With 2004 drawing to a close, here are my predictions on what’s going to hot up next year:

  1. Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the SithStar Wars Episode III – The ultimate Space Opera is finally concluded, 28 years after the release of the orginal. And from the trailers so far, Revenge of the Sith looks as though it may return to saga to its former glory after the last few questionable films. And how can it go wrong when we get to see Anakin’s duel with Obi-Wan, the injury that puts him in the suit, the return of DARTH VADAR, Mace Windu’s death and the virtual extinction of the Jedi, the bad guys win, and the cruel torture and grisly public execution of Jar Jar Binks (okay, that last one is just a fervent prayer).
  2. The Console Wars: Xbox2 vs PS3 – Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is only relevant if you’re a videogamer. Far from it, the console wars are just hotting up again and this round may very well be the one that decides which company’s media centre box is sitting in your living room in a decade’s time. Both Microsoft and Sony are boasting impressive new processing power, with Sony using their new blu-ray disc technology in the PS3. Microsoft meanwhile are suggesting there may be multiple releases of “Xbox Next” (an early name we hope is changed) both with and without a harddisk (a big expense in the current console which they sell at a loss). The research and specs should be finalised in 2005, with units possibly being manufactured by the end of the year.
  3. Jessica AlbaJessica Alba – The stunningly gorgeous star of Dark Angel properly graduates from TV to the big screen this year, appearing in no less than 3 movies, comicbook adaptation Fantastic Four as Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman, Into the Blue about a group of divers who become tangled up with a drug lord, and Sin City which I’ve already been raving about here. She’s a prime example of the new wave of hybrid beauty with her Spanish/Mexican/French/Danish ethnicity.
  4. Longhorn – Production on Microsoft’s next generation operating system has slipped with resources being moved to this year’s Service Pack 2 for XP. However, having jumped that hurdle, 2005 will be a long run of consolidation and probably, dropping a few of the overly ambitious features for this release. I don’t expect to see a final version surface until well into the following year, however.
  5. Disc Wars: Blu-ray vs HDD – 2005 will mark gradual demise of the VCR, as it eventually disappears with whimper like audio cassettes (remember them?). At P-2004 we dumped VCRs this year, converting everything to DVD, and as DVD recorders become more popular next year, the trend will grow. Meanwhile the next generation of disc technology, post-DVD is being completed in earnest. Seeing two standards emerge is always a worrying sight for the consumer, and while P-2004 firmly promotes Sony’s higher quality blu-ray format, it’s still too early to tell which will pull ahead next year. With blu-ray featured in the PS3, expect these new discs to appear alongside DVDS in 2006.
  6. open sourceOpen Source: Mozilla & OOo – 2004 has been a fantastic year for open source software. The Mozilla Foundation released its high-profile internet browser Firefox with incredible success and over 13 million downloads thus far, with some sources claiming it accounts for up to 10% of internet usage, the biggest share taken from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in a long time. With their mail client Thunderbird also graduating into a 1.0 release, expect a good year of consolidation and smaller updates next year. Meanwhile also watch the OpenOffice.org bunch who are incredibly managing to create a free product that is fast rivalling Microsoft’s own Office suite, based upon the code for Sun’s StarOffice. Since it is fully compatible with all MS Office office formats, next year’s expected step up to v2.0 of OpenOffice (currently v1.1.3) will be a big deal.
  7. Christian Bale – After a quiet couple of years, he returns in two films. Hopefully Batman Begins will be a return to form for the caped crusader after some appalling movies. More importantly, however, is The Machinist for which Bale dropped an unhealthy four and half stone. He actually wished to go further but was not allowed due to fears for his health. An incredibly dedicated performance, it is reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s drastic image change in Monster. I would predict similar recognition for Bale this year.
  8. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory – with the big guns of gaming gracing us with so much this year in the shape of Doom3, Half-Life2, World of Warcraft and Halo2, next year seems pretty quiet by comparison. No doubt there will be a few surprises, but the third installment of of the stealth-based Splinter Cell franchise should definitely be one to get excited about.
  9. Headless Mac – Apple have never catered to the cheapest end of the market which is what prevents many home users from switching. Now, while I’m no mac advocate, certain sources have revealed that a stripped down version has been in production for almost a year. Apparently encouraged by the phenomenal success of the iPod, this £400ish box is suspected to come without a screen, but will be perfect for those who want to trial how a Mac could work for them, keeping two machines running to begin with before deciding which is best suited to their needs. There’s still no official word, but expect to hear more next year.
  10. P-2005? – Nope, the name ain’t changing. We’re still P-2004 (we actually started in 2003, remember?) and hopefully the site will continue to grow and take shape as it has done over the last year. Major coding overhauls are complete, so now expect some changes to the structure of the Fire section which is rarely updated at the moment. Also look out for a flood of photography from last year that never surfaced and, of course, more film reviews soon.

So, whatever you’re up to this evening, have a fantastic New Year!!