It’s that time again, when we indulge in the ancient ritual of making predictions for the coming year. The method for choosing one’s predictions here at Brighthand varies considerably: some choose to interpret the smudges on their screen protectors, others seek revelation in the entrails of dead batteries. Most of us just type something up in a hurry in between doing things for which we’re actually accountable.
But what of the previous year? Did we get anything right, that you should even bother listening to what us mooks have to say in the future?
Admittedly, making predictions up to a year out in the technology market is like trying to forecast May’s weather in February: promise specifics, and you’re more likely to be wrong than you are to be right. That said, let’s see how the predictions of the Brighthand editorial staff fared for the last year.
Here stands the elephant in the room: in our predictions for 2007, none of the Brighthand staff forecast Apple’s entrance into the smartphone market. In fairness, we’ve been living with the "Apple releases a mobile device" rumor coming around roughly once a year since the company dropped the Newton, so we were pretty jaded on the idea. None of us anticipated Google’s entry into the platform market, either, though that’s arguably even more unlikely than Apple’s sudden interest. Now with that out of the way, let’s get to the meat.
To do this, I went through each of the major predictions made (quoting them when appropriate) and gave them simple ratings for accuracy: whole, half, or no points, with appropriate discussion.
Ed offered us operating system releases from Microsoft, Access, and maybe Palm, the foremost of which would include Office document editing. Full marks on both counts: Windows Mobile 6, released this year, brought with it Office document editing for Windows Mobile "Standard" based devices. Access Linux Platform was released bringing with it… well, nothing. On the fate of ALP, Ed said this:
I hate to say it, but I think ALP won’t be a major force in North America or Europe. It will, however, become a significant player in Asia, where Linux-based operating systems are rapidly taking over.
Fifty fifty split. ALP wasn’t a force in North America or Europe: It also wasn’t a force anywhere else, having not been released on a single device almost a year after its purported release.
The updated version of Palm OS Garnet being developed by Palm, Inc. for its Treo line, on the other hand, will continue be a major player in the U.S. market in 2007.
Not so much. In fact, the updated OS being developed by Palm is now not anticipated until 2009, and sales of current Garnet-based devices now make up only half of Palm’s smartphone sales.
As predicted, GPS integration did, in fact, become one of the major trends of 2008, including a bevy of new devices with GPS receivers, and services designed to offer a GPS-like experience. Radical change presented itself too, with the iPhone and iPod Touch bringing back the all-touchscreen interface, and more storage to boot.
Ed’s Score: 5 out of 7.
2007 will be the year of put up or shut up. Going into this year, manufacturers will have to bring something better and more compelling to the table, or else they run the risk that people just won’t buy.
Half credit. Devices did improve this year, and more than a few departed from the herd, with the radically different Apple models in the lead. However, companies still released many cookie-cutter devices, and some of the most innovative models like the HTC Omni still aren’t available.
My money is on wireless broadband, be that 3G, Wi-Fi, or WiMAX.
Again, half credit. WiMAX didn’t come about as rapidly as I’d hoped, and providers such as AT&T and T-Mobile are still lagging behind their competitors with 3G.
Smartphone sales will start to stagnate as too many players saturate the market with too many similar devices.
On this I claim accuracy, despite many smartphone manufacturers not seeing a downturn in sales. The heavier trend towards low-end devices, such as Palm’s Centro, have sucked much of the money out of the realm of high-end smartphones.
UMPCs won’t get traction, but some scaled up mobile devices may, reaching into the video and entertainment market.
iPhone and iPod Touch. ‘Nuff said.
Palm will release a new operating system if they know what’s good for them.
True. And obviously they don’t.
Dell and HP both stay in the market, and the latter will continue flopping around the smartphone space like a fish out of water.
One on, one off. HP stayed, and continued to twitch, but Dell departed.
Adama’s Score: 6 out of 9.
Antoine told us that the high-end handheld would return, with at least two new models, and that UMPCs would be shoved downwards in the market niche. Correct on both, with the UMPC finally making it into the upper three digit price range, only to be confronted by the prospect of HP’s new mid-range and high-end handheld devices, as well as the new Nokia devices.
In addition, there will be at least one attempt to make a high-end PDA in the vein of the Nokia Internet Tablet. This will combine the hardware of an instant-on device with some attachment to an online software service to give ubiquitous connectivity.
Close, with Nokia creating two follow-ups on their own original design, though not with ubiquitous connectivity. We’ll call that half.
I also predict that at least one new high-end handheld will take a chance with fuel-cells or another battery technology such as Lithium-Polymer batteries.
No dice here: fuel cells and revolutionary new batteries have remained as steadfastly vaporware as they always have.
As predicted, smartphone Internet use did increase, and mobile browser usability did not, nor did selling mobile video.
Antoine’s Score: 4.5 out of 6.
Palm’s third category will be a larger tablet style device in the same vein as some of the smaller UMPC style units we’re seeing now.
Half score. The Foleo was to be larger, yes, but not a tablet.
Palm will release future PDA products, but the lifecycle will continue to stretch out. … They may also continue to dabble in the multimedia space with a revised LifeDrive.
Alas for fans, 2007 saw Palm, Inc. effectively abandon any intentions of further development for its handheld line.
Dell is on pause with the Axim, waiting to release the right product. It’ll release another one, though it’s tough to pinpoint when, or exactly what it will be. Given the current market and hardware available, the Axim X51 is still well positioned.
No joy; despite the persistent rumors of a Dell smartphone, nothing has materialized from that company since their abandonment of the Axims.
Brian noted that GPS would be an increasingly common feature, and that he didn’t expect to see much of Access’ operating system in the US:
PalmSource has been essentially sterile the last year or longer, and Access is probably wishing they didn’t pay a 100% premium for that company.
Oh, I’d say that that’s a good call.
Brian went on to add that the "Crossbow" upgrade of Windows Mobile, released as WM6, wouldn’t revolutionize the market, but that UMPCs would find a niche once they reached cheaper pricing, both of which panned out.
Brian’s Score: 4.5 out of 7.
Total Brighthand score: 20 accurate predictions out of 31
So how did we do overall? Not too badly at predictions based on existing trends, even though we obviously didn’t forecast the Coming of Cupertino, and the attendant heating up of the smartphone race. We’d have fared better if Palm had actually released its new OS.
Good enough to trust for the future? As I said, plotting specific events a year out is pretty dicey, but I’d cheerfully put our list up against anyone else’s, and look at the percentages.