Analyst and futurist Mark Anderson, author of the influential Strategic News Service newsletter and blog has made a career out of making correct predictions. He claims a 93.5 percent success ratio over the years he's been doing annual predictions.
-ePhones Go Mainstream: "Next year will see the first market acceptance of ePhones in the US," Anderson said. "And the ePhone is a phone where you use it to pay people. It's mobile commerce, mobile transactions, what Bill Gates calls the Wallet PC. But it's not a PC, it's a phone.
"Go to a Safeway, swipe, pay. Go to a gas station, swipe, pay… The phone guys are ready this year, now you will see it coming out in this country. One thing – who's the banker? Visa? Mastercard? If I'm AT&T I'll take that 4 percent, thank you very much. There's a lot of money involved, a lot of float involved. The old guys will be very upset. Visa and Mastercard are in their [Verizon, ATT, Sprint, etc] sights.
I say that yes, this will happen. But I don't think next year is when it goes mainstream. And I'm not alone. Even Joseph A O'Neil, who wrote a very bullish newsletter for Mark touting this technology, thinks he's overreaching. "Three to five years", he confided in me, as the event wound down. But yes, you can kiss your wallet good bye soon. Your phone will do it all.
-Authentication Everywhere: "We're going to see ever larger amounts spent on authentication, saying 'you are you'," Anderson said.
"You better have a swipe on that phone, something that says there is a live thumb on the phone, and that the guy that bought that phone is the same guy standing in front of me. It's easy to do; the part costs nine dollars."
Yes, I buy this one. Identity theft is growing in leaps and bounds, and it's now cheap enough to really authenticate everyone. The privacy issues, though, for both of Anderson's points, however, could derail these in the short term.
-Electric Cars: Led by Tesla Motors, this will be the first year of the electric car. Elon Musk and the boys from Google are backing it, there is serious money involved. If this actually happens and they ship (the Tesla Roadster) on time, zero to 60 in four seconds, 139 miles to a gallon, I am sold.
Anderson's take: "The hell with hybrid, why not just plug it in? Go 250 miles and plug it in [again]. Seventy-three percent of oil imported into this country is used for gas. This is all electric… They will start building cars (like this) in this country and outside."
Tesla is really exciting, I think. Sure the cars cost around $100,000. But if they can make electric cool – and actually ship them in some sort of volume in 2007, this could be a turning point. According to Mark, lithium-ion battery technology is good enough here. And if we really can power most of our cars with our existing electrical infrastructure, then we have a reasonably quick way out of our dependence on foreign oil. Too bad our government isn't leading the way here.
-Energy: Oil prices move up, not down, returning to $70 to $80 a barrel, continuing an unmatched wealth transfer. Solar goes mainstream with multiple subsidy programs, according to Anderson.
I hope he's right about solar. I'm also intrigued by the recent breakthrough, which could lead to 40 percent efficient panels.
• b>Advertising: Online ad spending will increase between 20 to 30 percent, probably on the high side of that, according to Anderson.
I think he's low here. I'll bet online advertising goes up closer to 40 percent.
-Dollar Woes Continue: The dollar falls further to the euro and the yen. The dollar will be in the 105 to 110 Yen range," predicts Anderson.
"This is a real war, but we don't pay attention to it," he said. "The Saudis control a lot of money. They moved about three billion that was being used to buy American dollars into yen and about two billion into euros. That is a small number, but they are just getting going. I think they'll move 10 to 20 billion into foreign currency next year, a major move out of dollars into euro, into yen. Japan is an export country, so they will spend between 500 billion and 1 trillion in 2007 to intervene in the market to maintain dollar/yen ratios where they want it. That will be tough. It will be the largest intervention ever done."
-New Russia: "This will be the year when the new Russia emerges, dragging a new Cold War right behind it," Anderson said. "Here's how you negotiate in Thugland. I give you five billion dollars, you give me two-thirds of an oil project, and then I say to you "give me a third back". That happened to Shell today. I'm concerned about every level of Russia, and Putin, excuse me, Stalin.
"People are being killed in cold blood – there's no shame in murdering folks," Anderson added. "The thing is just completely out of control. Cutting off the gas supplies of Europe. We are dealing with a guy that we'd like to think is a refined, hopeful, smart internationalist, who is really just a thug, in the best Stalin definition of a thug. He's willing to burn refineries, which he just did, whatever it takes to get the best price. The world is not ready."
-Multicore: "This is the year when XY computing takes off," Anderson predicts. "Put it sideways and run it in parallel. We are going now. Intel is doing quads, AMD has been leading the way. It's been ten years waiting for this. Remember Sequent and Thinking Machines?"
He's right. The day of the single processor is over and the multi-processor age is upon us. But how will programming adapt? The old, linear approach just isn't working. Anderson hinted about a new image-based programming model that he promised he'd delve into another time.
-Flash Chips: "This will be the year of flash wars," Anderson said. "There are seventeen different fabs coming online and they are mostly NAND flash chips. Get ready for flash computers. Anything that is a computer will be a flash computer. Samsung is bragging that you can have a computer without a disk drive now. It'll be more rugged, faster, and I'm looking forward to it. We'll always use disks for certain things, but we're about to see a huge tectonic change between how we use disks and how we use flash."
Wow. Although I still have some of the first flash computers – remember the HP Jornada 780? – if this works out, it'll change mobile computing. But I wonder if we'll really see the cost per gigabyte of flash approaching a hard drive. I don't think so. And with computer users storing more and more huge video and photo files, we'll still need lots of rotating storage. But Vista makes good use of flash with ReadyBoost and ReadyDrives, so I know we're going to put all that flash to good use.
-Apple Decline: "iPod maintains its dominant position compared to Zune, but by the end of next year, iTunes looks kind of sick," Anderson said. "The licensing terms of iTunes are shortsighted. Microsoft and Sandisk are more open arms, compared to iTunes. They realize that you want to play your thing on whatever it is you have."
Yeah, iTunes seems to be running out of gas. Sales per iPod have fallen off, at least according to Forrester, and we could see big problems as users upgrade their systems and players. A disaster waiting to happen.
Anderson closed up with four bonus predictions:
• The European Union will reject Turkey.
• ChinaPan (China and Japan together) will be recognized as a new integrated manufacturing center.
• Everyone in Europe is going to the right, because of immigration, but Ségolène Royal will be the next premier of France anyway.
• Boeing will do 25% more orders than Airbus
His last words: "Resist generalizations, and we'll all be smarter, richer and thinner. 2007 will confuse one-line pundits, and only you know what is really happening."