Our predictions for future tech (Part 2)

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Our predictions for future tech (Part 2)


The UK will go wireless…everywhere

The UK’s broadband provision is shocking. Down among the sick men of connected world, we rely on ageing copper wiring, built to carry a light smattering of phone calls, to quickly deliver large amounts of data. By and large, it doesn’t. the trouble is that we’re a long way from our own industrial revolution, and the means to dig up roads and fields and lay down fat pipes countrywide simply isn’t there.

Nor is the political will to ask the tax payer to fund increased hardwired infrastructure. Those who are happy with their setup see no reason to subsidise the rest, and BT and Virgin Media are interested only in supplying densely packed and lucrative suburban areas (on which, see our next prediction).

What the previous government did, however, was set in motion the change toward a better wireless connection for everyone, phasing out the signal that carry analogue TV and radio in order to free up bandwidth for nationwide 4G connectivity. Ofcom has managed to bodge the job to the extent that we are unlike to see 4G in full deployment before 2013, but with luck it will be just the beginning.

Satellite broadband is now available wherever you can see the sky, and several local governments are at least tentatively investigating the possibility or WiMax networks. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever have the fixed broadband we need on this island, but there’s a better than even chance we’ll be able to pluck something approaching a decent connection out of the ether. Whether individuals will be able to afford it is anther matter.

Plausibility rating 4 stars

There’ll be amazing connectivity-in only the right places

There’s little incentive for BT and Virgin Media, Vodafone, O2, Three, T-Mobile and Orange to support rural areas. The nature of the privatised telecommunications industry pits them against each other in the fight for customers.

This means that densely populated urban areas will continue to be better served for connectivity, and those out in the sticks or in deprived areas will be left further behind. And we’re not just talking about fixed-line broadband.

Mobile operators will take on the task of providing service to less populated areas, only with big wodges of tax-payer cash. Imagine how long that’s likely to last in this age of austerity.

Extending mobile coverage involves installing masts or base stations, which provide the signal. Each station is then connected to the network to enable traffic to be back-hauled and forwarded on around the network, or sent to the mast nearest the user. Such connections are usually fibre, and they can be shared along the same connection using time-division multiplexing (TDM), in which two or more signals take it in turns.

Rather than each operator having their own network in rural areas, the connection is often owned by a carrier that shares or leases a third-party pipe back to wherever they have a point of presence (POP). The question is who will own and maintain the new masts, and how usage will be paid for by the operators.

So expect some form of shaky wireless for the masses, and ultra-fast fibre connectivity for those lucky enough to live in commercially viable areas, with the wonga to pay.

Plausibility rating 3 stars

Google will become Microsoft

Google’s gone from a tiny glint in two academics’ eyes, to a globe-dominating cash-raking machine in 10 short years. As odd as it seems now, for most of that period Google was perceived as the cool outsider taking on the technology establishment. Google was once as famous for quirky office complexes and enlightened working practices as it was for innovation. With the world’s best-loved corporate value-‘don’t be evil’- Google seemed the very antithesis of faceless corporate technology. Just a few years ago, Larry and Sergey were still approving every single appointment to the workforce. Google never advertised jobs, instead directly targeting the best and the brightest of the tech industry and making them on offer they couldn’t refuse. But such working practices, all well and good in a startup, are impossible to retain as a fully fledged multinational corporate. Google’s hale has slipped as it has made brutal business decisions in the key market of China, got tough on YouTube copyright issues, and as its Labs have failed to lay golden eggs. It’s been a white since Google has had a genuine hit and, with Android set to proliferate, it’s starting to look a lot like Microsoft: dominant, fantastically rich, but unloved. Expect the next 10 years to see Google post a succession of massive profits, but few successful and innovative profits. And just how evil can it be with the world’s largest store of user data?

Plausibility rating: 5 stars

Apple will succeed… on its own terms

Google’s only serious rival to the title of ‘top tech company of PC Advisor’s first 200 issues’ is Apple: the comeback kod. If you’d have asked us as we went to press with issue 50, we wouldn’t have held out hope for Apple making it to issue 200. but the past 10 years have been phenomenal for the company, as a succession or hero products revived its fortunes under the watchful eye of the late CEO Steve Jobs-Mac OS X, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, even the Apple Store. Each claimed increased market share and turned a hefty profit, in some cases dominating markets in a way Apple has failed to do since the heady days of the Apple II. And taking tablets into consideration, Apple may yet become the world’s leading PC maker.

So Apple’s future is assured, but how will it succeed in the absence of Steve? Contrary to popular belief Jobs was not directly involved in the design and build of many Apple products. Apple employs a huge number of talented people, and Jobs created an ethos and structure that promoted research and design above all else. Apple products are never released unfinished or ill thought out, and the company is happy to miss out on the first blush of a new technology wave-it doesn’t see the value in being in the mix just for the sake of it.

Apple goes its own sweet way, and will continue to do so. Whether this means we’ll see more market-dominant products like the iPad and iPod, profitable niche products like Macs, or more likely a mixture of both, expect Apple to continue to delight and infuriate in equal measure, inspiring devotion in some, while maintaining a massive bottom line.

Plausibility rating: 3 stars


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