What to Expect in 2004

Jeremy Wagstaff (WSJ) looks ahead to a year of Bluetooth (maybe), RSS, spam, viruses and smartphones:

I think Bluetooth will either thrive or die this year, as users punish manufacturers for not displaying sufficient commitment to getting something with a Bluetooth logo on it to talk to another Bluetooth gadget from a different manufacturer. If these standards don’t work they will die off.

Elsewhere, something called RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is going to take off in a big way…So how about if they just click on a little orange button on your Web site and then, hey presto, a program called a newsreader in their computer (which they’ve already downloaded, being hip to the whole thing) loads up recent updates to your journal and occasionally checks for more. You don’t have to do anything more, and neither does the subscriber.

That’s RSS — and it’s already becoming the way a lot of folk get their news, personal and professional information. Expect to see more corporates get aboard this year, and, inevitably, folk trying to make money out of it, either by trying to bend the standard to their own interests by “developing” it, or more reasonably by including advertising. Media organizations that don’t embrace this technology will regret it.

[RSS] doesn’t mean, sadly, that spam is going to go away. In fact, in 2004, it will get worse, as laws in Europe and the U.S. push spamming operations offshore. Spammers will rely on computers in the unregulated world to send out their junk. This will strengthen the ability of international ne’er-do-wells to harness technology and the Internet to make money, via fraud, blackmail and hacking. So expect more and more sophisticated, viruses, Trojans and worms.

On a happier note, expect to see camera phones and smart phones get better, easier to use, and for operators to improve services and offer more for less. Competition will partly do this, but also users will, through their own ingenuity and refusal to be hoodwinked, prod operators to keep bills low and interoperability high (i.e., sending a picture from one cellphone carrier to another, or from one make of cellphone to another). Users will come up with interesting ways to use this new technology, which will have very little to do with what the carriers or manufacturers envisaged. This will open up whole new ways for people to interact and share information. Which, in the end, is what having standards is all about.

More Lists on 2003-04:

Steve Gliimor on the Best and Worst of Messaging and Collaboration in 2003: “RSS has a chance to remake the desktop as its collaboration and messaging center. It’s the first killer app of the XML revolution, the DVR of the Web.”

Always On’s top 10 trends of 2003 has India at No. 3

Wi-Fi Networking News looks back at 2003: “What will 2004 bring? More security, higher cell data rates, and the final blossoming of hotspots in public spaces.”

Dan Gillmor looks ahead to 2004 in the form of a quiz. “The surprise consumer-technology hit of 2004 will be mobile phones that make Internet calls via WiFi hot spots, bypassing the carriers.”

San Jose Mercury News compiles its predictions for 2004. “The defining tech trend of 2004 probably will be related to the defining trend of 2003 — the laptop’s steady march to overtake the desktop as the face of the PC.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.