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Technology: 11 Predictions for 2011

I’ve made my 11 tech predictions for 2011, and it looks like it’ll be an interesting year.

Every December since 1990, I have published a list of predictions for the New Year. If you’ve followed my predictions over the years, you know that I have had a lot of hits and some spectacular misses, such as my prediction two years ago that Microsoft would buy RIM and its BlackBerry products. At the time, Microsoft was way behind in the smartphone industry and it was not clear that it had an answer to the Apple iPhone. But to be fair, I clearly stated that this was a wild prediction and not necessarily one that I thought really could happen.

So, here is my list of predictions for 2011:

1. Tablets will have a negative impact on laptop sales. Although I believe laptop computer sales will continue to stay strong, it’s becoming clear that Tablets will have a noticeable impact on overall laptop sales in 2011. In fact, various market researchers are now suggesting that it could reduce the total amount of laptop units sold by as much as 10 to 12 percent over the next 1 to 2 years. At the moment, consumers’ questions about whether to buy a tablet or laptop will actually hurt sales of laptops in Q4. Many are simply waiting to buy a new laptop until they see what types of new tablets come out in early 2011. I believe this will be evident in the laptop sales numbers for this quarter when they come out early next year. This is both good and bad news for the industry. For Apple, it validates its iPad product and is forcing the rest of the industry to innovate around the tablet platform. But for the traditional laptop vendors, they need to aggressively pursue their own innovative tablets to make up for lost laptop sales. But the good news is that combined they will sell even more mobile digital devices overall. However, 2011 could be a tough year for the traditional PC vendors as they scramble to make this transition in portable computing devices.

2. Skype will be sold again. eBay bought Skype some years ago to try and integrate this telephony service into its overall selling service. It was a nice idea but it didn’t work, and the service was spun back out last year. Skype is still a hot property, though, and a serious acquisition target for someone. Rumors say Facebook wants to integrate Skype into its social network, but I don’t get the sense that it will buy Skype. I could be wrong, as it might make sense for Facebook, but I believe the perfect acquirer is Cisco. Cisco has made solid moves to get closer to the consumer in the past, and Skype would give them direct access to over 125 million monthly users and 500 million overall user accounts, most of them consumers. If there is any company that could help Cisco move closer to the consumer, it would be Skype.

3. The Cloud will get personal. At the moment, the concept of cloud computing is getting the most attention in the business world, as companies like Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, etc. are all championing their moves to software as a service. Of course, all of these services are cloud based. But I believe that Apple will take a major position in cloud computing in 2011 and be the company that makes the cloud very personal. How will it do this? I believe that Apple will heavily exploit its new data center in North Carolina early next year by offering a set of services that allow Mobile Me customers to put their entire music, video, and imaging library in the cloud and make it accessible on any device. More importantly, it will deliver a solid synchronizing layer so that when something changes on one device, it changes on all of the other devices in a person’s private cloud network once connected to the service. HP might have the slogan "the PC is personal again," but Apple will add its own spin on this to "The cloud is finally personal."


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