The snowballing growth of WiMax, a number of blockbuster acquisitions that may unfold over the next few years, and the potential for SmartPhones to feature the capabilities of a PC are just some of the future events that will shape the landscape of technology in the not-too-distant future.

Noted technology consultant Dana "Rick" Richardson, principal of Richardson Media & Technologies and a long-time partner at Big Four firm Ernst & Young, closed the 2008 AICPA Information Technology Conference here with his traditional overview of technology trends and predictions as well as a look back at some of his previous forecasts.

Richardson said WiMax, a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of "last mile" wireless broadband access as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL, has a potential user audience of 140 million. He said WiMax already has an established presence in countries such as Australia, which has a 70,000-user network in Sydney and Melbourne entitled "Unwired Australia."

Meanwhile the U.K., Sweden and Japan are conducting WiMax broadband "auctions." U.S. players in that space include Clearwire, Intel, Nokia and Motorola.

Richardson predicted that the SmartPhones market will boast a compound annual growth rate of 60 percent between 2009 and 2011, and the devices will have the ability to offers users access to shopping, ticket purchasing and airline check-in.

He also projected that HP will in the next few years move up among the top tech companies by purchasing Symantec, primarily for its storage specialty unit Veritas, which Symantec purchased in 2004 for $13.5 billion.

With SaaS becoming one of the most oft-repeated acronyms in accounting software, Richardson told session attendees that 75 percent of SaaS contracts were signed by management and not the IT departments, while 75 percent of current SaaS revenues come from companies with over $1 billion in revenue.

Richardson also regaled the audience with some lighter tech developments, including a $500 GPS coat for children that can locate the wearer within 43 square feet, a $200 "pulse pen" that transcribes both written text and audio using keywords, and, as part of a total of $12 billion being poured into automobile technology, a vehicle-to-vehicle communications feature from GM that warns drivers of impending crashes via warning lights and seat vibrations.

It was Richardson's 28th annual presentation on technology trends and forecasts.

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