We may not know exactly what's going to happen in the tech world this year — but a lot of you have strong opinions about what WON'T be happening.
Last week, we put out a Call for Feedback asking you, the loyal TechRepublic community, to tell us what you think are among the dumbest, most outlandish, or least likely "predictions" that will supposedly come true in 2012. As always, you came through with your opinions — loud and clear! Here are some of the entries we received, along with a little editorial commentary.
1: Tablets will replace laptops and desktops this year
"The forecast that tablets will replace laptop and desktop systems is way out of line. They just came out and are still in their infancy/growth stage. Maybe in 5 years they will have developed and the Wi-Fi/4G backbone to support them will be in place to make them viable." — majorhl
Justin James followed up with:
"Tablets will hit the laptops first and then desktops, once good universal docking stations are available to overcome their limitations for "sit down work." It will DEFINITELY not be on the "this year" timeline... we're talking 5 to 10 years, if I had to guess."
Lassiter12: "I've had an iPad for over a year, and I now do most of my reading and short replies on it. In fact, I spend more time reading on it than I do on the laptop. The biggest pad problem is the virtual keyboard. It's much more difficult to use than one on the laptop. I'm a fair typist on the latter, but on the tablet, I'm always accidentally swiping a key that appears in the message. It's also more difficult to correct by placing the cursor exactly where you want it. I expect to continue using both."My take: I agree with Justin; tablets will displace (and in some cases, are displacing) laptops, particularly for light or casual users who are primarily content consumers rather than content creators. Longer-term, I see danger for desktops as well. How many of you out there know someone who has a computer at home and it just sits there most of the time, going unused?
That said, a more significant shift will take a lot more time than just 2012 and will require that some additional familiar apps make their way to the tablet form factor. These apps include Microsoft Office, the de facto standard for content creation. Further, I would argue that there will need to be a substantial VDI or application virtualization initiative in companies that go this route. Even though the cloud is all the rage, a ton of business is done on legacy ERPs with legacy apps, which requires legacy desktop access.
2: This will be a do-or-die year for Windows Phone
Dumb prediction: "If MS doesn't get significant phone market share this year, they never will." — (dogknees)My take: I agree to a point with dogknees, but here's the caveat. Microsoft has been trying for a while to grab some market share, and it has made meager progress on that front. Personally, I believe it has a great thing on its hands. But its marketing efforts have been less than stellar. Recently, however, Microsoft has committed to selling devices the way that sales people want to sell them, so there may be some hope yet. With so much of this year's focus going to Windows 8, I think that Microsoft will get a pass on Windows Phone for 2012 while people see what the company does to integrate the experience across all of its platforms, including the Xbox, the desktop, the handheld, and even the cloud.
3: Windows 8 Metro interface will become the default
"Big, beautiful HTML 5-based tiles are a nifty idea that looks and works great on Windows Phone and might work on a tablet. But... The idea that the Metro interface will become the default (or even dominant) interface for Windows is farfetched. Windows users (and Mac users, too), both consumer and business, are too married to the traditional desktop and Start menu (or Dock) combo to make an immediate jump to a substantially new interface." — Try2BWiseMy take: I agree wholeheartedly on this one. It's going to take a long time for people to adjust to Metro. Just look at the "crisis" that emerged for many when Office 2007 hit the scene. I was a very early adopter of Office 2007 and hated the Ribbon. Now, though, I wouldn't give it up.
Microsoft spends millions of dollars on usability testing. It's not going to bet the company on something it has no confidence in, and there will be plenty of ways to opt out of Metro in favor of a traditional experience.
4: Businesses will trust all their proprietary data to the cloud
"I expect that 2012 will see the first few debacles/disasters of 'Enterprise in the Cloud, and the predicted rush to its use will be replaced by a bit of corporate prudence, as most businesses will wait for 'somebody else to go first.'" — hippiekarlMy take: I see 2012 and 2013 as the years in which "The Cloud" becomes "the cloud" and takes on something with a bit less mystique as people learn the ins and outs of contract language, security protocols, data integration, and support. We've also seen debacles in 2011 — Amazon's outage, for example — that serve as warnings for those who wish to jump in with feet first. Even dismissing all the hype, once we move to the cloud being just another part of the portfolio rather than a singular strategy in and of itself, I believe we'll start to see much more adoption.
5: SMBs will mass migrate to the cloud
"This is becoming the same prediction every year, and honestly, the cost of bandwidth is too high for this to become reality. I deal with companies that moved to the cloud and are moving away from it because everything was too slow." — mbkavkaMy take: Those on the bleeding edge will sometimes bleed the hardest, but don't forget that those who take the bigger risks have the potential to reap bigger rewards, too. Although some have been burned by ill-advised plans and, perhaps, unmet vendor promises, these serve as examples by which to learn and, hopefully, not make the same mistake twice.
On bandwidth, it's incredible how much disparity there is in this area. I've been watching Missouri's bandwidth initiatives with interest and hope that someday, we see high speed Internet access as a required service, just like electricity and phone service.
6: Books will become interactive
"This was on a BBC documentary in the UK looking at the demise of paper books and some intellectual pundit suggesting that books would stop being fixed items that we consume, and that everyone would be interacting with their e-books and choosing the endings. What a load of rubbish. I have just got a Kindle, but I still like to consume the books — this is someone's work of literary art, and I cannot see any situation where I wouldn't want to know how John Grisham or Jeffrey Deaver ends the story." — yorkshirepuddingMy take: As a higher education leader watching how much students struggle to make ends meet, I can't wait to see someone seriously disrupt the textbook industry in a way that provides students with the tools they need at prices that are reasonable. Interactive books would be incredible, too. Maybe that someone will be Apple, with its recent announcement that it is "reinventing" textbooks with iBooks.
7: Windows 8 will be affordable and seamless across platforms
"MS will bring out a Windows 8 that will seamlessly scale from smartphones to desktops, at a competitive price" — radleymMy take: Agreed. This isn't going to happen in 2012. But I bet it does happen eventually. Microsoft has demonstrated the ability to seamlessly move from an Xbox console to a PC to a smart device, so it's not a farfetched concept. But it's going to take a while for Windows 8 to settle into the market and then Microsoft needs to find a way to bring order to the three separate platforms and ensure a consistent user experience across the spectrum.
8: Only cheaper Android tablets will be successful
"Android tablets will only succeed at under-$200." — radleymMy take: I'm not a huge fan of Android, but I can admit that there are some nice Android tablets out there. That said, when you look at the Android tablets that have been really successful, we have the Kindle Fire, a cheap tablet, and that unit is so heavily customized that it barely looks like Android. I would also argue that the Fire has been successful in no small part due to the fact that Amazon was backing it and it has a huge ecosystem behind it that is presented to the user in a reasonable way.
So I think there is success for Android, but with these caveats: 1) Really expensive Android tablets will remain niche for 2012; 2) The Fire (and Fire 2, etc.) will continue to improve and provide users with a "good enough" experience for the price.
9: We can predict technology
"I read Steve Jobs' essay in 2000 and could not understand how everyone could have their own phone number and be reached anywhere. Now I only buy shirts that have pockets to carry my iPhone in. No way to guess what will happen five years from now (except by the people working on closely guarded secret stuff)." — lassiter12My take: Point taken! It's tough to guess, but its kind of fun, too. I look forward to revisiting this article in January 2013 and seeing what came true and what didn't.