Spotting tech fads

Anyone who has followed the computer industry for more than a few decades knows that fads come and go very fast. Sometimes they are massive, like the emergence of dot com mania in the late 1990s. Sometimes they are just weird little short term things, such as the robot fad of 1982: "The year of the robot" was upon us, then nothing.

Spotting these fads is often problematic. What I think is a fad may turn out to be a trend. Some trends turn out to be fads. But generally speaking the fads come and go so fast that there is no doubt in anyone's mind. Every so often I like to look at the current scene of hot properties and ask myself: "Is this a fad?"

Here is my watch list for 2013. I suspect half of these supposed trends will turn out to be fads. Some are already fading.

FACEBOOK. This is holding up well but everyone fears it will be another MySpace, which did indeed turn out to be a fad. Right now, unless Zuckerberg himself quits Facebook and starts something else, I suspect it has legs. But it stays on the watch list.

TWITTER. I've been tending to think of this service as more and more of a fad as fickle celebrities appear and promote their @handle. The use of the @handle reminds me of a meme that was in play in the early 1990s: AOL Keywords. Such as typing in: "AOL Keyword: Idiots." I have not heard the call for a user to type in an AOL keyword for maybe fifteen years. How soon before the @handle dies?

ZYNGA. I do not know about you, but Farmville always looked like a fad to me. It had all the hallmarks and the Zynga team milked it to death. We'll see how much brainpower they have in 2013.

INSTAGRAM. I'm calling fad without any further comment.

APPLE IPAD. If all of a sudden people suddenly lost all interest in the iPad and other Apple products it would not surprise me, but this does seem to have legs. But certain expensive magazines re-purposed to run on the iPad seems like a serious fad. I just think that magazines are what they are and cannot be moved to a lone screen and be successful.

CLOUD COMPUTING. I wish this was a fad so I could gloat, but it looks like it has plenty of legs with services like Adobe Creative Cloud, which is hard to resist. Just pay your subscription and be done with it.

STREAMING TV. Whether you do this via Nettflix or Lovefilm, on an Xbox or Roku or PS3, this sort of thing is very popular and represents some serious need on the part of TV viewers. Now Nintendo is getting in on the act. But there is something very faddish about it all. I see it as a halfway point to true IPTV distribution.

GAME CONSOLES. While on the subject of Xbox and Nintendo, what's the future for this model of gaming? This seems more like a cyclical business, however, rather than a faddish one.

CAMERA PHONES. There is something odd about the popularity of what amounts to advance pinhole cameras built into mobile phones. These are great devices for the casual video of police beating on some poor citizen, but they seem less than perfect in almost every facet. This cannot continue.

GIANT OVERSIZED MOBILE PHONES. I wonder about these things. Do we really want what is actually a small tablet as our mobile phone? People love these big screens, but this has fad written all over it.

This is the beginning of a larger watch list, and I'd be very interested to hear what readers have their eye on insofar as fad spotting is concerned.