Throughout 2012 there were constant reminders that when it comes to power on the internet, nothing can be taken for granted. There’ll be more in 2013.

Early in the year, internet service provider iiNet’s High Court win against the film industry here in Australia, the defeat of the SOPA and PIPA legislation in the US, and the defeat of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Europe were all signs that Big Copyright players wouldn’t always get things their way.

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Big Copyright suffered another setback when the high profile FBI-led arrest of Kim Dotcom on January 20 was followed by a steady unravelling of the validity of evidence in the case and revelations of illegal surveillance by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau.

Anonymous was reminded that the hackers don’t always win when 25 suspected hackers were arrested on February 28, an event that Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown said had crippled the collective. Brown himself was arrested on September 12.

Here in Australia, law enforcement’s push for ISP data retention has ground to a halt, at least until well after next year’s federal election. More players who won’t always get things their way.

“As 2012 unfolds, the war on the internet will escalate,” I wrote last year. It did, and it will do so again in 2013.

Another battle will unfold in 2013, that for market share between the three big mobile computing platforms. Apple’s iOS running on iPhones and iPads. Google’s Android running on various hardware but with Samsung as the giant. And Microsoft aiming to come back with Windows Phone 8, again with a variety of hardware but with Nokia and its own new Surface device as flagships.

There’s a rationale behind Microsoft’s radical new interface, but it’s also a gamble. Christmas consumers are still buying Apple’s gear by the container load, and the corporate market is yet to express strong interest in migrating to Windows 8.

A recent Kleiner Perkins presentation showed that the Wintel platform — the combination of Microsoft Windows running on Intel’s processor chips — now accounts for just 35% of personal internet-connected devices and falling.

Will the Microsoft-Nokia alliance save both from doom?

Meanwhile, some time in 2012 Australia passed a subtle but important milestone: smartphone penetration passed 50%. Pocket-sized internet-connected devices are no longer something just some of us own. They’re now something most of us own.

The figure is actually 52%, Google reported in May, and our usage of these devices is more sophisticated than the US, UK and Japan.

With ubiquitous smartphones, and the 4G networks telcos are rolling out to connect them to services in the cloud, will come apps that implement new business models. Traditional players will be threatened and fight back, just as the retailers did when consumers started buying offshore.

The taxi industry is one of the first off the rank. Ingogo, goCatch and other apps allow smartphone users to hail cabs directly, bypassing existing booking networks. Uber takes things further by providing a front-end onto hire car services.

The taxi industry will fight back hard in 2013 and it won’t be the only bunfight.

And the buzzword to watch out for? Big Data.

The price of data storage and computing power has plummeted. Computing devices on every desktop and in every pocket are connected via the internet to cloud data centres, where everything is logged, cross-referenced and analysed. The more data a business has, the more it can discover about its customers and convert to profit.

I reckon Australian businesses are behind the pace here. Maybe in 2013 they’ll catch up.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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