Apple brings out an iPad digital tablet. Netbooks move upscale. And IBM buys Juniper Networks.
Those predictions for next year, and others, are being presented on Thursday by the technology research firm IDC.
IDC's entry in the year-end forecasting sweepstakes doesn't lack for detail. There will be 300,000 iPhone applications by the end of next year, nearly triple the current number, according to IDC. There will be 50,000 to 75,000 Google Android applications, up from about 10,000. Interested in digital electric meters, the home devices crucial for energy-saving smart electric grids? Twenty million will be deployed in United States households in 2010, and more than 60 million worldwide, IDC says. Spurred by federal stimulus dollars, 77 million Americans, or 25 percent of the population, will have electronic health records, compared with about 14 percent now, the firm predicts.
Often, it is the thinking behind the data points that is most illuminating. I discussed the predictions on Wednesday with Frank Gens, IDC's chief analyst.
Take all those applications iPhones and Android phones, for example. Gens notes that there are roughly 10,000 Windows PC applications listed on Microsoft's Windows 7 compatibility Web site.
"The market follows the applications," Gens said. "That's a message for the software industry, particularly for the PC industry."
The competition to supply the tools and digital workbench--a "platform," in techspeak--for cloud computing will intensify, Gens says. The early cloud platforms come from Salesforce.com's Force.com, Microsoft's Azure, and Google's App Engine. In 2010, IBM and Cisco Systems will enter the field with their cloud platforms, IDC predicts.
"This is going to be the strategic battleground of the next 20 years in computing," Gens says.
The long-rumored Apple touch-screen tablet computer, or iPad, will arrive in 2010, IDC predicts. It will be more of an oversized iPod Touch, with an 8-inch or 10-inch screen, than a downsized Macintosh. With its larger screen, IDC says, the Apple tablet will be ideal for watching movies, surfing the Web, playing online games, and reading books, magazines and newspapers. It will be general-purpose, unlike Amazon.com's single-purpose Kindle reader. The Apple offering, Gens says, "could deliver a real kick in Kindle's butt."
Netbook PCs, IDC predicts, will move beyond stripped-down Web-surfing, e-mail and note-taking machines, costing $200 to $400. More powerful models, Gens says, may cost $700 or more, though will still be extremely light and small.
IDC also sees IBM getting back into the computer network business by acquiring Juniper. Networking, Gens says, is increasingly part of the package of capabilities the largest technology companies must offer corporate clients. He points to Hewlett-Packard's recent purchase of 3Com and Cisco's partnership with EMC as evidence of the trend.