Here we are, nearly midway through the decade, and the tech landscape promises to be more interesting than ever. My predictions for 2005 (best enjoyed with a salt shaker handy):
1. The year of the DVR. The number of digital video recorders in people’s homes will finally push well above the 10 million mark, and DVRs will achieve the critical mass that advertisers have long feared they would. Satellite TV providers are already strong proponents of the technology because it reduces customer churn, and the cable guys are catching up quickly. But most of these DVRs will not be TiVos (the current category leader). Rather, they will be generic equipment built into satellite and cable set-top boxes (unless, of course, DirecTV buys TiVo). Expect more Apprentice-style shilling for products written directly into TV-show scripts, as advertisers realize that the 30-second spot is fast becoming an anachronism.
2. Apple introduces the iPhone. Long craved by the Mac faithful, a sleek, beautiful cell phone that doubles as a digital-music player is coming soon from Apple’s iPod division. Although Steve Jobs has often dismissed the notion of such an offering because other companies are better at making phones, an already-announced but vague partnership with Motorola will allow Apple to stick to what it does best: great tech design. Expect a Motorola iPod, but with lower-capacity flash memory instead of a larger hard drive. Look also for future iPods to incorporate a satellite radio (even a regular radio would be nice).
3. Google searches everything. The Web is not enough for Google. It will continue to add new categories of information to its searches. Its downloadable software searches your desktop computer, and the company recently announced that it is scanning millions of books in university libraries. Any digitized or digitizable information is fair game, including offline databases, music, photos, and video. (Yes, video search is coming soon. Now, if I could just get that on my TiVo.)
4. Blogs go mainstream, and podcasting catches on. More and more blogs will join mainstream media as a source of daily information for millions of people, especially as nontechie Web surfers figure out how to tap into RSS feeds and collect all of their favorite blogs in one place. The more sophisticated bloggers will add audio commentary and become podcasters, producing daily Web radio shows that listeners can download to their computers and iPods. The first video podcasts will appear. Some bloggers and podcasters may even figure out how to make money.