NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We will never know why one year is more important than the next. Years, after all, are some of the most meaningless numbers there are. But for small businesses, the next 12 months are shaping up to be some of the dynamic, dramatic -- and probably destructive -- in recent memory.
This will be the year truly fast 4G wireless networks from Verizon (VZ) , Sprint (S) and T-Mobile will become major market tools. Business process software giants such as Intuit (INTU) will see their markets exposed to a new generation of low- and no-cost alternatives. And even the legal profession will face stiff competition from cheaper, digital alternatives. This may also be the year you -- not some fictional star of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Alien or Terminator, but you -- will use a robot to help you make business decisions.
My predictions for next year:
(VZ) (S) (INTU) If you bet on one thing next year, bet on this: Ultrafast so-called 4G cellular networks will break the data access oligopoly of the cable, phone and satellite industry. Such major cellular players as Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are trying to grab the early 4G buzz with products such as LTE and other devices. But a dozen or so other firms across the country and around the world also are offering legitimately fast access to the Web. Some are known names such as Clearwire (CLWR) and Towerstream (TWER) . Others are not, such as River Canyon Wireless and Northern Michigan University. Either way, buying access to the Web is quickly becoming like everything else online: fast and cheap. By all means, you should take advantage of it.
(VZ) (S) (INTU) (CLWR) (TWER) I don't know what all those nice people at Intuit will be doing in a few years, or where the company's $15 billion in market cap will go. But charging good money for accounting software such as Quicken and QuickBooks is on its way out. The new sheriffs in Accounting Town are the flock of low- and no-cost small-business finance tools on the market: Yendo, Outright, FreeAgent, Xero (XRO) , LessAccounting ... the list goes on and on. I have tested most of these tools. And while QuickBooks might have a feature or two the others don't, the others aren't looking to charge you a fortune to use them. If you are paying for the tools you use to file your books at this time next year, you have only yourself to blame.