Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

Looking Ahead

January 2004

by Swami Tsunami

(Eerie theremin music plays in the background…) …The mists of time are beginning to clear… I see…things …in the year ahead…

Good day, dear friends; Mike is suffering from an overdose of eggnog and little chocolate Santas (don't ask), and asked me to fill in this month. ("Give 'em some hints on what to expect in the year ahead" he said, staggering off in the direction of his multi-monitored den.) So I have fired up Adobe Seer Sucker 2.3 on my laptop and am poking around in next year's calendar. Here then is a tidal wave of predictions about the year 2004 and computing, for surfers and sufferers alike:

Peerless Prognostications
We'll start with the easy, shooting-fish-in-a-barrel predictions:

A major new security flaw will be found in Windows. This one will be in a totally unexpected place, and will enable hackers to do really bad things to people's hard drives and servers. Not a virus, not a Trojan, something entirely new and novel and very, very, bad. Millions of man-hours will be wasted cleaning up afterwards. Bill Gates will explain that it is a feature, not a bug. Mac users will be unaffected. The European Union will increase their movement away from Windows, embracing open source software. Astute American business IT people will begin to contemplate Linux and Macintosh solutions a little more seriously.

Viruses will continue to plague Windows users, in the form of a new class of viral nastiness that will evidence a delayed-reaction effect. The viruses will "incubate" in home and business PCs, erupting en masse on a specific day. Terrorists will be implicated. Current anti-virus measures will prove to be ineffective. Mac and Linux users will be unaffected.

The first Macintosh virus in several decades will appear. It will only affect users using the latest systems, and will be relatively benign and easy to kill. An embarrassed Steve Jobs will apologize to the nation and issue a speedy fix. Windows users will snicker and then go back to installing weekly patches to their own systems.

Spam will continue to be a problem. The short-sighted and largely clueless US political system will have minimal effect on curtailing it, in spite of much-publicized jailing of several perpetrators. The subsequent lynching of one of the jailees will be a media sensation, but only serve to drive the worst of the lot overseas. Computer-challenged politicians in the employ of the advertising community will continue to thwart serious means of ending it. Wireless telephone spam will hit in a big way, causing countless cell phones to be hurled from car windows.

Hardware Tools and Toys of Tomorrow
A new digitally-based toy will grab media attention and empty the wallets of computer-users everywhere. Costing around $30, it will plug into existing computers and be totally useless, yet completely engaging. It will spawn a new industry to support it, and be popular with kids and adults alike.

Computers will sell in record numbers. Awakening after a slumber of several years, a pent-up demand for Pentiums will finally see the light of day, as businesses upgrade their systems. The new systems will be cheaper and faster than ever, and have more features such as DVD-burners, Bluetooth-equipped wireless keyboards and gigabit ethernet. Macintoshes will hit 3Ghz in late 2004, and Apple will again claim to produce the fastest computers on the planet. Dell and all the other PC manufacturers will dispute this, and a barrage of contradictory and confusing test results will support both sides. Landfills will be clogged with piles of never-to-decompose out-moded computers.

Digital photography becomes the norm. Unable to transition effectively, Kodak will seek Chapter 11 protection in Q4 of 2004. Millions of people will continue to take lousy photographs, and share them unmercifully on the Internet. Photo printers will stay the same, price-wise in 2004, but the price of ink will go up. Millions of stained fingers will result from increased use of 3rd-party ink refillers. Digital photography instruction will be a growth market, as millions continue to be baffled by the term "unsharp mask". The Internet will grind to a halt under the burden of insufficiently-compressed pictures of babies and dogs doing cute things.

The Shape of Things to Come
American Websites will begin to appear in multi-language formats. Finally stumbling onto the fact that the Internet is truly global, and that English is spoken by a minority of Earthlings, there will be a growth industry for people who can create websites in foreign (to Americans) languages. Especially Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic.

AOL will continue to lose members as more and more people realize that the letters stand for "Army of Losers". With the maturation of the Internet and the increasing population of more-experienced surfers and browsers, people will be less and less in need of training wheels. AOL will fight back with an onslaught of cheesy CDs mailed to every address in the US, all bundled with a free razor and a pack of coupons for Roto-Rooter services.

Comcast rates will fall in response to increasing competition from DSL and newer wireless services. Comcast has recently doubled their connection speeds, and increased their support staff. New facilities in Ann Arbor host a host of help personnel who service the entire Midwest area. But market forces will continue to drive connection prices downward. Look for a major price war in Q3.

…Just now my software has locked up and will reveal no more. We'll do an analysis a year from now and see how accurate all this turns out to be.

Happy New Year!

The Right Rear Reverend Sri Swami Tsunami Nextwavepaddlesloshwebber is a guru to Mike Gould, who is a mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs MondoDyne Web Works, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to mgould@mondodyne.com.

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