definitely not ’10 trends to watch in 2010′

I’ve been dancing around this post for some time now, having saved and re-saved it in draft form so many times I fear it’s getting somewhat dog-eared.

You see, I’m not a fan of ‘top 10′ lists or crystal-ball gazing predictions of near-future trends: combining the two, even less so.  Mostly they’re a passing interest item, usually appearing at year-end or year-start, generating a short spike in traffic from Digg, Mixx or Reddit etc (if you’re lucky) before being consigned to the void of Internet dead space, save for an occasional retweet or pingback.

Sometimes you may even be good (or bad) enough to predict something so outrageous that you’ll be quoted on it many years after.  Famous examples include Bill Gates (alleged) 640K memory limit prophecy, Lord Kelvin going for the trifecta with “Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” and “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” – Sylvester Stallone.  Err, I mean H.M.Warner.

But as much as I resist, I know that a core part of what we do here is to try and if not exactly predict, then certainly have a view of future trends in technology and business.  Having at least some idea of what’s coming over the horizon can help shape strategy, provide input to product roadmaps, marketing campaigns, expenditure planning and partnership opportunities – to name a few.  Sure, you want to be the one over the horizon at times, but the reality is that there a lot more followers than leaders, and so lists such as these remain popular, and – as much as it pains me to say – can be very useful.

With that said, please find in no particular order my ‘definitely not a top 10 list’ list below.  But first a last couple of caveats:   I expect these topics to be ‘warm to hot’ in 2010, but I do not exactly expect them to be completely played out or finalised by the end of 2010; merely to have made significant progress, gained mind or market share or receive significant investments.

Ok then, here we go:

3D: as I mentioned in the opening blurb, I’ve had this post on hold for a while, certainly pre-CES.  In the space of a few short Las Vegas show days it’s obvious that pretty much every major TV/DVD/Blu-Ray hardware manufacturer is set to launch a 3D enabled device of some kind, with content providers not far behind.

3D is one of those technologies which has been ‘coming-soon’ longer than Duke Nukem Forever, but it looks like 2010 will finally be the year when it becomes – if not ubiquitous – then certainly far more mainstream.

For anyone who’s seen Avatar (and who hasn’t?), you’ll know that the days of dodgy red/blue cardboard, headache inducing, gimmick enhanced 3D are behind us.  There were even companies showcasing ‘3D without the glasses’ at CES.

Realtime search: towards the latter part of 2009, most of the major search engines announced deals with services such as Facebook, Twitter etc to integrate their real-time feeds into search results.  You may wonder why this is important?  I mean, does it matter if I find I out that ‘Bill ate some nice pancakes’ at the moment he did it, or two days later?

Probably not, but as was evidenced in the Mumbai shootings, the riots in Iran and during various earthquake/tsunami events, Twitter et al are usually the very first with the news.  The first place many people heard of Michael Jackson’s death?  Twitter.

By integrating real (or at least ‘near’) time into search results the greater the value for many search queries.  Extend this to include market information, competitor data, sports etc and you can hopefully see the benefits over traditional ‘stored’ results.

Location based services: geo or location-based services undoubtedly received a massive kick up thanks to the iPhone.  With the launch of Google’s own and other Android devices, and the continued expansion of mobile data usage these are set to both grow in use and in functionality.

From simple services such as Google’s Latitude (‘where am I, and where are my friends?’) to the just-launched ‘near me’ functionality on the Google mobile site, through to location based social activity apps such as Gowalla and Foursquare you can not only access online functionality in a location-aware fashion, but you can take your social network with you on the road.

Still not convinced?  This post, from Om Malik, came out whilst I was updating my own and is well worth a read.

Augmented reality: of all the predictions here, I’m probably the least convinced of this one – at least as far as hitting the mainstream goes.  I’m still struggling with the concept of people walking around holding their phones up (virtually screaming: ‘mug me, I’m a geek!’) whilst they view the world through a tiny display.

Where I think this will play a part though is in applications better suited for use with glasses or a heads-up-display.  Examples would include in automobiles and some sports (golf could be one perhaps).

The problem with this one is going to be noise.  What happens when my augmented reality view contains so many adverts, friend updates, nearby tweets, photos and who knows what, that I’m all augmented and no reality?

Tablets/eReaders: I’ve put both of these in the same category, even though, strictly speaking, they aren’t.  From the much rumoured Apple iSlate, to much rumoured devices running Chrome OS or Android, to the much rumoured Microsoft Courier, to the much .. yes, ok – we’re not quite there yet!  Watch this space, as they say.

In some respects there’s some market creation needed here: will a tablet replace a decent smartbook or ultra mobile, which has durability and the convenience of a keyboard at initially a lower price? Perhaps only in a limited sense to begin with, but you can’t discount the ‘cool’ factor of a shiny new Apple product – likely to be the first of the big launches in this market (sorry Juju!).

We are much closer to mainstream in the eReader market though.  The Kindle has had the market almost to itself for a while now and has had good success mostly in the US.  CES saw the launch of a number of new devices, from the very promising Que, to devices from the likes of Samsung and Sony.  And let’s not forget B&N’s Nook (which bizarrely – IMHO – has been winning awards lately).

One question may be whether tablets will eat eReaders lunch and how much convergence we’ll end up with (do you really want to carry your smartphone, eReader and tablet?  Probably not).

The rise of Android and ChromeOS devices: despite the fact that Motorola must be spitting chips right now after Google gave them a quick kick in the Droids, the Nexus One launch built on a very impressive and successful  campaign from the Razr gang.  Android is so hot right now (girlfriend) and has jumped from nerdy geeks to cool tool and, assuming Google can stay on top of customer service issues, should continue to do very well in 2010.

As Google’s operating-system-in-a-browser, ChromeOS appears to be a better bet for tablet and smartbook devices than Android and looks to be arriving at just the right time from a hardware perspective (see the prior point)

Move from social media ‘expert advisers’ to ‘expert do-ers': ok, this isn’t about technology per se, but bear with me.

There are currently fourteen million ‘social media experts’ on Twitter, and LinkedIn’s forty-seven million ‘Executive Coaches’ circa 2004 have now moved on and into the same field.  Alright, I may have made some of that last sentence up, but the point is this:  after a slowish ramp-up, 2009 saw most companies come to the realisation that they need to incorporate social networks and social media into their marketing plans.  Granted, some have been doing it fantastically well for some time now, but the stats show the takeup of Twitter-marketing and social CRM grew faster than other channels, and is predicted to continue to do so in 2010.

Businesses are going to be looking for real returns on their investments in social media marketing, and I’d suggest are seeking more from their advisors than simply ‘hey you’d better blog and tweet’.

Enterprise 2.0: a bit like 3D, this one seems to have been just about to hit forever.  However, with the rise of tools such as Yammer and the imminent release of Chatter on the Salesforce platform it seems the stars may finally be about to align.  A rise in the take-up of social media marketing (see above) and the seemingly all pervasive nature of Facebook, Twitter etc in the consumer space – will also help drive up adoption in the Enterprise arena.  Certainly the latter now means both a better understanding of these tools, along with a desire by employees to be able to engage in similar behaviours in the workplace.

This one is obviously a key focus area for us here at Edge Nation, but that’s the beginning and end of any plug ;-)

Further information overload accelerates consolidation of channels and platforms: it will certainly be no surprise to anyone actively engaged with current technology that the volume and speed of update of information is growing at an amazing rate.

Services such as FriendFeed picked up on the problem reasonably early, offering a way of consolidating multiple feeds, data channels, news sources and activity streams into a single platform.  Latterly, offerings such as Seesmic and Tweetdeck – among many – are taking those concepts to the next step.

My thoughts are that this will not only continue in the form of new stand-alone applications, but more so in terms of embedded device functionality (witness a number of mobile devices home and lockscreen updates for example: Facebook and Twitter updates directly tied to your contact list).

And, finally:

Top 10 lists will only have nine items on them.  Well, I did say this was definitely not a top ten list.

Now this is the point of the post where I ask you to argue with me in the comments and make your own trend suggestions, so please – go ahead – knock yourselves out! :-)

Be Sociable, Share!