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Fearless Predictions 2015

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A recent article in the Washington Post business section decried the lack of fear of failure by many entrepreneurs, especially in the tech sector. In that space, it seemed to be a badge of honor to say that you had failed multiple times but still kept on trying, as if failure was no big deal and just a necessary prelude to success.

The article’s point was that failure did matter — to the investors in the firm, their employees (if it got that big) and their customers — so it shouldn’t be taken as cavalierly as it was.

I say this because I have been doing these Fearless Predictions every year for so long that the papyrus of the early ones has long since faded. Obviously, the article was talking to me, and I need to pay more attention to failure.

Also obviously, I’m ignoring it. With that in mind, here we go.

The amount of annoying solicitation calls is going to increase.

If economist Anirban Basu, the local sage and usually accurate guru, is correct, the economy is now about as good as it’s going to get for awhile. Think shrinking federal programs and state budget deficits affecting all of the local companies who feed off them.

So what’s going to happen? Companies looking to shift their focus to private firms, even if the client would be so small that they used to be ignored, will start marketing campaigns. Expect more and more unwanted calls from phone rooms and automated solicitations.

I mention this because of a recent afternoon interruption by Yodel. I’m thinking that I’m getting a call from a chocolate-covered snack food company here. But no, it turns out Yodel is a national online marketing company, even though my second thought was that it was a mash-together of Yahoo and Google. It’s not uncommon for the more slippery phone people to try something where the fast pronunciation of the company name is designed to confuse. So I ignored them. I think this is going to be a necessary habit in the future.

‘Canaries’ will increase.

Think of the original meaning of “canary in a coal mine” (and not the Police song). That’s the use of a sensitive bird to warn miners of the presence of poisonous gas at a lower level so they could escape.

Among the obnoxious parts of “national security” are secret subpoenas to communications service providers, such as your Internet company, that require not only your information, but their silence. It is a criminal act for them to inform you that they have been served. Needless to say, most service providers dislike this intensely.

How does one dance around this? The use of a posting on the provider’s web site, if true, that states, “The FBI has not been here” (watch very closely for the removal of this sign). The canary (the “all clear” posting) is ready to die if, indeed, a “national security letter” is received. And yes, there will be lawsuits about whether this is legal.

I wonder if we’ll hear about them.

The $25 phone is coming.

And we’re not talking about that stupid ad from AT&T about a phone for “no money down” that never, ever mentions what the phone costs. I’m sure you can buy a car for no money down with a little work, but I don’t think that means it’s free. Ads always assume we’re stupid.

Remember John Sculley, the former Apple CEO who helped force Steve Jobs out in 1985? He was himself removed later, which was only fitting, I guess. Anyway, he has set up a phone manufacturing company in India named Obi Mobiles that is rapidly expanding in the Asian market. Its phones run Android (naturally) and range from a $75 unlocked (runs on any carrier) to the top-of-line $150 phone that competes quite well with an iPhone.

Sculley has, in fact, described the iPhone as a “high-end luxury product,” which means he thinks it is severely overpriced. Luxury items will always have a niche, of course, but his point is that as soon as people realize that his phones are just as functional, Apple is in trouble.

Based on what he’s doing, I expect very nice phones will be available for $25 or so in about two years. They’ll run Android and be fine. Microsoft’s recent turn to heavily push Windows phones shows how out of touch it is. Expect it to keep struggling.

Windows 10 will come out mid-year.

And the collective yawn will suck the air out of the room. All the retailers, of course, will jump through the Microsoft-required hoops of offering it immediately and exclusively to the consumer market, as if it was actually ready to play. But so many people got burned with Windows 8 that it will take a good while, and a product that actually is worth having, before most people will fall again.

For what it’s worth, Classic Shell (www.classicshell.net), which makes a free overlay program that makes Windows 8 actually usable, is already working on 10. More power to it.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing, and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and data retrieval, when not sitting on a mountaintop wrapped in a white sheet. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.