Right or wrong about 2005?

Rising spam and competition for maintenance revenues this year were correctly foretold by tech soothsayers, but cracks in the crystal ball have surfaced for Net telephony and desktop Linux.

The time has come to validate or debunk some of the predictions made by analysts and experts in the IT industry for 2005.

Short of throwing the crystal ball out of the window, ZDNet Asia looks at what's hot and what's not in the past year.

Prediction 1: Businesses opt for IT consolidation
Reality check: 2006 seems like a better time

According to a Nucleus Research report on the top 10 technology predictions in 2005, consolidation of IT systems among businesses would take off as they seek to reduce the cost of maintaining disparate systems.

However, it seems that the deadline has been pushed back to next year, as IDC has predicted that 2006 will be the time when companies start to reduce complexity. The concept of a service-oriented architecture to unify systems has not hit home among many businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. The reasons cited include the inertia to change and misconceptions about deployment costs.

Prediction 2: Battle moves to maintenance fees
Reality check: Right on the money

In the same report, Nucleus also noted that maintenance fees would be the next battlefield in 2005. The merger activity in the software market is based on buying new customer bases and adding more lucrative maintenance fees to the vendor’s coffers.

That has taken place in the past year, as SAP and Oracle have launched programs to wrestle customers away from each other, offering discounts on their existing maintenance fees. SAP's Safe Passage program, for example, is aimed at siphoning off lucrative software maintenance deals from Oracle by luring PeopleSoft customers who are uncertain about Oracle's takeover. Oracle also has a similar program called OFF SAP.

Prediction 3: Linux moves to the desktop
Reality check: Enterprises just warming up

The open-source arena is one hot wrestling ring in 2005, as accurately predicted by most industry watchers. Nucleus noted that open source has not matured on the desktop, but despite a healthy investment by Microsoft in "independent" analyst white papers, open source continues to gain ground in the minds and infrastructures of IT managers.

Some open-source soothsayers and die-hard fans have also claimed that 2005 would be the year of the Linux desktop, though it's worthwhile to note that the same prediction was made for 2004 by many others. Truth is, the Linux desktop will continue to elude most businesses, and its take-up rates are nothing to shout about, according to Gartner.

Prediction 4: 3G will fuel growth
Reality check: Slow start to fast service

IDC had predicted that the wireless market would be aglow with exciting developments in 2005. In January this year, the research firm also predicted that as more service providers launched 3G services commercially in 2005, the market would become more competitive, resulting in better services to mobile phone users.

But telcos have not had an easy time convincing cellphone users to switch to their newly-minted 3G networks. Despite dangling carrots like video calls that cost the same as voice, exclusive TV dramas and English football highlights for the small screen, cellphone users, at least in Singapore, are not impressed. If subscriber numbers is any indicator, the country's biggest telco SingTel was only able to rope in over 20,000 3G users by August this year.

Prediction 5: VoIP will create buzz
Reality check: Net calls have fallen on deaf ears

Some experts predicted that consumer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) would become more than a buzzword in 2005. Although the technology is well-adopted in the United States, lead by the likes of Vonage, VoIP is still in its infancy in much of Asia. Most governments in the region are still grappling with regulating the new technology, which can potentially upset lucrative revenues enjoyed by incumbent operators.

Specifically, new entrants into Singapore's recently deregulated consumer Net telephony market are also facing stumbling blocks as they try to achieve interconnection agreements with traditional telcos. Until such agreements are inked, any licenses obtained are rendered useless, they claimed.

Prediction 6: Longer battery life
Reality check: They're still working on it

Soothsayers have also predicted that fuel cells would power laptops that can run for days instead of hours in 2005. Hardly surprising, the debut of fuel cells in the market will be delayed once more till the second quarter of 2006. How the industry can produce its 100 millionth fuel cell battery by 2008--a number predicted by analysts--seems far-fetched today.

Prediction 7: Junk mail trashing remains an everyday activity
Reality check: Fight against spam is not going anywhere

Spam has continued to be a rising problem in enterprises in 2005, as correctly predicted by Nucleus. As a sign of the pervasiveness of this pesky productivity killer, a zombie computer intentionally created by Microsoft was accessed 5 million times by remote controllers and used to send out 18 million spam messages advertising more than 13,000 Web sites in just three weeks.

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