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12/13/2007
07:30 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Top Tech Predictions For 2008

Yesterday I attended the Third Annual SNS New York Dinner, a gathering of tech professionals and investors at the famous Waldorf=Astoria Hotel hosted by futurist Mark Anderson. As usual, Anderson stirred controversy with a big dose of his high-powered brain candy.

Yesterday I attended the Third Annual SNS New York Dinner, a gathering of tech professionals and investors at the famous Waldorf=Astoria Hotel hosted by futurist Mark Anderson. As usual, Anderson stirred controversy with a big dose of his high-powered brain candy.Anderson opened the evening with a set of interlocking observations about the current global landscape. First, Anderson said that the world will face two crises as it transitions into the new year. The first is a climate crisis and the second a financial liquidity crisis.

"We must now agree that the climate crisis is true. We are past the time for debate. But now we need a rapid response," he said. "What if the global climate crisis is non-linear? There are no straight lines in nature," he said. Anderson agreed with Albert Gore's recent remarks that humanity is at war with the planet, but he reminded SNS attendees, as he did at the last two dinners, that there is lots of money to be made by figuring out to end humanity's war against nature.

Anderson predicted that the West's good will with China would come to an end in 2008, in no small part due to China's role as a massive polluter (which the world will notice at the 2008 Olympics) but also because China has taken its current role in the global economy as far as it can. Soon China will have to grow up and evolve.

High oil prices, which Anderson has spotlighted at the last two SNS dinners, will continue to climb. "$70 a barrel for oil is the new floor," he said. "We'll see another run to $100 a barrel by December 31 next year, or shortly afterwards."

As an alternative, Anderson challenged the attendees to come up with a new vision for energy. "Let's make too much energy," he said. "Energy is free, our job is to catch it at the lowest price possible and use it. Energy will never be totally free, but we can work down from the current costs."

Anderson then returned to another theme from recent dinners: The erosion of the U.S. middle class. "We are hallowing out the U.S. economy," he said. "It's like a fancy cappuccino or latte made with Sanka. Do you really want to drink it?"

The U.S. middle class, he said, is facing increased economic pressure from high fuel prices and from low-wage competition in China and the rest of the emerging markets. The middle class, Anderson said, is important for the future of the U.S. economy.

From here, he segued into the second major issue of 2008, the liquidity crisis, which he warned, we may already be in the middle of. "There is a bunch of money sloshing around the world," Anderson said. "So long as it flows all is well." But if the global money supply cannot be maintained, bad things could await the economy. This crisis, Anderson cautioned, can still be remedied.

Anderson said the so-called sub-prime problem in the U.S. was really just a part of the global liquidity crisis. "How is this a sub-prime issue if three-fourths of sub-prime foreclosures are from prime-level borrowers? This is about people who pay their bills," he said.

He warned that the current global liquidity situation demonstrated just how fragile the global money supply is. Drilling down into this topic, Anderson revisited another theme from last year: His claim that the U.S. fed has lost control of the economy.

Expanding on this topic, Anderson warned that the U.S. is in the middle of serious inflation. While the government is only reporting inflation in the 2% territory, the real figure is probably closer to 6% thanks in large part to higher fuel prices. The threat of tightened money supply would only make this situation worse.

This crypto-inflation, Anderson warned, is a sign that the Federal Reserve has lost control of the U.S. economy. If the Fed were to acknowledge this inflation, it would be forced to raise rates. But the Fed can't raise rates right due to both the threat of a recession and external pressures from outside the U.S. "The U.S. economy is now controlled by factors outside of its borders," he warned.

As for economic growth, Anderson predicted that the U.S. economy will grow next year at a rate of between 1.5% and 2.5%, while emerging markets like India will grow at 9% and China at 12%. Europe, he said, will grow at roughly 2.5%.

For the third theme Anderson pointed out that IT growth in emerging nations is now the key global driver. The U.S. market is no longer as important for global growth as it once was. "It used to be that we would catch a cold and everyone would get sick," Anderson said. "Now we can catch a cold but no one else will."

Anderson said that the IT market in 2008 will be strong due in large part to the continued growth of emerging markets.

The fourth theme was content. "Content has no boundaries," Anderson said. Content is no longer limited by countries, states, or even devices. Thanks to the Internet -- and the Web on smartphones and other mobile devices -- content can flow freely. "The old channels are no longer important."

Anderson then capped off the night with his 2008 list of predictions. Here is a quick run-down of what 2008 could hold in store:

1. Users revolt. "The desire to connect will run head into the desire to promote," he said. "From Second Live rules to issues with privacy on Facebook to cell phone bills, users now have control." Users, Anderson warned, want to connect and any interruptions in this process on the part of marketers or advertisers will be met with swift and harsh response on the part of all users.

2. No more walled gardens. "Net neutrality will prevail. The box guys -- the Nokias, Apples, Microsofts, etc. -- will prevail over the pipe guys (the carriers)."

3. By expanding everywhere the Web will disappear. Users, Anderson said, "want the service, not the history." Web audiences will begin to experience serious segmentation next year, as will online ad money. Much of the online ad dollars will flow to luxury products and to permission-based marketing schemes as advertisers leave interruption marketing behind.

4. High definition drives a reversal in U.S. bandwidth capacity. "Thanks to high def," Anderson said, "consumers will demand more bandwidth." As evidence he pointed out the success of Verizon's new fiber strategy, and how hard is it for entrenched cable providers, like Comcast, to fight against it.

5. Countries will have to behave better and the fake Internet will collapse. This means that Web censorship will begin to go away. "Real Net access is on the path to becoming a basic human right."

6. The world agrees that one-on-one training for children is inevitable. The world is about to rethink the future of education.

7. U.S. healthcare gets a proper diagnosis. Anderson said that the 2008 presidential election will force America to take notice of just how broken its healthcare system really is.

8. Small PCs break out as a category. The perpetual little engine that could, the Ultra Mobile PC, will finally come into its own in 2008. Anderson even predicts that Apple will make one, despite what some critics claim.

9. 2008 will be the year where LEDs become common for lighting. As evidence for this trend, Anderson pointed out that new Christmas lights this year are LEDs.

10. 2008 should be the first year when alternative energy cars go into production in the U.S. Anderson pointed out that Honda will deliver hydrogen-powered cars in California that will lease for around $600 a month. Tesla, the electric sports car maker, is also expected to ship product next year.

Check in this time next year to see how Mark's predictions for 2008 panned out. And if you're curious, here is the list of Anderson's predictions for 2007. What do you think? How well did he do?

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