[Editor’s Note: This post is part of SiliconANGLE’s “Predictions and Reflections” series. To view this year’s collection, click here. To participate, create an account or log into “TheANGLE” and request to join the group. –mrh / spa]
Every year bloggers around the world write two posts – the year in review and projections for the coming year. Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time to join in the annual event, and this year has some interesting areas to address.
Last year I expressed a lot of disappointment with Truphone. I still think the company has a long way to go. This year, I like many of the things they’ve done, which pleases me greatly. They’re friends and it was disappointing to see them struggling. They’re finding their way and I expect to see them continue to rise in 2010.
Twitter is everyone’s hot topic. I was very pleased to see the success of our friend @shelisrael‘s book Twitterville this year. I’m far less bullish on Twitter itself. Just yesterday @biz held the annual news conference to announce that next year we’ll have a revenue model and make money. I think I’ve heard that announcement every year since I joined Twitter, and I’ve been using it longer than most.
Don’t Listen to Twitter
The people I think it’s important not to listen to when it comes to Twitter’s direction are the Twitter leadership team. They don’t eat their own dog food, don’t understand Twitter, and really seem to simply have hung on to the tiger’s tail this far. What they, and much of the design team at Twitter do well is break things. I still love Twitter and use it every day, but in 2009, Twitter was a boring yawner for the most part. There was zero innovation, reinvention and precious little progress of any kind. Not incremental change, but barely noticeable change.
Changing "What are you doing" to "What’s happening" simply isn’t innovation. It sends a message that says to me, “we have no clue what we’re doing.” If ever a service was more overvalued that Skype at the eBay purchase, it’s Twitter. Fantasy and delusion reign supreme when it comes to this simple service that simply hasn’t approached mainstream after nearly four years. No matter how wild the growth or how phantasmagorical the hype, Twitter is simply a niche tool for communications junkies.
Location Based Services Shift Some
Location based services saw some shifts. Brightkite finally did a release 2.0, but I fear it’s release 2.end in the long run. Unremarkable in every way, and broke much of the functionality. Brightkite has simply failed to ever achieve any critical mass. Google Latitude remains another fizzle. Google seems to be stuck in a half-decade development approach that’s served well enough in the past, but may raise problems for the future. More on that in another post about the GOOG later on.
Foursquare hit the scene pretty hard and is doing well. It’s on the rise, and I expect that will continue into 2010, and beyond if the trio behind it keeps moving. As LBS go, it’s the big winner with the most potential ahead. I think the game aspect of Foursquare is something that will have to be eliminated, but with the right advances, this simple service can easily lead the future in mobile LBS for mainstream adoption in the future. Monetization for this one is easy, lucrative and huge. Foursquare will be worth a fortune. Foursquare will surpass Twitter in value and popularity by 2011. More on that in another post.
Unified Communications Could Be In for a Surprise
There’s a sleeper company in the unified communications space that’s been on the rise for years – Voxeo. They recently got $9M in funding, and that was a good investment. While I think Twitter was ridiculously overvalued, I think the absolute reverse is the case with Voxeo. I think they’re on track for a billion dollar valuation and an enormous acquisition when the time comes. That’s right folks, there’s a $1B sleeping giant inside this little company. One with value in a trillion dollar industry that keeps doing all the right things. Watch Voxeo.
Mobile Gadgets Continued to be Relatively Unimpressive
Mobile phones were pretty non-newsworthy all year from my perspective. The Palm Pre hit the market with a thud. It’s pretty most time for the Palm Post now…post mortem. The ‘droids simply aren’t the ones we’re looking for. While they get a lot of buzz in the geek niche, the mainstream consumers don’t even know they exist, or care. App developers love the OS, but I don’t really care how easy or smooth development is. Without a market, apps don’t have any value. There aren’t buyers. I don’t think there will be.
Among the leaders in mobile phones, Nokia continued to disappoint while dominating worldwide sales. RIM and Apple continued on momentum, but without anything that rocked my world or sent me out craving a replacement for my aging Blackberry Curve 8310. Now as a look at replacements, I’m looking at incremental change to a Curve 8900. The devices aren’t changing much. Not really.
The big story ad nauseum in the mobile world has been the "oh look, I have an app store too" stories that we’ve seen over and over again. Not since McDonald’s press releases of yet another billion burgers sold has there been such a boring string of news releases. It’s almost as exciting as a new WalMart really.
Good Will Was Properly Valuated…
In the for a good cause category, Drew Olanoff (@drew) captured support around the world with #BlameDrewsCancer and a fund raiser that demonstrated the power of social community in calling attention to a worthy cause. We’re all happy to hear that Drew’s health is good and he’s continuing the fight against cancer. 2009 was a very good year for many causes for the good of humanity. It’s been a year our social consciousness got a boost thanks to social media support and conversations.
The coolest device I saw all year was something incredibly simple – the Freetalk Everyman Headset. At under $25, it leverages the Skype SILK codec and brought a new level of audio quality to everyone at an affordable price.
Two people stood out as pounding coffin nails for me. Carol Bartz at Yahoo continues in the legacy established by Jerry Yang. IMHO Yahoo continues to thrash about in the throes of death. And just recently, Rupert Murdoch has picked up the hammer and seems intent on nailing the coffin lid shut on traditional media. I happen to think that’s a good thing. Journalism is on the rise, but traditional media is in a death spiral. Murdoch’s pushing that sled down the hill trying to make it happen faster.
Cisco May Not Be Proven Evil, But They Were Injured
Very early this year I predicted a huge black eye for Cisco. I don’t think I was wrong, although I don’t feel I was completely on the mark either. 2009 was a year when Cisco simply didn’t matter. They did absolutely nothing I found noteworthy. For the 800 pound gorilla of networking, that’s a black eye in my view. Telepresence is an interesting word, but not something for most businesses. Buying the Flip camera seemed like an awww shit moment to me. It’s like Cisco saw how popular they were and felt compelled to try to grab some money. In the long run, I think it’s an acquisition that they’ll never integrate well or capitalize on in any notable way. Cisco has a history of those. I expect something to happen at Cisco in 2010 that I’ll describe in my forecast post later on.
Microsoft continues to befuddle the world. Layoffs and trimming, Windows 7, no firm direction, but plenty of noise. The folks at Redmond have become the IBM or phone company of old. They’re huge, they don’t innovate. They are all about momentum and maintaining the status quo from every angle I can find. They’re another 800 pound gorilla that simply exists.
And Then There Was Google
Google Voice came to life from what was GrandCentral. They made noise, then acquired Gizmo. I think that’s great for Michael Robertson. I think it’s interesting in potential. And I think we’re a half-decade from whatever might lie ahead, although Google has certainly signaled intent to become a phone company while avoiding the regulatory issues phone companies face every day. We’ll see. The jury’s out for me on this one.
Google Wave captured the hearts and minds of geeks everywhere. I see tech colleagues raving and talking about all the wonders inside. They’ve drunk the kool-aid. I see potential. What Wave is today is simply an incremental improvement in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) of old. Better media support. Some widgets, gizmos and doodads. That’s right, you don’t use a VT-100 terminal to chat in text mode any more. Today you wave instead. I see another hald-decade of Google telling us what they’re going to do. They have a vision, and have shared it. I don’t think the vision is what Wave will become. I think how we use it will alter that course. And I think many of us simply aren’t using it because other tools serve our needs more effectively.
There have been many more stories, but these are the ones that came to mind as I sit here writing. I’ll follow with some projections for 2010 in the next short while. I have some other subjects in mind as well that I’ve decided are better saved for follow-ups to my look ahead at 2010.