People accuse Kim Dotcom of many things, both good and bad and not always without merit. However whatever your views of his exploits, one thing you can't take away from the eccentric German -- and now Kiwi adoptee -- is the fact that he has completely redefined the word "Dotcom". Sure there was all that interweb stuff too, but let's focus on the superficial first.
In fact Mr Dotcom has created quite the generational gap; those who entered IT in the last decade or so assign an entirely different meaning to the words "Dotcom bust" than the generation before them. Perhaps renaming oneself after what was possibly the biggest bubble burst ever, pre-GFC anyway, wasn't such a good idea. But I digress.
It would be tempting to predict that 2012 will be remembered as the new "Dotcom year", kicking off with the now infamous raids and leading onto a fascinating return legal -- and public relations -- assault by the big man. The truth is that the whole thing's only just getting started.
Many more chapters will be written before we shut the curtains on 2013, both in terms of the legal challenges and counter-challenges, but also with the Dotcom empire's next strike back: the new Mega. For those that don't know, Mega, scheduled to launch on January 20, is intended to be a tool that encrypts all internet-based communications, end to end, and easily plugs into more or less anything web-enabled.
And could the perfect storm be approaching for Mega? By the time you read this we'll all know whether the ITU's first attempt to take over the internet was successful. If so, Dotcom's new Mega could enjoy major success; there's nothing like a bit of attempted command and control to fire people up about countering it. The ITU could write all the road rules they want for the information superhighway, but it's all a bit meaningless if you can no longer see the traffic. But if ITU fails this time, they'll have another crack by the end of the year.
This whole Dotcom fiasco has re-opened another can of worms of course, putting copyright and intellectual property back on the agenda after the outrage over Section 92a and ACTA had almost died away. With strong political pressure to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in 2013 (which "coincidentally" is clear of election cycles), expect to see more on IP in the next 12 months.
While there is clearly big money pushing our government to buckle to the US on overly strict copyright rules (as evidenced by the all-out PR assault by US-aligned groups and their lackeys in recent weeks), it'll really come down to who blinks first. When the dust settles I predict we'll see similar results as with ACTA, with the final IP chapter generally far more watered down than the US would like. The backlash from any other result would surely be too harmful politically.
What of the cloud and big data?
The commoditisation of IT services and infrastructure via the cloud will continue relatively unabated in 2013. Cracks will begin to appear in some areas and general unease will ensue following a significant outage by at least one major player. Growing adoption of the next generation of cloud services, hybrid applications that continue to function when the connection to "the cloud" is lost, will follow. Wider HTML5 browser compatibility will speed this model along.
As it continues to become easier and cheaper for organisations to record and store everything, big data will get even... erm... bigger. The cloud will bring even more inexpensive data analysis and visualisation tools online, putting big data in the hands of smart SMEs and making information useful again.
Unfortunately there will undoubtedly be more security and privacy breaches within government in 2013, especially in the current environment where everyone's looking. But this won't be restricted to government, with the private sector also falling foul of good security practice.
This will lead to a few well overdue changes. Firstly, the Privacy Commissioner's powers will finally be beefed up to the extent that she'll actually be able to do something about privacy breaches, as novel a concept as that might be. And secondly, independent accreditation of senior IT professionals will become a greater priority for the government and industry -- as will good IT governance.
Thus, I "predict" a fairly major move by the Institute of IT Professionals early in the new year that may well lead to considerably more attention on the industry's independent overarching professional accreditation, ITCP. Stay tuned...
Exporting tech. And tech companies.
Export from Kiwi tech companies will continue to grow at a strong but sustainable pace, aided by a growing reputation helped by the Hobbit films. While not naming names, we'll see the first Kiwi billion-dollar software company by the end of 2014. Watch this space.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which side of the ledger you sit, the recent trend of kiwi tech companies being bought out by global giants will continue if not accelerate.
And don't forget Wheedle!
Wheedle will be back for a while -- along with a few others having a crack at TradeMe's business. None will be sufficiently cashed up to make a real dent however, and Codemania's Ben Gracewood will continue to make a sport out of publishing their unforgiveable security holes. When the dust settles, Kiwis will still be buying and selling on TradeMe. Unless Facebook launches auctions -- then it might get interesting.
And to finish where we started, Kim Dotcom will celebrate 2014's New Years Eve still on New Zealand soil. But this time the only fireworks will be figurative.
Paul Matthews is chief executive of the Institute of IT Professionals NZ.