by January 2, 2013 0 comments

“May you live in interesting times”, goes the allegedly-Chinese curse. And as we go further into this eventful millennium, we get a sense of why and how the benevolent-sounding words should be a curse.

We left behind a year in turmoil, with agitations across India protesting corruption, injustice and — most recently, in the Capital — a brutal gang-rape.

We left behind a year in which internet freedom came under threat, with arrests and charges under a draconian part of India’s Information Technology Act, section 66A. A young girl was arrested for a Facebook post questioning the need for “bandhs”, and her friend, for pressing “Like” on the post.

India’s booming telecom industry struggled to emerge from a series of slowdown effects: the 2G scam, former ICT minister A Raja in jail, a year of inaction following a delayed National Telecom Policy 2011 (which finally emerged in 2012)…

And so, this year ahead, a lucky 13, has to be better. It can’t get worse: we scraped the bottom of the barrel last year, and it has to be upward from here.

Some Internet Freedom: The learning from the gross abuse of the IT Act last year, the petition challenging section 66A in a (friendly) Supreme Court… all points to hope for and better awareness about internet freedom and lower likelihood of abuse.

Mobile Data Explosion: In India, internet access traffic from mobile data has already overtaken PC-based access last year. The world will catch up in 2013, even as mobile data in India continues to grow much faster that PC-based internet use.

With the turbulence now behind the telecom industry, 3G settling down, 4G rolling out, brands consolidating (from 200 handset brands down to 20)… there’s stability ahead. There will be mergers, in the 2G scam aftermath which left companies stranded without spectrum, but less chaos. Up ahead: 4G from Reliance and others (adding to Airtel in just three cities), and lots of smartphone competition (from iPhone vs Galaxy at the top end, to Windows, Android, BlackBerry OS 10 (due end-January).

Tablets: the Turning Point: This will be their first big year in a country still near zero in tablet numbers. The range will be well-covered: iPad and Android options in the 10” space, iPad Mini, Nexus 7 and other Android models, phablets, including the very successful Galaxy Note 2. And most important, the ultra-low-cost tablets, led by the Aakash 2 (UbiSlate 7Ci) at sub-Rs 5k, matched by the Penta IS709C and at least a dozen others in the Rs 5-10k range.

PCs Sign: “I Will Survive” : Aided by Windows 8, which will push them toward touch-based all-in-ones, tablet-notebook convertibles, or tablets that dock to make desktops. Don’t expect much excitement in the enterprise, though: CIOs will safely stick to Windows 7 for new PC purchases for the next three years. In India, uniquely, netbooks will continue to be popular, and even netbook-class all-in-one desktops on platforms such as the Intel Atom.

Cyber Crime Skyrockets: As I write this, I get my first “Nigeria-scam” message sent as a calendar request. A zillion innovative means will get the gullible majority to click links, enter Twitter or Facebook passwords, part with bank account details, or transfer funds. This will be the biggest online issue facing the world, and India is completely unprepared for it — and, indeed, for the increasing spate of cyber-attacks from our friendly neighbor China in 2013.

Happy New Year!

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