From the December 2011 Issue
At a global broadband policy conference in late 2011, I was asked to define the state of technology in this year. The answer came down to this: 2011 was the year that reality set in.
That requires a bit of explanation, but we can begin to define it with five simple trends that emerged this year:
1. Anything 4G is a hoax. There is no device, no program that meets the 4G specification, and won’t be for a while. What happened is that the manufacturers, bereft of something new to dangle before consumers, sought and got permission to call 3G devices “4G,” on the grounds that they were slightly better than the old 3G. This led to the ridiculous claim that WiMAX was in some way a form of 4G.
2. Technology has changed us, for both good and bad. Technology has kept its promise of changing basic institutions, from religion to government. But the change is not always positive. Fail to be clear in your Facebook invitations, for example, and a thousand strangers can show up at your house for a party. And the world over, governments are struggling with how to keep technology from fostering revolution and unrest. The Wikileaks situation this year has not helped.
(Keep reading and you find Dave's opinions
of what we saw in 2011, what he predicted
was going to happen this year, and what
he's forecasting we will see in 2012. No, the
Mayan Calendar does not come into play.)
3. Cyberwar is real. So is cybercrime. For a long time, we could hide behind the façade that cybercrime only happened to foolish people who visit porn sites on the internet. And that cyberwar was some future thing that George Lucas had already dealt with. Now we are faced with ever-growing assaults, the rise of botnets and an increase in identity theft.
4. Facebook is not your friend. Google does evil. How many ways do these guys have to steal your personal information to enrich themselves before consumers ditch them and go back to doing things an older but more secure way? We used to fear that the government would follow our every move, collect all our information to use against us and pound us senseless with propaganda messages. We were wrong … it is the marketers who are doing it.
5. In technology, many seemingly good ideas turn out to be stupid. Like Microsoft’s “Bob,” watching movies on your cell phone, localized information sent to your cell phone, Twitter, and … well, feel free to complete the list on your own. Just because the engineers like it does not mean that consumers will. And just because a lot of consumers like it doesn’t mean it is not stupid. Think chia pets.
This is the year reality set in, driven by a hard economy and the suspicion that perhaps we have given up just a little too much of our privacy to get the baubles and trinkets they are offering.
So how did our prognostications for the year turn out? Here’s what we predicted and what actually happened:
Prediction: Internet applications will continue to lag internet speeds.
Actual Results: If the folks at Gartner are to be believed — and they should be — folks use the internet for email and search, followed by sharing photos, navigation and shopping. Not a whisper of YouTube or social media. And none of the top applications are particularly bandwidth intensive. Of course, video on demand could change all of that. But it hasn’t yet.
Prediction: Printer Management will be the new efficiency hot button.
Actual Results: They even have it in featured ads on television now. The total lifecycle cost of printers is generally so bad that the printer manufacturers should be tarred and feathered. On the other hand, HP seems to have enough troubles as is. Just remember this: If they refuse to give you information on how many sheets a cartridge will print, there is a reason.