Well, we erred in our 2011 predictions in not repeating a 2010 forecast that Carol Bartz would be ousted as Yahoo CEO--it was bound to happen, we just called that one too early. Then again, we also predicted last year that Oracle would buy Salesforce.com and have decided not to repeat ourselves this year, so we'll see if we were just ahead on that one, too. Meanwhile, these are our predictions for the next 12 months:
HP Gets Its Groove Back
Meg Whitman will be the needed tonic at Hewlett-Packard, which will regain its focus and footing over the course of 2012, showing steady, if slow, improvement. And, contrary to popular sentiment, webOS won't die, but will find support in the open-source community of code writers and tinkerers.
Cyberattacks Get Scarier
2012 will be the year that a cyberattack really does hit a U.S. public utility hard, taking down an electric grid. Along those same lines, industrial control systems in Iran will be rocked with a sustained cyberattack that will make Stuxnet look like child's play in a year that increasingly will find that cybersabotage and cyberwar are realities that must be reckoned with.
Apple Takes Over
Other research firms will join Canalys in counting tablets in PC shipments, vaulting Apple into the top PC-maker spot globally in the third quarter, overtaking HP. iPad 3 will launch in April and with it will come lower prices on iPad 2 versions, with that inventory flying off of store shelves. After picking up market-share steam through midyear, iPad sales will level out through the second half of 2012, though no other tablet will emerge as a serious competitor to the iPad's lofty status.
Windows 8 Won't Give Microsoft Momentum
Windows 8 will be released and will depend on sales of new PCs loaded with that OS to catch on. Users who don't intend to buy new PCs will still be slowly upgrading to Windows 7 and won't be inclined to jump ahead to 8 (though the trend of jumping to Macs will continue). As for tablets, Microsoft isn't going to catch fire in that market this late in the game because iPad users tend to be crazy in love with their tablets and Android has a robust fan base now, too.
AT&T's failed merger with T-Mobile USA will cost it a fat $4 billion break-up fee, with AT&T getting only a mere roaming agreement out of the proposed deal and no help at all for its spectrum crunch. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's miscalculation in thinking he could get the deal past U.S. regulators will cost him his job.
Mergers in Mobile
Before the Research In Motion co-CEO structure topples under the shakiness of the company, whose market share will continue to erode, RIM will be scooped up--Dell may be one likely buyer--and both James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis will be shown the door. In competitor news, Sprint's recent boost in subscriber numbers won't be sustained because it can't continue to rely on pulling in users via government-subsidized programs for low-income people, and by the end of 2012, the company will also be on the auction block.
Join Larry's Network
Although Larry Ellison hasn't made a splashy acquisition in a while and although buying RIM would be a slap at Google, we think that Oracle will buy an enterprise social-networking vendor to bolster the push it has made into that area. (Yammer or Jive, perhaps?)
Oracle and Google Settle
Speaking of Oracle and Google, they'll settle their dispute over Java-related patent claims, with Google agreeing to license Java for an undisclosed amount.
Facebook Makes a Load of Money, Then Faces Reality
Once it goes public, and hits its rumored US$1 billion goal, Facebook leadership will increasingly be under pressure from investors and shareholders to keep pulling in big bucks. But its share price will come back down to Earth after briefly soaring. Privacy issues will continue to pester the site, as will the "improvements" that its development team rolls out in a seemingly endless and steady stream. The reality of running a public company will prove burdensome and by year's end there will be a management shakeup at Facebook.
The 2012 Election
Barack Obama will win reelection over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, with low voter turnout among Republicans, many of whom never did--and likely never will--warm to the businessman and former Massachusetts governor. (Laugh if you will, but we called the 2008 election for Obama in December 2007, despite the ridicule that brought.) The balance of power will also shift in the House of Representatives back to the Democrats. Still, the current tide of legislation aimed at controlling the Internet and its content, as well as the push to require ISPs and others to maintain data, and turn it over to authorities when requested, will continue apace. As such, the United States will increasingly find itself at odds with the European Union, though other nations will begin to push back as well, regarding data retention and privacy issues. One side effect will be that U.S. businesses will increasingly find themselves hampered when it comes to winning government contracts in E.U. nations because of such legal concerns and they will take their complaints about that to Congress.