I often read the predictions of futurists with interest; it is always enjoyable for me to consider what they have to say, why I might agree or disagree, and mentally file them away for later validation – or not.

Today, I’m going to venture a few predictions of my own, based on the state of affairs that exists in early March, 2009. The idea is to re-visit them in the years to come and see how many, if any, were close to how things actually develop.

  1. E-Readers: Amazon has the right idea with the Kindle, in the sense that they have both a device that can read books, and a fair number (1/4 million) titles to go along with it. They have recently put a Kindle-like application out for the iPhone; the difference being that the Kindle is over $300, and the iPhone application is free… and of course that the iPhone application isn’t nearly as much like a book, and so requires a change in your perception of what a book is. I don’t think either will be a great success as-is. Here’s what should happen: Amazon decides to subsidize the cost of the Kindle by selling e-books: This is the “razor blade” model; essentially, the reader is free, and the books pay for it. This way, as a reader, you don’t have to come up with a huge amount of money just to read your first e-book. Until the razor blade model is adopted, the huge additional functionality you get with a laptop (color, speed, animation, high quality sound, software apps, etc.) will trump the novelty of paying $300+ to read a book, or squinting at it on the tiny display of the iPhone.

  2. Apple: This company will continue to languish in the low percentages of market penetration until or unless they produce a moderately priced tower that can bring OSX to the masses. I’m talking about a 1-2 hard drive, 1-2 graphics card, 1-2 expansion card, multicore and 16 GB+ capable machine in the $400 to $1000 range, depending on configuration. The standalone models are too limited and quite expensive, the Mini is crippled by its maximum configuration, and the Mac Pro is too high priced, though adequately high-end. Apple has, in my opinion, a far better operating system and offers a much better user experience, but as long as they confine that experience to those consumers who can ignore the hefty prices, they’re going to be permanently trailing behind the Windows crowd. My prediction: They won’t do it, and they’ll continue to trail; or they will do it, and they’ll crush Windows like a bug.

  3. WIndows 7: A Vista-like fail. Microsoft doesn’t seem to understand that for existing computer users, the hardware and software they have purchased and use on a day to day basis isn’t considered to be “throw-away” by the average user. They want their printers, cameras, scanners, and networks to keep running as well, or better, than they did before when they change operating systems. Vista dropped support for… well, almost everything, and the market in turn had little to no interest in Vista. Microsoft lost the trust of those users who had moved with them from Windows 3.1, to 95, to 98, and finally to XP, experiencing extremely high compatibility all the while, when they tried to foist Vista off on them. Windows 7 is worse; hence, it will fail miserably. Look for Microsoft to again extend the life cycle of XP, because it’s the only thing they have that works properly from the viewpoint of the end user. Sure, bells and whistles are nice, but if I can’t run my hardware and software… I might as well buy a real bell and whistle, eh?

  4. Movie Theaters: These will die. Internet streaming and the disk rental model Netflix has implemented will destroy the economic viability of the theater.

  5. Blu-ray disks: As soon as the prices break from the absurd $30 range they’re in now and hit the $10 mark, Blu-ray will take off. Until then, the costs exceed the average consumer’s budget sense for rational pricing, and DVDs are in point of fact, good enough. It’s as simple as that: Blu-ray is too expensive. Simple players are reasonably priced (though in my opinion, if you buy anything but a PS3 as a player, you’re utterly insane) so all we need to wait for now is reasonable media pricing.

  6. Artificial Intelligence: We’re just waiting for the algorithm; it could literally happen any day now. It is my opinion that when writing in reasonably efficient languages, such as C, a modern machine with 16GB or more of RAM should be able to do what we do, or close enough to create interesting characters. I’d say we’re within ten years of this, and I actually hope we’re within months. Most of the time, we don’t think, we just remember and go through already known behavior patterns in response to stimulus, and I think that is the key to the first AI.

So there you have it; actual predictions. Let’s see how I do. If you’d like to make counter points, please feel free to leave comments; I’ll respond if you want to know why I hold a particular viewpoint.