Tackling some early tech business predictions for 2012
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Business in
Vancouver January 10-16 issue #1159 High Tech
2012 already? But are we through with 2011 yet? Last January, my theme for 2011 was
“Get Apple” with tech companies increasingly feeling the need to
challenge the fruit-logoed company’s smartphones, tablets and slim and
How’d they do? Manufacturers loading Google’s Android onto smartphones
had a good year in 2011. Much of Android’s market share growth came at
the expense of RIM’s BlackBerry, which, like favourably reviewed
Microsoft Windows Phone 7 (WP7), fell in popularity.
Android was less popular on tablets, however, despite the release of a
version (Android 3 – aka Honeycomb) that was tweaked for the larger
screen devices. Buyers snapped up non-Android tablets: RIM’s Playbook
and HP’s Touchpad – but only when stock was sold off at
Amazon’s Kindle Torch (not yet available in Canada) had respectable
sales late in the year – but because Kindle users are locked into
Amazon’s book and media ecosystem that company is able to sell it at a
heavily subsidized price.
Samsung, which in 2011 emerged as the most aggressive competitor to
Apple, released an attractive ultra-light notebook, only to find Apple
updating its MacBook Air line up with better specifications and a lower
price. Late in the year, chipmaker Intel started promoting “ultrabooks”
– notebooks by PC manufacturers aping Apple’s Air.
The result: 2012 in the high-tech office is going to look a lot like
2011. Most of the action will be among mobile products – smartphones,
tablets, and ultra-portable notebooks, continuing our theme of Get
2012 will be a critical year for RIM, which floundered throughout 2011
with lacklustre products, a confusing variety of operating systems on
its phones and tablets and an embarrassing network outage. In the U.S.,
the BlackBerry’s smartphone market share plummeted from 24% in 2010’s
third quarter to 9% in 2011’s.
It will also be an important year for Microsoft. Will its Windows Phone
7 system (perhaps on upcoming Nokia phones) finally resonate with
consumers? Next generation Windows 8 is expected to have a beta version
early in 2012 and full release later in the year – but with a new
interface adapted from WP7 it might come too late to kick-start use of
Windows on tablets while confusing and alienating users of traditional
desktop and notebook computers. (The big hope: businesses will be
prepared to wait for Windows – and Microsoft Office – on tablets.)
Apple is vulnerable, however. Despite its range of successes, its
attempts at social networking (like iTunes Ping) and cloud services
(iCloud) have been lacklustre. The company’s massive tablet and
ultra-light notebook market share will almost certainly shrink in the
face of increased competition in 2012.
And this year, Apple will have to prove that it can maintain the
excitement post-Steve Jobs.
Also in 2011, interest in social media grew from companies learning to
use these popular online services more effectively as part of their
marketing strategies. Google premiered its Google+ service in 2011.
Despite some appealing features, it’s not clear to me whether it’s
really taking off. 2012 will be the year to see whether there’s really
a variety of important social media platforms or if it’s just Facebook
(and everybody else).
Mobile will continue to grow in importance as users and small
businesses increasingly combine location-awareness, mobile devices and
Security and privacy issues seemed less pressing in 2011, but they
continued; perhaps we’re all just taking them for granted. In 2012,
expect malware and scams to increasingly take advantage of social media
networks (particularly Facebook) and mobile apps (particularly
Android). Don’t be surprised if there’s a major cloud-service outage –
but also don’t be surprised if companies and individual users continue
to move data and applications to the cloud anyway.