2008 IT channel predictions

When I was born, my parents were teaching school on a naval base. They liked it, but rumours were swirling that the base would close. So they decided to move while jobs were plentiful.

They were right, the base closed – about 35 years later.

So be warned: Precise predictions don’t run in my family. Maybe that’s one reason this column doesn’t have a tradition of year-end forecasts. This year, though, let’s give it a shot.

To say Google will continue growing is obviously too easy. More precisely, though, Google will continue growing its software-as-a-service business, probably with at least one more acquisition, which just might be Salesforce.com.

Besides SaaS, Google is highly interested in mobile data and mobile commerce. Persistent rumours of a Google phone don’t seem convincing – Google isn’t a hardware company – but besides looking for ways to deliver ads to mobile devices, Google is interested in getting added mileage out of its network of vast data centres. Now where might that lead?

Dell will continue dipping its toes in the channel. But that won’t do the company a lot of good until it realizes the real value of the channel lies in customer service. It’s fine to sell computers at Wal-Mart, but are you going to call Wal-Mart when you have a problem? That strategy will get Dell some first-time buyers who don’t want to order online or by phone. To reach buyers who want local support, it needs real resellers.

Look for Apple’s rebound to continue. Steve Jobs has turned Apple from a has-been computer company into a highly successful consumer electronics vendor and – here’s the real twist – an increasingly credible computer company again.

Whether that means the iPhone will be a resounding success, I’m not sure. It’s neat technology, and Jobs’ famous reality distortion field (coupled with a dire lack of interesting new tech products) has helped get it far more media attention than it deserved, but it’s pricey and available from a limited number of carriers. Still, Apple’s been able to get away with that before.

Somebody will buy Second Life. I really don’t know who. Maybe Google. On the other hand, it might be Disney. Or even News Corp. – no, Rupert Murdoch doesn’t need another fantasy world, he’s already got Fox News.

A shakeout is due in consumer voice over IP services, and my money is on an acquisition of Vonage, possibly by a conventional phone carrier or cable company.

The entertainment industry will lose its battle to slap copy protection on everything. Recent moves to offer some downloadable music without digital rights management (DRM) show which way the wind is blowing. Music companies and movie studios may not admit it publicly before the end of 2008, but they will not be able to put this cat back in the bag.

In this new world, most musicians and actors will have a hard time making a living. In that respect it will be just like the old world, in which most musicians and actors had a hard time making a living.

And a Canadian technology success story will be acquired by a foreign company. Maybe Cognos – oh, sorry, that already happened. I can’t help thinking of Research in Motion. I make the prediction, hoping I’m as far off on the timing as the rumours of HMCS Cornwallis closing were in 1960.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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