Sunday, 9 August 2009

Faster and faster...

(By Richard Holway 8.00pm Sunday 9th Aug 09) Being massively big-headed, I can boast that I’ve seldom got a trend-line wrong in my 20+ years as an analyst. Being ever-so-humble, I can readily admit to getting many a time-scale wrong. Probably none more so than my forecasts for Cloud (or ASP as we called it then) back in 1996.

But sometimes, things happen faster than I ever expected.

Last week, we had many examples of the speed of change in social networking with massive writedowns by ITV on Friends Reunited and News Corp on Myspace. We saw Bebo haemorrhaging users. Clearly, at the moment FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter are gaining at their expense.

But, my own feelings are that this will pass just as quickly. If I was an investor in any of them I’d be looking for the exit fast.

As I have said countless times, I cannot see the revenue model for any of them. I see Facebook becoming a portal to the Cloud and have suggested that Microsoft buy them for that reason. LinkedIn is a recruitment site and that’s where it will probably end up. As for Twitter, it might just fade away.

There is another phenomenon I have written much about in the last few years – netbooks. I now think that netbooks are a transient product line too. They were right for the recessionary times. Sure they are “good (and cheap) enough” but they don’t have any feelgood factor.

I increasingly suspect that Apple will bring out the iTablet (or whatever it is finally called) in the autumn ready for the Christmas shopping period. See my 27th July 09 article – An Apple iTab for Christmas? It will meet the needs of the travelling user who has bought a netbook for that purpose. It will also double as an ebook – providing huge competition to the likes of Amazon. I really can see me reading the FT on the train on an iTablet. Indeed, I think the move to paid-for online newspapers will be encouraged by there being an Apps Store application to handle either subscriptions or micro payments. I see it encouraging more CD downloads (as you now get the full CD notes) I see it become the travellers work, information and entertainment device of choice. And, being from Apple, it will be really cool!

Where Apple goes, others will quickly tread and the netbook will have a new classy range of competitors by next year.

Recessions always speed change. But this one has speeded up the pace of change to such an extent that something that started at the beginning of the recession might be in decline by the end of it.

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