Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 bold tech and business predictions for 2012

Year-ahead predictions are a dime a dozen.
Put more bluntly by some foul-mouthed philosopher: Opinions are like assholes – everyone’s got one and everyone thinks theirs doesn’t stink.
I’ve reviewed a lot of 2012 predictions by experts in their fields and have compiled some of the most interesting ones.
Here are 11 notable predictions in technology and business that I’ve seen for the coming year.

1. Microsoft will buy Netflix and/or LinkedIn

Kudos to the analysts at market research firm IDC for sticking their necks out with their 2012 predictions. They predicted that Microsoft would buy Netflix to buck up its online content offerings and LinkedIn to add social networking capabilities.
IDC analyst Frank Gens admits they’re “audacious” calls.
“You can’t do layups all day,” he told me. “You have to take a half-court shot now and again.”

2. Microsoft will fire CEO Steve Ballmer

IBD tech business writer Brian Deagon is convinced that 2012 will be the year that Microsoft will give the boot to long-time CEO Steve Ballmer. This prediction has been floated in previous years, but Deagon is practically alone this year. (Warner Crocker at Gotta Be Mobile also predicts that Ballmer will step down next year.)
Deagon thinks Ballmer will be shown the door in 2012, despite the anticipated launch of Windows 8 later in the year, which will give the company a shot at penetrating the tablet market and reinvigorating PCs. Deagon thinks the Microsoft board will finally tire of Microsoft’s lagging stock price and missed opportunities.

3. Apple shares will plummet 50% from 2011 highs

Europe’s Saxo Bank predicts that Apple shares will tumble to $213.35 at some point in 2012, half of its 2011 high. The bank predicts that Apple will lose ground to competitors in smartphones and tablets in 2012 and see its profit margins cut.

4. Apple will buy Twitter

Apple will swoop in and buy Twitter as the microblogging service sees usage wane from competition from Facebook and Google+, ReadWriteWeb founder and editor-in-chief Richard MacManus predicts.

5. Apple will declare a dividend

The Apple board will decide to share some of its $26 billion cash hoard with investors in the form of a dividend, predicts Marc Lichtenfeld, senior analyst at Investment U.

6. Zynga will lose half its market cap

Social gaming company Zynga will see its market capitalization of over $6 billion cut in half in 2012, predicts Bernard Moon, co-founder and CEO of Vidquik, writing at
Moon thinks Zynga will start to see its leadership position in the space diminish next year.

7. RIM will exit the hardware business

Research In Motion will ditch its BlackBerry smartphone hardware business and focus on software, says Alan Shimel, co-founder and managing partner of the CISO Group. RIM will focus on software for managing mobile devices for the enterprise, he says.

8. FTC will take Google to court

The Federal Trade Commission is likely to take Google to court next year on antitrust charges, according to Clint Boulton, senior editor for eWeek and Google Watch.
Boulton also predicts that Google will shutter its Chrome OS and Google TV products as CEO Larry Page continues to clean house of dead-end products and focus on core software.

9. Facebook will expand into e-commerce and business networks

Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Baird Research, thinks social networking leader Facebook will make a big push into e-commerce next year. He calls the online sales trend F-commerce.
IDC thinks Facebook will be getting more “business-oriented” in 2012, partnering with enterprise tech giants like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP to add social networking to their offerings.

10. Twitter for your toaster

IDC predicts that 2012 will see the arrival of microblogging by things, so people can follow the status of a product or service.
“Think Twitter for your toaster,” Gens said.
Machine-to-machine communications will allow people to follow a Twitter feed from an appliance in their home, the arrival time of a bus or the available parking spaces in an area.

11. Coinstar will change its name to Redbox

Coinstar will change its name to Redbox in 2012. Redbox is the company’s largest business today and it’s being used to brand new ventures like Seattle’s Best Coffee kiosks. This is my only personal prediction for the year.

Photos: Netflix on a laptop computer (top); and a Redbox-powered Seattle’s Best Coffee kiosk at the Harris Teeter grocery store in Reston, Va., in December 2011.

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