2011 has seen a balance of innovation and blunders: once giants of the tech industry have been crippled to inevitable failure, and well-established companies have propelled themselves to the public stage.

2012 will be a period of growth. Incumbents will continue to flourish as they turn towards new, emerging industries. Companies will discover the future of their revenue streams, with others inevitably finding themselves left behind in the wave of change to come. Here are 5 bold predictions for the year:

1. Facebook will have 1 billion users.

Currently, they have 800 million users, and the company doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Facebook is no longer just an online destination, but it has become an essential component to sharing content with others. Yes, Twitter is doing phenomenal and will continue to grow, but the incumbency that this service has does not have any signs of faltering.

2. Ping! will be shut down, and Apple will acquire last.fm.

Apple takes social seriously, but they have not built the core competencies as a company to understand how to deeply weave the service in the experience of their services. Last.fm is arguably the most popular music discovery and sharing site, and a full partnership with Apple’s musically inclined ecosystem will only mean more revenues for both parties. Ping has gone no where and will continue to slowly fade to the background.

3. Google+ will (quietly) be a big deal.

Google is slowly changing the internet landscape. Web properties are directly tied to the amount of interaction around them, and Google is the first step to arriving at those properties. From there, Google’s +1 application combined with their flagship services will undercut Facebook’s advantage as a platform layered on top of the web as we see it. People will be working through Google, and the company will leverage it’s new understanding of online human behavior to revolutionize direct B2C marketing.

4. Netflix will disband their DVD service and move exclusively to digital content.

And this will likely be too late, with Redbox gaining steam in the DVD service that Netflix has mostly abandoned. The introduction of “Qwikster” was the first nail in the coffin for the DVD sector of the company, and they will continue to phase it out by signing landmark deals with distribution companies to provide exclusive access to content shown in theaters. It will be interesting to see if they can bounce back to success after having a dismal 2011.

5. Microsoft will gain RIM’s smartphone OS marketshare, moving to 10%.

The current comScore numbers:

Google Android ranked as the top smartphone platform with 46.9 percent market share, up 3.1 percentage points from the prior three-month period. Apple maintained its #2 position, growing 1.4 percentage point to 28.7 percent of the smartphone market. RIM ranked third with 16.6 percent share, followed by Microsoft (5.2 percent) and Symbian (1.5 percent).

Symbian is slowly being killed off by Nokia as they move to the Microsoft platform, and RIM is slowly crumbling in the general consumer market. Apple doesn’t show any sign of slowing down and the ICS iteration of Android shows promise (one person remarked to me that he feels like it is a ‘whole new phone’). The Windows Phone is going to have a blockbuster release in the US in Q1, selling as many Nokia phones as the first generation iPhone had. As listeners and readers know, I am a big believer in the phone. It needed the right hardware, and the OS has found it in the Lumia 800/900.

Phones are being defined for the experiences they have, not the features or the speed that differentiate them. The Windows Phone experience is a fresh look at mobile computing, which will provide a much needed jolt to an otherwise stagnant period of change in the experience space.

For more about these predictions, check out a special episode of Weekly Download, where we preview the year to come.

Happy New Year!

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