We’ve already looked back at the technology stories from 2011 that had us waiting in long lines (thanks, iPhone 4S), waxing nostalgic (RIP Steve Jobs) or, in some cases, just scratching our heads (Qwikster? Huh?).
But what will the new year bring? What storylines will dominate the conversation about the tech industry? We’ve scoured forecasts released by analysts, journalists and industry insiders to find what they say will dominate the conversation about the tech industry next year. Here’s what to watch for:
Mobile payment systems will go mainstream. Many consumers long ago ditched cash in favor of the ease and convenience of paying with plastic. Now, thanks to apps that allow users to make payments with the tap of a smartphone, shelling out money is poised to get even easier. Google Wallet, which launched in September 2011, is currently only available on a few models of phones and many small retailers are not equipped to use it. But some analysts say that 2012 is the year that mobile payments will proliferate as more devices are outfitted with the crucial Near Field Communication (NFC) chip that makes these transactions possible. Forrester Research said in a June report that it expects mobile commerce to be a $31 billion business by 2016. Given that potential for growth, it’s likely other tech firms will attempt to challenge Google with their own mobile payment apps. In fact, telecom giants Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have announced a joint venture digital wallet program called Isis, which is slated to debut in 2012.
The Facebook IPO will finally happen, and it will be major. The world’s most popular social network appears headed for a major status update. Many analysts suggest that the company will finally go from private to public in 2012 in what would likely be the largest initial public offering ever for a technology company. Just how big would the IPO be? In January 2011, Goldman Sachs valued the company at $50 billion when it offered private clients a chance to invest in Facebook. Later, in November, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News reported that company was seeking to raise $10 billion for an IPO worth $100 billion. And if the filing indeed takes place, you can expect its first day of trading to be a big event on Wall Street. The IPO may not be Facebook’s only milestone next year: At least one forecaster suggests the firm could register its 1 billionth user.
Tablets will continue their hot streak. Many experts and insiders seemed to agree on this point. But they differed in their assessments of whether Apple would continue to be king of the heap. According to a December report from research firm IDC, Apple has captured 62 percent of the worldwide tablet market, while Android has just 32 percent. A recent spate of Apple rumors suggest that iPad 3 could be arriving as early as February and may be accompanied by a smaller “iPad mini.” Will that be enough to ward off competition from Android-powered tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the relatively low-priced Kindle Fire? Tech geeks and investors everywhere will be closely watching.