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Six tech trends to watch in 2008

Phone companies are on the run, and – look out! – Apple is plunging into movies. Privacy, meanwhile, is out the window. And watch for the emerging battle of the software titans: Microsoft vs. Google.

By Tom ReganColumnist / January 2, 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.

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I wonder how he's feeling about that prediction now.

But 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 21st-­century equivalent of taking a horse-and-buggy ride.

And now, 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, and now it apparently aims to abandon the effort to protect its copyrights.

Last Thursday, Warner Brothers said it will sell songs and albums without anticopying 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 iTunes, in order to give Jobs's competitors a boost. Ain't competition grand?

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 e-mail. It was not unusual for me to pay an extra $200 to $300 a month.

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