Tech Wrap: Goodbye 2008...Hello 2009!

Big events include Apple's Snow Leopard, Windows 7, the CES show, the Psystar controversy, Linux approaching one percent marketshare, and more.
(Make your prediction for 2009 at the bottom of this page.)

Any day now I expect to slip into that alternative reality consisting of Christmas trees, holiday lights, gift giving, turkey and large splashes of sherry while sitting in front of an open fire. However, this state cannot persist forever and come early January (how early depends on how much sherry has been involved) I’ll be dumped, cold and dazed, into 2009. Before that happens it’s time to take a look at some of the events that have helped shape 2008, and peer into the crystal ball to find out what will be making the headlines in 2009.

One event more than any that has shaped 2008 is the economy’s nose-dive over the past few months. Tech has taken a particularly hard hit as consumers and companies decide either to put off purchases, or make last year’s technology last longer. I predict that this trend will continue into 2009, and that it could get worse, as price-sensitivity turns into a generalized allergy to spending altogether.

I see the whole consumer electronics market seeing a continued slowdown over the next twelve months as people wise up to replacing a fully-functional TV or iPod with one that’s an inch bigger of has a few gigabytes of extra storage. January’s CES 2009 (Consumer Electronics Show) is mostly going to be a showcase of stuff people aren’t going to be spending their money on.

Those with money to spend will find be demanding more technology for their dollars (and they’re getting it – have you seen some of the prices out there?!!), putting additional pressure of consumer electronics companies. After all, people are far more careful when it comes to spending their money than they are about spending credit.

Not all the casualties of 2008 were because of the credit crisis. While it was inevitable that golden goose stock such as APPL and GOOG would suffer a readjustment, some companies just tripped over the shoelaces. One such company was the graphics giant NVIDIA. Here we have a company whose stock a year ago was trading at around $30 a share, but following a disclosure in July that thermal issues plagued some mobile GPUs (and we’re still not clear whether all the affected GPUs have been identified) is now trading at around $8 a share.

What else happened in 2008? Well, it was the year when Microsoft tried using the Seinfeld and Gates duo to try to convince us that Microsoft is great. When these ads failed to generate the right kind of buzz (Microsoft’s ad geniuses had expected us to find them ha-ha funny, but instead they came across as creepy clown funny), the Redmond giant pulled the plug on the ads and replaced them with the “I’m a PC and I’m proud of it” ads.

I presume that Seinfeld got to keep the $10 million Microsoft paid him. These ads didn’t really cause much of a buzz, but I was frankly just glad to have all that eeriness of Bill Gates wiggling his butt and Jerry Seinfeld chowing down on churros behind me.

Also in the “something interesting” category for 2008 is the Florida-based Mac cone company Psystar. Here’s a company that hit the headlines in April when it launched a range of Mac clone systems that seemed to violate Apple’s EULA. Apple filed suit against Psystar in July and everyone expected the company to become yet another bug on the windshield of Apple’s legal machine, but here we are at the end of 2008 and the Floridian upstart continues to sell cut-priced Mac clone.

So, going forward to 2009, what should we be focusing on over the next twelve months? Well, tech news in 2009 will be dominated by the economy. Unless things dramatically change over the next few months (and if you see any signs of things getting better soon, do let me know), even in my more optimistic moments I see 2009 being just as bad as 2008. Even if we see a dramatic improvement during Q3 or Q4 I still see both consumers and businesses being cautious and conservative, choosing to reduce debt load and replenish depleted savings.

Economy aside, operating systems are going to be a big talking point. Apple’s Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” should be hitting Macs sometime around April. And while Microsoft’s Windows 7 might not make an appearance during 2009 (while I firmly believe that it’ll be released sooner rather than later, some tech pundits think it won’t be released until 2010), I expect Microsoft to be enthusiastically waving its hypnodisk around in an attempt to get us to forget about Vista.

To be honest, it’s already working on me. The more I use Windows 7 the more I want to switch to it and leave Vista behind.

But it’s not just Mac OS and Windows that is going to be talked about during 2009. A soggy economy is also going to be good for open source, especially operating systems. While I don’t believe the hype coming out of the mouths and from the keyboards of Linux zealots that 2009 will be the year of Linux (after all, it’s easier to save money by sticking with old technology rather than replacing it, even if you are replacing it with free software), I do think that ‘09 will offer increasing exposure to open source projects. I think we can safely assume that Linux will grab a 1 per cent market share by this time next year. However, it won’t be desktop and notebook systems driving this increase (sales of these are pretty flat), but instead low-cost netbook systems.

Despite the mushy economy I still see 2009 being a very interesting one from a tech POV, whether you’ll have money to spend or you’re just window shopping.

Well, all that’s now left for me to do is wish you all Happy Holidays and all the best for 2009! See you next year!

Tags: Linux, Microsoft, nVidia, OS X, Leopard

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