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Thursday
Dec 18th

Six tech trends to watch in 2008

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Tom Regan, Columnist, The Christian Science Monitor

Whenever a new year starts, film and music columnists look backward, and business and tech columnists look forward. So, putting myself in a forward frame of mind, here are a few thoughts about where we may be headed in 2008 When it comes to predicting tech trends, I think back to a luncheon I attended a dozen years ago. There, a prominent reporter for a major New York newspaper told me that the Internet would go nowhere. It would never be a threat to newspapers, he said. I wonder how he's feeling about that prediction now.

Whenever a new year starts, film and music columnists look backward, and business and tech columnists look forward. So, putting myself in a forward frame of mind, here are a few thoughts about where we may be headed in 2008:

1. Apple moves into movies
After my brothers got out of college they managed a record store. But I doubt they spend much time going to a store to buy music anymore. The iPod has made that the twenty-first century equivalent of taking a horse-and-buggy ride.

Starting in mid-January, Steve Jobs is getting into the movie business. Apple will rent movies from Fox at its iTunes digital media store. Apple is not the first: Microsoft and Amazon already offer online video rentals. But Apple has a built-in user base of more than 100 million people worldwide who own iPods, many of them the newer version that features video as well as audio. Advice to Blockbuster and Netflix: Be afraid, be very afraid!

2. Fewer copyright protections restrict digital music
It makes me furious that the music industry threatened and bullied people about downloading music online, but now it apparently aims to abandon the effort to protect its copyrights. Last Thursday, Warner Brothers said it will sell songs and albums without anti-copying protections on Amazon's new digital music service. Apple's Steve Jobs (there he is again) called on all music companies to drop DRM (digital rights management) protections earlier in the year. EMI was the first to do so on iTunes.
Now all the record companies are thinking about it, but with a twist. They will sell the music without DRM protection on every digital music service except
3. Phone companies face a growing assault from free alternatives
In years past when my wife, a Middle Eastern historian, traveled to that part of the world, my phone bills would skyrocket. The kids would want to talk to her at least every other day, and there were always household business matters that couldn't be handled via email. It was not unusual for me to pay an extra $200 to $300 a month.

But when she spent a month in Turkey this past summer, I didn't pay a penny extra in phone charges thanks to Skype, an online-based "phone" service. Skype users can talk to each other all over the world for free if both use the program. (You can use Skype to call a landline, but that costs money.) Not only did we talk every day and sometimes for as long as an hour, we also got to see her while we did it – video calls are free, too. Do the math. No wonder phone companies are scared.
 

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