What Happened in 2010–and Didn’t

Somehow I persuaded myself a year ago to offer up predictions for what would happen in 2010–and what wouldn’t happen. Now it’s time to take my medicine and see how I fared.

What I said would happen:

* Merger mania will accelerate in technology, especially acquisitions of smaller firms. OK, so it was a bit of a gimme, but I got that right. Google alone bought more than two dozen.

* Branding will start to become more apparent in Internet advertising, with Google leading the way in display. I guess it became somewhat more prominent a push, but I’d say I was a year too early on this.

* Google’s software efforts will finally establish it as more than a search company, making it apparent what this pony’s second trick is. Android certainly established itself, the Chrome browser made significant gains, and Google Apps got some big new customers. Chrome OS was late, though delivered through an alpha laptop, and remains unproven, and so does Google TV. Overall, it’s an impressive showing, if not enough to identify software as its next trick.

* Yahoo will surprise on the upside, thanks in part to a pickup in brand spending. Wrong! Well, the latter happened, but not enough to buoy a sinking Yahoo. It laid off 4% of its staff and jettisoned once-promising operations. Well, there’s always 2011–and maybe that’s all there will be if CEO Carol Bartz can’t demonstrate that she can finally turn things around.

* Mobile applications will start to take off for the masses. Two words: Angry Birds.

* Twitter’s main business model will become more apparent, but won’t knock everyone’s socks off. That’s just about right.

* Facebook will keep growing, providing perhaps the first test of whether social media is a blockbuster business after all. No doubt about that, even if it’s not yet certain how profitable the company will be.

What I said wouldn’t happen:

* Tablets won’t be the next big thing in client computing. As popular as Apple’s iPad was, tablets didn’t take the world by storm in 2010. But I don’t doubt they’ll be much bigger in 2011.

* There won’t be as many tech IPOs as venture capitalists and startups are hoping. And no, there weren’t, even if 45 did go public, up from 16 in 2009. And none of them were the big names such as Twitter or Facebook that some had hoped for.

* Real-time won’t be a business. When’s the last time you heard that buzzword? Maybe when real-time search engine OneRiot did a layoff?

* Online advertisers won’t escape a privacy backlash. And they sure didn’t. More trouble is coming in 2011, too.

* Google won’t get hit with a major antitrust lawsuit that so many have been predicting for years. True, and it doesn’t look any more likely today.

So actually, I did pretty well, even if you could argue that some of those weren’t exactly stretches. Next up, predictions for 2011, and another opportunity to look like an idiot.

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A Glimpse Into the Future of Television

If there’s one thing that struck me while I was researching an article on the future of television for Technology Review, it was all the fake living rooms. Google has one. So does Roku. So do LogitechSezmi, and Intel (which I believe has several in different states). I’m sure I missed a dozen more. It’s a sign of how important television, the star of living rooms real and faux, is to tech companies as they look to tap into the technology and media riches of the last great mass medium.

They’re all trying to figure out how to meld the medium they know–the Internet–with the one they hope to revolutionize: television. Yet with little native knowledge of television, Silicon Valley firms must troop consumer after consumer into these cozy little corners of their corporations and observe how people watch television and how they respond to their many efforts to bring the Web to the screen watched on average five hours a day. Even now, these companies are still struggling. Google, for instance, just told several consumer electronics manufacturers to hold off on planned launches of Google TV products at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January.

At the same time, the television industry has a lot to learn, too. Like the music industry, they’re in many cases fighting to keep too many people from watching television entertainment online, because that could damage their lucrative business models. But while they may have more leverage against the Internet hordes than the music industry had, thanks to both those business models and the durability of the TV experience for viewers, they don’t know any more about the Internet than the tech companies know about TV. Ultimately they will need to give viewers more flexible ways to view their content, or someone else will.

At this point, honestly, it’s tough to know how this volatile mix of TV and Net will shake out. I know, because I asked a whole lot of experts in both, and it was kind of amazing how uncertain nearly all of them are about what will happen even a couple of years from now. I hope to have provided some insight into how things could play out, but the uncertainty about what’s coming next in television is what I find most interesting: Whatever comes of this clash of two great mediums is going to surprise us all.

Why Google TV Wasn’t a Hit–and Why It’s Too Early to Write It Off

After a spate of mostly poor-to-middling reviews, Google TV products due out at the important Consumer Electronics Show in early January have been delayed, according to the New York Times. Although Samsung and Vizio apparently will show new Google TV products–in Vizio’s case, privately–Toshiba, Sharp, and LG Electronics apparently have delayed plans to introduce Google TV products after the search giant asked them to hold off. To date, only Sony, with a line of Google TVs and Blu-ray player, and Logitech, with an add-on Google TV settop box, have had products with the software embedded in it. Google TV lets people reach Web sites on their TVs, even while regular TV is playing.

But while some reviews have praised Google TV’s ambition, most have said it falls too far short of what TV viewers want in their living rooms. And they’re mostly right today. The Logitech box, called the Revue, comes with a PC keyboard that some people may find awkward to use on the couch, and the user interface isn’t as clean as it should be. Worse, TV broadcasters, fearful that too many people might prefer to watch episodes on demand on their Websites instead of on their TVs where they’re exposed to much more lucrative advertising, have blocked Google TV users from viewing most of their Web videos. Add the relatively steep price for Google TV products, which starts at $300 for the Revue, and it’s tough to see how these products would fly off the retail shelves.

For all that, it’s way too early to count Google TV as another of Google’s many failed product experiments. Here’s why:

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Google TV’s Search for a Living Room Hit

Now that Google TV, the search giant’s shot at bringing the Web to the television, has been out for a few weeks in the form of the Logitech Revue settop box and Sony’s TVs and Blu-ray machine, all eyes are on how it’s doing. Truth be told, it’s still too early to know. But Rishi Chandra, Google TV’s product lead, offered some insights on Google’s thinking in a talk today at GigaOm’s NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco with NewTeeVee co-editor Janko Roettgers. Here’s what he had to say:

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The Long-Awaited Boxee Box Gets a Hollywood Preview

Few consumer electronics devices have been more widely anticipated, at least by the more geeky set, than Boxee‘s settop box for bringing Internet content to the TV–since Google TV debuted three weeks ago, anyway. The uniquely shaped Boxee Box will debut on Nov. 10 in New York, adding a potent new player to the rapidly expanding market for Internet-connected TVs and add-on devices.

Today, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen offered a preview at the Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles, where such devices are viewed with much more wariness and even fear than in Silicon Valley. First, he offered his version of the landscape (paraphrased at times):

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Here Comes Google TV: The Fans (and the Skeptics) Weigh In

If there are many skeptics of Google TV, today at the Streaming Media West conference, a panel of (mostly) fans discussed the potential for the search giant’s newest obsession. On the panel were moderator James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research; Ashish Arora, VP and GM of Logitech‘s Digital Home Group; Christy Tanner, GM of TV Guide Online; Shalini Pai, group manager for partner solutions for YouTube and Google TV; and Jim Lanzone, CEO of Clicker.com. (For more from Google itself, check out my post on Google TV lead product manager Rishi Chandra’s keynote this morning at TechnologyReview.com)

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