has done to Microsoft what George W. Bush did to the USA“. Â Ouch. Â The greater obstacle here is not likely acknowledgement that things are going poorly — the challenge is who you’d get to replace Steve Ballmer. Â Not too many qualified people could look at Microsoft and faithfully declare that they have a strategy to turn things around quickly. Â As a result, and this is a side bet, I’m taking options on Bill Gates’ triumphant return to revive his baby.
- Apple Will Launch Another Set-Top Flop Â (FIFTY-FIFTY)
This is not exactlyÂ Nostradamus-esque. Â Reception to the two successive launches of AppleTV has been lukewarm. Â The AppleTV garden is very walled-in and the grunt of their A5 processor is insufficient to render 1080p HD video. Â Now, new rumours are flying that Apple will indeed launch a fully-integrated OLED Television with networking built-in.Â Better offerings that leverage open-ended media sharing platforms likeÂ Plex and XBMC are presently on offer from LG and Samsung. Â If it happens in 2012 this will be a flop and will, incorrectly, be blamed on Tim Cook.
- Apple Will Go To Work Â (SAFE BET)
Apple has successfully become a dominant consumer player, successfully seeding technologies deep into households. Â But Tim Cook, for his part, actually used to bleed blue as an IBMÂ guy. Â I won’t name names, but a little LinkedIN surfing will reveal a rather radical exodus from RIM’s sales and channel teams to join Apple’s Enterprise Sales team beginning in 2010. Â For those folks the writing has been on the wall: the iPhone shall inherit the Blackberry market share, and now they’re in the right place to benefit. Â Apple will use the iPhone and iPad, which most senior execs already have one of, as a beachhead into the Enterprise.
- Tech IPOs Will Be The Stars of the Public Markets Â (LONGSHOT)
I stopped short of saying that they will revive the public markets, because I still believe that the fundamentals of the global economy are troubling. Â HoweverÂ investors looking for a quick pop will support and sustain the IPOS of worthy companies including Facebook, Dropbox, and maybe even my old alma-mater RingCentral. Â While other IPOs simply bubble along, favourable light will shine on the market caps of tech IPOs in particular. Â The real undercurrent of this story will be the fact that a tech company IPO is no longer a particularly exceptional occurrence — good news for the rest of us.
So there you have it, sports fans.. and remember this is only an exhibition. Â Please, no wagering. Â And have a Happy New Year.