Three issues from now the feature will be "Christmas in July". We'll be using this to see what sort of IT goodies will be on top of the hit parade for the Christmas retail period. Of course, just what is a hit can be as hard to predict as next year's teenage fashions.
And while you may order a few too many Multimedia upgrade packs if you get your guess wrong, imagine what sort of strife some of the manufacturers get themselves into. For instance, the market moved so quickly through quad-speed CD-ROM drives, into hex, oct and soon 10X, that many Asian producers forgot to hit the "off" switch in the factories. Some estimates place the number of almost unsaleable quad-speed drives in the tens of millions.
What will the standard multimedia PC sport in six months? 1.6 Gig of hard disk, 16 Meg of RAM, a 33K modem, a Zip drive!! Yes, the humble Zip drive from Iomega appears to be THE marketing success to date in '96. It only holds a hundred megabytes, it's fairly slow, it isn't ubiquitous enough to be a standard transfer medium (so far) and it isn't even all that cheap. But it's a great success. What, you haven't got any in stock?
Fashion, whim and even dumb luck play an important part in what hits a nerve in the buying public, but so does a good advertising and PR campaign. Take the new Kodak DC20 digital camera for instance. At an estimated street price of around $550 it's expensive compared to an equivalent fixed-focus film camera (the sort you'd buy in K-Mart for $100). But because it works so easily with those millions of home PCs and colour printers, it could well strike a chord with the buying public.
Not content with just the ability of the camera, Kodak has launched a blitz ad campaign on TV and press, and has even lined-up many "opportunities" on TV and radio shows around the country. Don't be surprised when the stars of your favourite local soapie start snapping away with their minute Kodak camera, looking at the results on a well known PC and printing them on an equally well known colour inkjet printer.
What do you think will be the hits of '96, TV set-top boxes, 1Gb removable hard disks, 10x multimedia kits, six-in-one home office fax combos? Why not drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. We'll collate and report the results.