John C Abell
Sometimes the most important ideas in tech are hiding in plain sight. In that spirit, here are three predictions for 2013 that are just waiting to happen. No 3D TVs, wearable computer or jet packs for me—at least not this year.
The Kindle offer
Demand is rapidly shrinking for e-ink e-book readers. IHS iSuppli predicts that when the books close on 2012 some 15 million will have been sold—down 36% from 2011. And why not? Tablets are getting cheaper. Sure, you can pick up an ad-supported Kindle for as little as $70. But why shell out even that when $200 gets you an e-reader, and a media player, and a gaming machine, and everything else?
Dedicated e-ink readers aren’t falling out of favour because the technology has been surpassed. They’re losing out because the value proposition has changed. There’s a simple solution. Make them inexpensive enough so that it becomes an offer you can’t refuse. That will happen at $50. At that price, buying a niche item you might use only occasionally is a relatively easy decision. It would be a no-brainer for students. A stocking stuffer for pre-teens that might even tear them away from their gaming consoles. An afterthought.
Nobody but Jeff Bezos & Co know what Amazon needs to make (or, more likely, can afford to lose) on even a bare-bones Kindle, though it is generally accepted wisdom that the Kindle line has value to the company as a loss leader for the sale of books—razors to blades, as it were. Amazon also has a history of pushing price barriers: it experimented with universally-priced $10 e-books—selling them below cost, to the consternation of publishers.
Amazon started the digital book revolution. E-ink technology was life-altering, and remains far too worthy to disappear. The only thing “wrong” with it is that it’s too expensive. Amazon is uniquely positioned to fix that and breathe new life into this still-revolutionary device.
Netbook strikes back
E-readers managed to survive a metaphysical threat from tablets. Netbooks, not so much. Netbooks—bare-bones, inexpensive, portable computers—were poised to change the world. But just as they burst on the scene, full-powered computers got just as small and just as light, like Apple’s MacBook Air. And then the iPad sucked out whatever air was left in the room.
Conditions have conspired again to make netbooks attractive. Advances in cloud computing make productivity activities—collaborating on and sharing documents—painless. That in turn makes hard drives—local storage—less