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Looking Ahead to 2009 – Part 4

December 31st, 2008 Posted in General, Internet

In this final part of my ‘look ahead to 2009’ series, I’m looking at technology. What were the trends that dominated 2008, and what can we expect in the year ahead?

There have been several large trends that have been extremely interesting to watch over the last few years. Mobile phones have moved from simple communication devices to portable organisers, media centres and games stations. The line between entertainment and communication has been blurred throughout our lives, with games consoles such as the XBox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3 both offering substantial online content and communication/team play capabilities.  In fact, the home console is a good trend to watch throughout 2009. There won’t be any large launches, with the next generation consoles not due until at least 2010, possibly later, but at least we will be able to see how the console wars pan out, and how the three main providers (Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo) plan to continue to bring people together online.

Online gaming is a huge trend that has been growing steadily since the invention of the Internet.  World of Warcraft released its latest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, just over a month ago (and I’ll be playing it just as soon as I finish this post…) Other online worlds look set to continue expanding (Second Life, Entropia Universe) or to enter their life-or-death phase (Warhammer Online, Age of Conan). Some new MMOs have been announced, most notably Bioware’s upcoming LucasArts collaboration, Star Wars: The Old Republic. This exciting new game looks set to be released towards the end of 2009, and may prove to be a work of genius, if Bioware can deliver the goods as they always have done before.

Of course, there are more games releases anticipated for 2009 (Starcraft 2, Dragon Age, Dawn of War 2, The Sims 3) which should all prove well worth watching.

But there’s more to tech than games. So what are the trends on the Internet for 2009? Well, perhaps the biggest one is a negative one. E-crime is growing apace, and 2008 saw a huge rise in the number of phishing attacks, partly fuelled by the credit crisis. The weird thing about phishing attacks is that they are totally preventable – in the same way that AIDS is totally preventable by a very simple action – wearing a condom. In the case of phishing, your e-condom is knowledge. (Yes, that is probably the weirdest sentence you read in 2008!) Avoiding phishing attacks is very simple, if you understand a little about hwo computers work. Never type in any details into any site unless you have personally typed in the correct web address yourself (or used your bookmarks menu). Never click on a link in an email from anyone pretending to be a bank, building society, insurer, online account of any kind. Remember that nobody in the third world wants to move money into your account, there isn’t a lottery on Earth that will give you millions of dollars without you buying a ticket. Once you’ve learned that, you’re good to go. Oh, and install a good quality firewall and anti-virus software. And switch it on. And keep it updated.

2009 will certainly see a rise in e-crime – that much is inevitable. Spam now accounts for over 90% of all email – and the reason why it does that is because it’s still profitable. If people refused to buy from spam then it would stop. Fighting spam is difficult, despite a few high profile wins,  because it’s easy to make spam messages look very convincing. The best way to combat it is to delete it, never reply to it, and never buy anything from it. Even if you want it.

So have I missed anything? What about the rise of media centres (hardware devices that connect to wireless networks, download from bit-torrent and iPlayer and the like, network with your Desktop PC, and plug into your TV)? What about the recent trend of e-book readers? What about the rise of touch screen devices, including the Microsoft Surface?  Yeah, I reckon they will all play a part in 2009. Ultimately, the trends in the coming year will all be about connectivity, entertainment and simplicity. After the steady march of complexity in our lives, 2009 will be the year when things just plug in and work. We’ve seen a near-ubiquitous usage of automatic update downloaders and the like which makes it easy to keep our software up-to-date; we’ve seen simple touch-screen interfaces and minimal UIs. 2009 will be the year when technology starts to become all about us, not the gadgets.

Have a happy new year!

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