It's New Year's Eve which means that once again it's prediction time. Last year's went pretty well with 17 of them, so I'll go up to 20 this time. I think the following will happen in 2009:
1. iTunes goes DRM-free
Apple is clearly talking with the labels about this and I think it will happen sooner rather than later. The labels I'm sure want to keep this as leverage over Apple (they have their music DRM-free already on services like Amazon MP3), but I think Jobs & Co. will cut a deal to get it done. After all, Jobs said in 2007 that by the end of the year half of all songs on iTunes would be DRM-free -- it's now going to be 2009 and that still isn't the case.
2. Apple enables certain third-party background tasks for the iPhone
Apple said we'd see its Push Notification system in September, and that never came. They're still working on it, hoping to get it right, and I think they'll launch it sometime in Q1 2009. But if it doesn't do what it needs to do -- make apps that need background location features like Loopt, useful -- then I think we'll see Apple eventually relent by the end of the year and let certain apps that can prove they won't harm the device or the user, run in the background for certain tasks. Loopt already has a separate deal for this with AT&T (but as of right now not including the iPhone), so I expect it to be the first to get this done. Then everyone will go back to bitching about battery life.
3. Facebook enters the location-based servies game
I think they will enter the location-based service arena that others, like the aforementioned Loopt are in. Privacy concerns will make it slow to catch on though. But this could be very powerful if they do it right.
4. Twitter sells if its business model doesn't work out
Twitter will try to launch some sort of business model in early 2009, probably based around coroporate accounts to shill stuff on Twitter. If that model doesn't prove lucrative, expect them to sell to one of the big players for something in the 9-figure range.
5. Microsoft buys Yahoo's search and advertising businesses
We all know Microsoft still wants at least this part of Yahoo. More importantly, it needs it -- Microsoft is never going to catch Google in search and advertising without some outside help. It still won't catch them with Yahoo, but at least they'll be in a better position. The rest of Yahoo will focus on its core brand after they turn down an offer from Time Warner to merge with AOL.
6. FriendFeed launches a monetization strategy before Twitter
I write this mostly because FriendFeed seems to be able to launch most things before Twitter does. I'm not entirely confident here, since indications are that Twitter is close to the model it wants to go with, but FriendFeed has to eventually be thinking about making money too, and I expect them to delve into that in '09.
7. After Pink flops, Microsoft releases its own phone hardware
Pink will be unveiled at CES as some sort of media content for mobile device platform. It'll likely tie in with Zune and maybe the Xbox, and will fail to take off. Towards the end of the year, Microsoft will shift to "plan B" and launch a phone to compete with the iPhone, but they'll say it's to compete with the BlackBerry for business users.
8. Sony cuts the price of the PS3 to $249
I've been talking about how big PS3 price cuts were needed to save the device for over 2 years now. Sony hasn't listened, and so the PS3 is in trouble of being an after-thought to the Wii and Xbox 360 in this round of the gaming console wars. And remember, Blu-ray is at stake as well, if Sony can move PS3 units, it will only help the Blu-ray format which has not caught on yet despite beating out HD-DVD in the format wars. But even at $249, the Wii will outsell it.
9. The Beatles come to iTunes
Yes, it will finally happen this year. The hold up now is just a legal one, and with The Beatles music already coming to video games, it'd be silly if it wasn't available to download (legally) on the Internet as well.
10. Once it launches on the Mac, Chrome gets double-digit market share
Chrome exploded out of the game in terms of usage, and for good reason: It's awesome. But it's also currently still only on Windows PC, and I'm not going to dual-boot just to use it. When it comes to the Mac -- it is being built by Mike Pinkerton, the guy behind Mozilla's Camino browser for the Mac (which I am using right now) -- I suspect it will be the new browser of choice for myself and many others on the Mac.
11. Android phones outsell iPhones worldwide, but in the U.S., the iPhone is still king
There are many, maybe even dozens of phones running Google's Android platform set to launch in 2009. While I have no doubt that worldwide sales will soon elipse the iPhone, which is just one device in two flavors (8GB and 16GB) after all, I think the iPhone will still hang onto a lead in the U.S. in 2009 simply because it's better.
12. Apple creates a way to get apps running on the Apple TV
This may be done by linking up the iPhone or iPod touch with the Apple TV (which you can do already to use the Remote app), or it could be that Apple actually brings the App Store to the Apple TV, and you use your iPhone (or iPod touch) as the controller for it.
13. Apple unveils a multi-touch Mighty Mouse
I thought this would happen last year, but despite many patents suggesting such functionality being uncovered, this never came in 2008. I expect it to in 2009 because the Mighty Mouse still sucks and Apple continues to push forward its multi-touch agenda.
14. Windows 7 comes out at the end of the year and is better than Vista, but fails to dazzle
It will be launched towards the end of the year, will look just like Vista, but will perform better. Still, that won't be enough for most people and the overall reception, while better, will be lukewarm at best.
15. One of the online movie distribution services will get a deal for movie rentals the same day they appear in stores
The most annoying thing about iTunes, Xbox Live and all the rest of the Internet rental services is that you can't rent new releases the day they are available in the brick and mortar stores like Blockbuster to rent. Some, like iTunes let you buy them that day, but you have to wait weeks to rent them. I bet someone gets the movie studios to change this rule in 2009.
16. Blockbuster finds itself in trouble after its digital distribution model fails to catch on
Blockbuster has simply been too late to jump on the trends in the industry it once dominated. The only way I see them making a comeback is if they are the ones to pull off prediction #15.
17. Apple will stop updating the iPod classic
The device is slowly being put out to pasture. That process continues in 2009 with no updates to the hard drive-based version when Apple updates the rest of the iPod line. A de-facto death.
18. Transformers 2 will narrowly beat Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, Harry Potter, G.I. Joe and Angels & Demons as the biggest movie of the year
In terms of what I want to see the most, right now, I vote for Star Trek after that kick-ass trailer.
19. Google Reader launches a "Most Shared" area
A 'most shared' area, which services like ReadBurner and RSSmeme already do, could be very powerful. Google is slowing moving in that direction with its new "What's Hot" area, this is the next step.
20. Blog commenting become hot again thanks to Facebook Connect
The integration is slick, and it makes comments useful since they're tied to an actual person instead of some anonymous schmuck named masterchief4ever666.
Also see, 17 Predictions for 2008. Happy New Year everyone!