For some reason, the beginning of the year brings out the
closet prognosticator in many of us, resulting in entirely too many
Nostradamus-wannabes unleashing their predictions on an unsuspecting public.
I’ll confess to being guilty of doing the same, safe in the knowledge that no
one would actually check up to see how my guesses had fared.

This year, I’m going to take a different approach. Rather
than try to predict which technology is going to explode this year, or which
products will become must-haves, I’m going to tell you five things that won’t happen during the next 12 months.

What will happen in IT this year? Who knows? But to
paraphrase the lyrics of Ira Gershwin, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may
tumble…but none of these things will come to pass in 2005.

(1) Linux becomes a force on the desktop

I’m tempted to make this an annual anti-prediction. In July,
2002, I wrote:

“When I read pitches from Linux vendors these days, I’m
reminded of an article I read years ago about alternative energy sources. An
expert was asked about the possibility of harnessing nuclear fusion as a
practical energy source. “Nuclear fusion is the energy technology of the
future, but it’s 20 years away from commercial use. And if you ask me the same
question 20 years from now, I’ll tell you the same thing – that it’s 20 years
away from commercial use.”

That’s the way it is with Linux on the desktop. It’s just
over the horizon, exactly where it was last year and where it will be next
year. I’m not saying it always will be, but the PC world is still a Windows
world.

(2) Filtering software finally beats spam

AOL’s recent announcement that daily spam messages to its
customers dropped significantly, coupled with a 75 percent decline in AOL
customer complaints about spam, have led some to conclude that effective
filtering is winning the battle with spammers.

Would that it were true. Unfortunately, spam-filtering on
its own only provides incentives for spammers to send even more mail, and
devise ever-more artful ways to disguise their messages. In my opinion, the
best thing AOL did this past year to limit spam was to actually prosecute a
suspected spammer. If I was working the latest “Free Rx Online” scam, the fact
that AOL helped put someone in jail would get my attention.

In the long term, the only way to beat spam is to provide
real authentication, on both ends. I think this is going to require a
combination of hardware and software. The other solution is to actually require
either the sender or receiver to pay the actual costs of an individual message.
As many have noted before, e-mail is different than snail mail in that the
latter requires the sender to pay the cost of postage, while the former puts
many of the costs on the receiver. Some have proposed changing the model
somehow so that the sender of each e-mail message will be assessed a micro-fee.
I’m not sure that will be practical – or even desirable. (Personally, I get
lots of useful newsletters that would presumably stop publishing if they had to
pay a fee every time they sent out an e-mail.)

Authentication, on the other hand, could really make a dent
in spam, by making it possible to truly identify who is sending each message.

(3) RSS becomes the next Killer App

Don’t get me wrong—I like RSS feeds. TechRepublic supports
Really Simple Syndication, and many of our members use it everyday to access
the newest content on the site. So I’m an RSS fan.

Where I draw the line is with the claims of some RSS
enthusiasts that these feeds are going to supplant traditional Web sites. An
RSS feed can be useful in letting you know the latest information on a
particular topic or from a particular publisher or blog. However, when I read
that people are going to use RSS readers to do their own aggregation of many
sources on a particular topic, I become skeptical. Isn’t that what Google News
does? And do I really think I’m going to be better at it than those guys?
Besides, doesn’t that path lead to an RSS viewer that’s just as cluttered as
your e-mail Inbox?

(4) The IT spending “slump” ends

I think this kind of prediction (which has been trumpeted
relentlessly every few months for the past three years at least) has a faulty
assumption: that the current level of IT investment is somehow below its normal
level. A better way to phrase this prediction would be: “Organizations
return to throwing buckets of money on technology with no regard to ROI or
business needs.”

When you put it that way, it seems less likely, doesn’t it?
I don’t know about the stock market, but Alan Greenspan’s phrase “irrational
exuberance” is a perfect way to describe a lot of technology spending that was
done at the height of the boom. Since then, we’ve had a couple of years of
draconian spending cuts in technology spending. The modest increases we’re
seeing now aren’t a signal that the floodgates are starting to open, just that
the sector has worked through a lot of its overcapacity, and spending increases
are returning to more usual levels.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that IT is a mature industry.
In fact, the phrase sounds like a contradiction in terms. On the other hand,
we’re not going to be partying like it’s 1999 again, either.

(5) Offshore outsourcing becomes a hot political issue

One could argue that offshore outsourcing is already a
political issue, but it certainly isn’t a big one, and I don’t think it’s
likely to become one in the next twelve months. In fact, if I were in the
prediction business, I’d predict that several huge offshore outsourcing deals
fall apart this year.

But then again, I’m not in the predictions business.