It is no secret that Apple's expected tablet computer will be the make-or-break gadget of the year. Though only the masochistic attempt to guess what Steve Jobs is up to, it will be logical for
Cupertino to ship a keyboardless screen-like device that is lighter and smaller than the average laptop that is touch-enabled a la the iPhone. Expect it to be fed by various media outlets via iTunes.
The iTablet, or whatever it will be called, will also attempt to enable rich print-oriented content that gives suffering publishers a toehold in the digital age and marketers a higher CPM environment.
But as sexy as the device sounds, keep in mind that touchscreen computers are as old as computers themselves and one of the great tragedies of the industry.
For all the hype, one product that won't scale in 2010 is eReaders. As hard as Amazon, Barnes &
Noble, Sony and Plastic Logic are pushing virtual readers, the market is hobbled by conflicting standards, lack of meaningful content across all devices and no upsell for consumers. Remember, books
are not like music and moves. They are already digital. And have been for about five years. Therefore, any old digital device, from an iPhone to a cheap laptop makes a perfectly good eBook. So unless
Apple can reinvent the space with its tablet, the eReader will stay the stuff of the Brookstone Catalogue through 2010.
The sleeper pick for marketing gadget of the
year is the low-end, entry-level notebook computers dubbed netbooks. Expect worldwide deployment of netbooks to touch 100 million by the end of 2010. This flotilla of portable devices will be enabled
by low-cost Windows 7 OS and what will probably be a free Google operating system that emerges by mid-year. That puts vast functionality in these units and gives marketers another road to mobile
consumers beside the iPhone. Disney already has its netbook play with its Netpal line of netbook computers.
2010 will mark the year that uber sports brands like the New York Yankees and National Football League will go mano-a-mano with sports fans themselves over social media. Expect a showdown over what consumers can and
cannot share in sports, particularly streaming content from games. The big mover here will be ever-more-powerful video- and audio-enabled portable devices. Thirty frames per second and 22x zooms will be standard on better cell phones by mid-year. You can expect YouTube to be flooded with high quality game video. And the leagues to get way pissed. Figure them to ban the use of cameras at games to choke off unauthorized content. But fans will not be amused. Expect this one to get ugly.
Expect Google to work hard to lure local small business
marketers with its mapping tools: Pay particular attention to a service called Latitude that lets Google Maps users share their location, potentially bringing the economics of the social Web to the
local business. If there is a hot area in 2010 in local Web marketing, it will be in maps.
Sure to suffer a marketing
casualty are mobile apps running on smartphones. The issue here, of course, is security. Considering that there are 100,000 apps in the Apple App Store, and 12,000 on the Android market, it is only a
matter of time before some of these apps turn malicious. Anti-virus software is beginning to pop up for mobile devices. With a bit of bad luck, even security conscious Apple could get a black eye over
security. There are simply too many variables with apps running on mobile phones to actively police the sector. Somebody, somewhere is going to get hurt with a mobile app.
By the end of 2010, Web marketers will have to master yet another set of letters: LTE. Known in cell circles as Long Term Evolution, or 4G, the cell industry has finally decided it needs to get on with the future. LTE will bring true landed-broadband speeds to mobile devices. By the end of 2010, the technology will be in a half-dozen markets. LTE will not only be fast, it will be ubiquitous. Verizon, AT&T and all the rest, plan to cooperate to a common standard, vastly simplifying the process of rolling out new phones. Now for sure, the cell industry will find a way to screw this up. But very soon, the Web and the mobile Web will blur. And that will game-changing stuff, indeed. Blumsday