Sunday, February 21, 2010

Peeking into 2010

It was author Bill Vaughn who said, ‘An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.’ Every year gives us enough reason to be both, up until the curious phenomenon of year end list-making ensues. Most people, including yours truly, have the happy but ultimately pointless habit of taking time off to sit back for more than a few moments at the end of each year to look back at the year that was. And when after much deliberation, we get absolutely nowhere in our simultaneous search for closure and renewed vigor, we gladly let miscellaneous media persons do the exercise for us. The subsequent year then seemingly zips by in our attempts to keep our heads above water, and the inevitable cycle of wasteful year-end procrastination continues. In my experience, looking ahead has always proven to be more fruitful than looking back and in keeping with this spirit we bring you some trends and predictions for the coming year.

So do not dwell too much on the year gone by. It would suffice to mention that 2009 was undoubtedly a volatile year. The past year seemed an almost appropriate conclusion to a decade during which the world (and India) wobbled from one crisis to another. Much remains work in progress, but here’s looking at the issues that will keep 2010 in the news. One doesn’t like to prophecy, but as and when we can, we will allow for some indulgence. It’s the New Year, after all!

The Obama myth
2010 will be the year when the world will not be saved by Barrack Obama. Proclamation of his being the new ‘apostle of great hope’ will prove to be the most debunked prediction since Lord Haldane’s lofty prophecy in 1907; when he had smugly remarked, ‘The aeroplane will never fly’. If 2009 was any indication, with the twin embarrassments of the Nobel Prize and the gate-crashers at the state dinner, 2010 should be quite entertaining. His war on terror continues with no end in sight, with his popularity diving after his decision to send more troops into the evermore complicated Af-Pak region. Iraq still remains hostile and Osama Bin Laden has perhaps long given up trying to hide from the US forces. His health care reforms remain in limbo and unemployment in the US stays in double digits (and will continue to do so). His comprehensive finance reforms are just a twinkle in his eye and Iran has yet to be constructively engaged. The senate elections in November might well prove a further dampener for his administration. Things could yet be salvaged, but time is running out for Barry.

The passing of the perfect storm?

The world, and the US in particular, is still recovering from the financial cardiac arrest that it suffered in 2008, and much of the coming year will be spent recovering from that jolt. World
economies will remain sluggish and per IMF estimates, world GDP will rise by little over 2% in 2010. The US Dollar is stated to lose traction in the coming year with American deficits at record levels. Gold will continue to glitter, not needing India’s Diwali-time binge-buying. While the scenario is a tad better than what we witnessed in 2009, the danger of deflation will be well and truly real, especially in the US. All that money thrown at the economic system by world
governments will now try to find itself back into state coffers, but this will not be very easy to
execute. Hence inflation will be a serious threat in emerging economies with healthy growth rates. Already we have seen food prices in India climb 18% over the last few months. Growth will be led largely by Asian giants China and India, who will chug along nicely with expected 6%-8% growth rates. Hiring in emerging economies will resume and happily, most of us can finally look forward to that bonus in 2010!

Pocket power
If the nineties culminated in the fear of the Y2K bug and planes falling out the sky, the 'naughties' was undoubtedly the decade of the internet. If 2009 was the year of Social Networking websites, Google Wave, 3G, and Windows 7, 2010 is poised to be the year when 'mobility' becomes the new buzzword. Netbooks did provide some of the conveniences and functionalities of a full-fledged notebook, but going forward, the Netbook will most likely get junked for the soon-to-ubiquitous 'Smartphone'. Convergence will be the new mantra and the cell phone will take over our lives like never before. So if your wallet allows, your next phone could well come with a camera more powerful than the fancy DSLR you bought last year, more storage capacity than your laptop's memory and more applications you could ever amuse yourself with. Samsung, Acer, Nokia and Toshiba all have new Smartphone launches lined up during the year. Also, expect Google to take on Apple’s I-phone in a big way. Device functionalities will blur with the Smartphone being capable of doing anything and more that a house full of appliances could erstwhile assist you with, apart from perhaps washing your clothes and keeping your veggies fresh! And with the 3G auction in India set for February, net surfing speeds promise to get lightening fast. With a 500 million-strong and growing market, expect competition to heat up in this space.

The other area where the action will heat up will be 'Cloud Computing', which simply means working on and storing your files and applications online. While this is still in a nascent stage, expect more widespread acceptance. 'Google Docs' is already a reality. Back-ups will cease to be a problem and as long as you have an internet connection, you'll be fine.

On the flip side, with Web 2.0 programs like Twitter and Facebook proliferating exponentially, and with subsequently more and more personal information being available on these forums, expect your accounts to be hacked at least once during the coming year. Some things like password security, will sadly, never change!

The ‘Cup of Life’ will overflow…
2010 will be a year of special sporting spectacle. The soccer World Cup will kick off in South Africa, with the rainbow nation hosting the event for the first time. All eyes will therefore be on the African countries, of which Cameroon and Ivory Coast (with Drogba and Toure in their ranks) probably stand a fair crack at the quarter finals. However, it will in the end most likely be a punch-up between the traditional heavyweights – Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, Portugal and Germany. Given the track record of the country in hosting large events, a successful and enjoyable tournament is an easy prediction. This perhaps cannot be said of the Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in our own backyard in New Delhi. With much of the infrastructure still in a mess, completing the games village in time will seem like quite an achievement, never mind the necessary trial runs. The current assurances from the establishment seem as facetious as John McEnroe pleading to let his racquet do the talking. A fiasco is predicted, but the grand old Indian tradition of ‘jugaad’ will most likely see us through a possible national embarrassment. Sports enthusiasts can also watch out for the Youth Olympics to be held in Singapore this year. Somewhere in between, ICC will milk its latest cash cow, the T20 game and the overkill will continue with the West Indies hosting the third T20 World Cup. India’s form in the shortest format has been patchy at best and will perhaps exit in the knock out stages. The Aussies will want to win the one trophy that’s missing from their cabinet, and come really hard. Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies will be dark horses. In the test arena, the battle for supremacy will heat up with the No.1 position frequently changing hands between India, South Africa and Australia.

The third dimension
3D cinema will prove to be the next big draw. So get yourselves a fashionable pair of 3D glasses. James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ has already proven to be an all time blockbuster. And there’s more where that came from. 2010 will see other big films in 3D like ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Shrek Forever After’ and ‘Toy Story 3’. The coming year will also be the year of the ‘reprise’ with film-makers remaking many older classics. So prepare to revisit films like ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘The A-Team’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, all sexed-up for generation-next. One predicts a mixed year for sequels, with Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street -2’ hopefully doing well and ‘Saw-part infinity’ (I lost count after part 4) bombing at the box-office. The mercurial Robert Downey Jr., will clearly take over the alpha male mantle in the industry, with a hat-trick of hits in ‘Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Iron Man – 2’ and ‘Due Date’. Closer home, Bollywood will continue to churn out its usual fare, but the coming year will be more of a test for the great Indian novel. Adaptations of Chetan Bhagat’s ‘3 mistakes of my life’ and Anuja Chauhan’s ‘Zoya Factor’ have been announced. Manini Chatterjee’s ‘Do and Die’ has become Ashutosh Gowarikar’s ‘Kheley Hum Jee Jaan Se’. The significant drawback of the coming year, ostensibly, appears to be the lack of an Aamir Khan release.

The good will out, virtually

One need only look at the Obama campaign and the use of social networking websites to understand that the power to change is finally with the people… (with internet access).Thanks to the proliferation of Web 2.0, social networking and internet ubiquity, 2010 looks to be the year when social activism will explode on the web. Significant and concerted efforts will be made by motivated, but geographically dispersed people who will connect over a common cause and a
shared purpose. Messages will be spread fast and immediate awareness of issues will assist in,
hopefully, effecting meaningful change. A case in point being the website‘’. The web will also allow for more supple, personalized and precious opportunities for volunteer labor. Apart from Wikipedia, Silicon Valley-based ‘The Extraordinaries’, will allow users to accept work that matches their interests with skill sets – compute taxes, teach a language, offer medical consultancy – and complete these at leisure, through the web. While barriers between people and governments generally cause discord and conflict and take ages to breach, cheerfully, this fast contravening barrier between the virtual and real will quickly collapse, and it will help.


This article first appeared in the February 2010 issue of 'KINDLE'

1 comment:

Kim said...

Thanks so much for the post, we really appreciate your help in spreading the word!

The Extraordinaries