I'm not sure yet whether I'll make this an annual ritual, but after taking a stab last year at doing a little crystal-ball gazing and coming up with six tech predictions for 2006, I figured I'd give it another shot for '07. Granted, my prophecies for '06 weren't terribly bold or outlandish, but the idea--my idea, anyway--is to go out on a limb a little bit while remaining somewhat grounded in reality, so I might actually impart some semi-useful information while standing a chance at being correct come year's end. (For those keeping score, I basically did well with five of six of my picks, and fell down only on my video iPod prediction).
Without further ado, here's what I have for this year, and as usual, if my forecasts seem trivial or moronic, feel free to add your own by clicking the TalkBack button.
1. Sixty-inch plasma for $2,000 by year's end
At CES, Vizio announced it would begin selling a $3,000 60-inch plasma by the end of February. We expect to see that price erode throughout the year and quite possibly close in on two grand by the holiday season. We can't say if the set will by any good, but it will be big.
2. Digital photo frames take off
Digital photo frames
were hot for the holidays and they only stand to get hotter as higher quality, more affordable frames with expanded features hit the market in early '07. However, only when David Pogue or Walt Mossberg finally does a column reviewing several frames will the category officially be declared "hot."
3. Better games breathe new life into Sony PS3 by midyear
It's going to take several months, but expect to see plenty of articles late in the year about how things don't look so bleak for Sony and the PS3. Yes, Sony still has problems, but a handful of impressive games--such as Lair and Metal Gear Solid 4--and updated features (via downloadable system updates) will help fuel a PS3 revival.
4. HD DVD surrenders by September
OK, this probably won't happen, but it should. With sales for both HD DVD and Blu-ray stand-alone players remaining tepid throughout the year, the biggest number of players will actually come in the form of game consoles--or in the case of the Xbox 360 and its HD DVD external drive, game console accessories. According to the numbers we're seeing, there are 175,000 HD DVD players out there (with 92,000 of those being Xbox 360 HD DVD players) and around a million Blu-ray players in homes, most of them PS3s. As Sony ramps up PS3 production, we expect that 5:1 ratio to hold, and perhaps even increase. Add to that the fact that sometime very soon the number of available Blu-ray titles will top the number of HD DVD titles, with the gap continuing to widen as the year progresses, and things don't look all that good for Camp HD DVD. Personally, I don't care who wins or loses, and I'm not rooting for either format. But unfortunately, if someone doesn't bow out gracefully, both formats risk going nowhere, especially with various forms of downloadable HD content in the works. (Read Senior Editor John Falcone's "Dispatches from the format war: HD DVD vs. Blu-ray
" for a complete rundown.)
5. Few Windows XP users will upgrade to Vista
Have any product predictions for 2007? Will the Wii rule? Will the iPhone kill the Treo?
I'm not really going out a limb here, but I'm betting that most folks upgrading to Microsoft's new OS, Vista
, will make the leap only when they buy a new desktop or laptop--they'll stick with the status quo for their existing machines. Also, you can expect some confusion over the various flavors
of Vista. Microsoft should have stuck with at most three, not five. (Will Apple put out five flavors of Leopard? I think not.)
6. No SED televisions before 2008
SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter display) is supposed to be the next big thing in flat-panel TVs. Prototypes have been kicking around for a couple of years, and from the demonstrations we've seen, the picture looks good--damn good. But neither Canon nor Toshiba could build them cheap enough to compete with plasmas or LCDs. After a no-show at CES 2007, Canon's bought Toshiba out and will go it alone. But don't expect to see a commercially available SED model in 2007. Maybe 2008.
7. iPhone gets rave reviews despite serious flaws
Rating: 8.3 (Editors' Choice)
Good: The iPhone is a groundbreaking smart phone that features an impressively user-friendly touch-screen interface, sexy design, terrific multimedia functionality, plus a nifty e-mail client and Web browser, PDA functionality, a built-in camera, and a nice collection of useful applications, including one-touch weather reports and Google/Yahoo Maps. The device doubles as a video iPod, and also automatically switches from landscape to portrait mode with a flick of your wrist.
Bad: Expensive; screen is fingerprint and facial-oil magnet; no expansion slot for additional memory; can't add additional applications; non-user-replaceable battery doesn't deliver as much juice as promised; no support for true 3G networks; definitely requires a protective case; need PC or Mac to download media--no direct access to iTunes Store.
Bottom line: Like the original iPod, the first-gen iPhone is a revolutionary product with an unbeatable cool factor. But before you shell out 500 or 600 bucks, just remember, the next iPhone will have double the memory and double the battery life for the same price next year.
*I'm making this up.