February 13, 2008

Technology’s biggest predictions for 2008

After a year filled with change for the industry, many experts have offered their predictions for what consumers, corporations and the government can expect in 2008. After sifting through dozens of news articles and blog posts, five key trends stood out. These are listed below.

Technology goes green

The environment took center stage in 2007, thanks to celebrity endorsements and consumer worry over increasing energy costs, and many experts believe the issue will be even more important in 2008. Consumers can expect a wider range of alternative energy cars to hit the market during the next year, including a hydrogen-powered car from Honda and an electric car from Tesla. For businesses, 2008 could be a pivotal year for companies to reduce energy outputs. This might be accomplished through existing technologies like video and web conferencing tools, which allow more employees to work from home; moving more operations like customer billing online to reduce paper outputs; and new technologies aimed at reducing energy and toxins output.

Evolution of the PC

Perhaps spurred by the increasing focus on the environment, there are several predictions on 2008 being the year of the evolving PC. PCs are expected to get smaller, more affordable, and use less energy, although not necessarily all in the same product. Begun by Apple in January with announcement of the Macbook Air — “the world’s thinnest notebook” — 2008 may be the year the ultraportable becomes popular. Going hand-in-hand with this development is a similar increase expected in the use of flash drives, with one source predicting that each of the major PC vendors will release at least one flash drive-equipped laptop this year. The push to make cheaper PCs, which began with the One Laptop Per Child initiative and the introduction of the Asus Eee PC, may also move into the mainstream, with predictions that Apple and Dell will develop similar, low-cost PCs in 2008.

Cell phone industry expansion

Cell phones are becoming a ubiquitous gadget around the world, so predictions for 2008 focus on making them smarter and with more options. One prediction suggests that smartphones like Apple’s iPhone will represent as much as 15 percent of total phones sold worldwide by year-end. These devices move consumers closer to an all-in-one solution, which will eliminate the need for multiple devices. As these phones also tend to have larger screens, 2008 may be the year that watching TV on your cell phone becomes common.

The web slows down

Will 2008 be the year information overload forces the web to a halt? At least one source believes so, predicting that between user-generated content and the increased interoperability of consumer electronics, users may find significant gridlock while navigating the internet this year. This problem is two-fold: as more gadgets are released with internet connectivity, more people will be able to access the internet more often. At the same time, consumers’ use of the internet has changed dramatically over the last five years. The advent and wide availability of broadband allows users to both upload and download extremely large files, such as high-definition TV shows and films, which take up a significant amount of space.

Social networks adapt

Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube experienced tremendous increases in popularity last year and have become a central location of both uploading and downloading content. 2008 may be a pivotal year for these sites, with one of the biggest predictions being that they will move more firmly into the corporate world as a form of collaboration. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn may add new applications during 2008 to attract corporate users, while newer sites like Salesforce.com could become standard in industries revolving around the sharing of sales information. At the same time, privacy issues will also be a big issue for social networking sites, with predictions of botnets and identity theft becoming common occurrences.

While these five issues received the most coverage, other hot topics for 2008 include WiMAX, unified communications, virtualization and consumer robots, among others.