Three weeks ago, your columnist noted some of the "good" that came along in the tech world in 2012. With very little to lose — you don't think I'm wagering actual cash money here, do you? — here are some more-or-less fearless predictions for 2013:
Depending on one's position, this is either a good or bad thing, but it's clear Google Inc. is neither going away, nor retreating. Reports indicate that the firm will release a smartphone, designed by its Motorola subsidiary, that will go toe-to-toe with Apple's iPhone 5 and other models.
Google's cloud-based productivity applications, as noted in this space a month ago, are also on the ascent. The New York Times reported Dec. 26 that companies such as Hoffman-LaRoche and Shaw Industries, and federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior are signing up for Google's $50-per-user office suite, instead of trying to figure out Microsoft Corp.'s many-layered pricing for its Office productivity suite. In the case of Shaw Industries, the report noted, the fact that Warren Buffett, chairman of Shaw's corporate parent Berkshire Hathaway, is a close friend of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates made little difference.
While I doubt that the entire federal government will switch, en masse, to Google, that it has made inroads at Interior, with a reported 90,000 users there — a $4.5 million "win," if you're keeping score — is significant. Continued inroads into what was once pretty much Microsoft's exclusive federal realm may spell trouble for the Redmond, Wash.-based company, particularly if users remain cool to current and future Microsoft upgrades.
There's been some talk of rivals taking successful potshots at Apple's positions in the smartphone and tablet markets, and while there is some justification, the fact remains that, so far, the iPhone 5 is the standard-setter for the smartphone category. Thin, capable, with stunning photographic capabilities, iPhone and its operating system dominate the field.
The iPad still has sold more tablets cumulatively than all the competition combined, and it seems poised for continued success. The iPad mini is very nice, but still seems a tad overpriced to me. If they dropped those prices by $100 per model (and offered iTunes credit to earlier purchasers), it would not only be a publicity coup, but also one heck of a shot across the competition's bow.
Apple's star continues to rise in desktop and notebook computing. Its products simply work better, and more reliably, than the competition's, and the 2012 version of Mac OS X, dubbed "Mountain Lion," is rather solid. For those who want dependable computing and a wide range of creative options, the Mac seems to be the best way to go.
As I began writing, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 61, was streaming from Amazon.com's Cloud Player to my Sonos device; now, I'm listening to the best of Simon and Garfunkel via the same setup. I could switch to Pandora, Rdio or MOG just as easily, or dial in radio stations from New York, Nashville or Arlington, all over the Internet.
In my car, with a connected smartphone and the right data plan, I could ditch regular radio for Pandora or other streaming, too. The same would apply to my iPhone while riding on the Metro, or, for that matter, the MegaBus or Amtrak.
Streaming media will, I think, change the way we consume entertainment and some forms of information. If it allows users to do an "end run" around those overpriced cable bundles, so much the better. If the old mantra of "information wants to be free" actually means something, perhaps it is that "media wants to be free," and as a media consumer, I should be able to watch Fox News or Food Network or ESPN anywhere I want to do so.
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