Gaming: Entertainment has been and will continue to be one of the biggest drivers for consumers in the upper end of the socio-economic pyramid. The nature of entertainment is shifting. Even as game consoles proliferate and video games rival movies with blockbuster openings (Microsofts Halo 2 recorded first day sales of $125 million), two emerging trends are online gaming and mobile gaming. Broadband is fueling the online gaming trend Chinas Shanda was the best-performing IPO of the year. Mobile phones are becoming more powerful and with bigger, colour screens have the capability to offer anytime, anywhere gaming.
Blogging: While blogging may not yet have hit the mass market, it is now no longer on the periphery. Blogging is providing an alternative to mainstream media. Individuals either alone or in groups are writing directly to the Web. With syndication technologies like RSS and various aggregation and search services, it is also easier to find and stay in touch with the writings (and increasingly, recordings) of bloggers.
Simplicity: If there was one theme that dominated computing, it relates to simplifying the growing complexity of technology. Software-as-a-Service is one manifestation of this trend. In emerging markets, this desire for simplicity will dovetail with the need for affordability to create value-for-money solutions. This will create new opportunities to reinvent computing for the next billion users as a service, with learnings from the world of telecom in the form of both zero-management access devices and subscription-based billing.
Open-Source: The architecture of participation as applied to software is showing its power. Even as Linux makes inroads on the server, the growing market share of Firefox in the browser market (albeit from a very tiny start) has demonstrated that the bazaar can indeed make a difference. On a related note, the software industry is also starting to see consolidation as Oracle finally managed to acquire PeopleSoft and Symantec snapped up Veritas in multi-billion dollar deals.
Viruses, Spam, Spyware: The problems of viruses, spam and spyware continue, but we are also making progress in this battle. Viruses do arise, but they are little more then threats for some. Spam is starting to be controlled at the gateway-level. Spyware remains a threat but can be minimised with some precautions.
Going ahead, the world that I see emerging is one where multimedia-capable thin clients (either on the desktop in the office, home, educational institutions, or computing centres, or in our hands) connect to a centralised platform of services over broadband and wireless networks. Content, computing and connectivity will be available on a subscription basis. This world will start emerging first in the developing nations. This world will create new opportunities for incumbents who will need to adjust and disruptors who will have the potential to build the next Googles.
Tomorrow: Search Wars
TECH TALK The Best of 2004+T