05 January 2010

Headlines from an alternate universe

I know I said I won't make predictions for the next year, but let's see how our future online world could look like in a twisted alternate universe:

In a surprise move, Google will be selling it's office bundle, Google Apps, to Microsoft. The official press release states the need to focus on the core business, but many analysts questioned this explanation, since other non-strategic applications like Google Chrome and sites (YouTube, orkut) were not included in the deal. According to rumors, Google is actually secretly working on a new operating system for the desktop computer and will soon kick the unsuspecting market leader where it hurts most. Others have dismissed these rumors completely, as they go on to mention this new Google Super-Project is based on retrofitted Windows Me code...

In the wake of the acquisition of Google Apps, Microsoft has announced it will migrate all new Hotmail and corporate users to the Gmail code and interface, and existing users will have it as an option at no extra charge. Similarly, Google Calendar will replace the online component of Windows Live and the Live messenger will use Google Talk's open protocol. The future of Google Docs however remains uncertain and many fear Microsoft will use this opportunity to bury one of it's biggest competitors on the Office market.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this new deal brings the company once again in the firing line from the US Antitrust Division of The Department of Justice. This time analysts predict the regulating body could go as far as to decide the break-up of the company, separating the operating system and Office divisions.

Google Wave also finds a new home at one of Google's competitors, Apple. After the successful migration to the new servers and the logo change, people flock to the new service like to a new iPhone release and previous criticism regarding performance and purpose fades away in a matter of weeks. Nobody even questions the fact that new bots must go through a drastic approval process, allegedly for security reasons.

Probably anticipating the same fate as the other Google online apps, the Reader team decides to quit Google en-masse and join their former colleagues, founders of Thing Labs. After just three months, they release a new RSS reader, RSSly (pronounced rrizzly). One of their future projects focuses on integrating feeds and social networks in a single online application.

Twitter usage starts to go down and the rate of people who join only to leave the next month is again on the rise. In a desperate effort to gain back users from the countless third-party clients, Twitter secretly introduces some routines in the API to randomly discard old-style retweets. Of course, it doesn't take long for developers to uncover the trick and make it public, resulting in a massive backlash against Twitter. The majority of users join a new micro-blogging site named qTTR, that doesn't limit the length of the status update, but asks you to choose the number of updates you will post, after which your account is automatically blocked.

Facebook continues it's meteoric rise on the social networks market and announces huge profits from advertisement, much larger than anticipated. It's the start of a new expansion strategy in the countries where penetration is low: Facebook starts rewarding users with virtual money that can be used anywhere inside the network, including the apps. The amounts vary by some cryptic algorithm, although most agree that users who manage to convince others to join Facebook and have a consistent presence on the site receive the most points. In the coming months, the program is extended into the more "mature" markets, although again with a new algorithm.

Facebook also starts making acquisitions to consolidate it's position, starting with rival hi5. But the most high-profile and unexpected one is the transaction with Yahoo! Following it, Facebook users get free lifetime pro accounts on Flickr, which will eventually replace the standard pictures application.

Finally acknowledging it's unable to sustain further development of Internet Explorer to match the performance of competitors, Microsoft announces it will replace the rendering engine with one of the alternatives on the market. The negotiations with the Mozilla Foundation and Google will carry on for months. The surprise winner is actually Opera; Microsoft PR names it the most flexible and easiest to integrate with our vision. The overall public opinion is that Microsoft wouldn't choose an open-source project and went for the only proprietary option available. Microsoft goes even further: after six months, they will release updates for all Internet Explorer versions 6 to 8 to replace the aging rendering engine, so webmasters will have that amount of time to make their sites compatible. The number of cases of post-traumatic stress and panic attacks among corporate web site designers rises to alarming levels.

The year ends rather badly for Apple, as Nokia wins all of the patent lawsuits against the Cupertino-based-company. As part of the settlement, Nokia will be manufacturing most of the equipment for Apple iPhones and tablets and is also licensed to use the mobile OSX on it's own smartphones. Many voices instantly predict the demise of Symbian S60 and Maemo, although Nokia officials publicly deny such plans.

Think this could never happen? In a sense it has already begun:

A Firefox on the bing homepage

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