Despite questions about the global economy and volatility in the
markets, 2011 proved that there’s no place quite like the technology
industry, where innovative new services and products continued to win
adoption by both consumers and businesses.

With 2012 just around the corner, it’s time to ask: what’s around the corner?

Here are five important things to pay attention to next year.

The economy

Questions remain about the global economy, and with speculation about a complete collapse of the Euro zone, you can be sure that the economy will play an oversize role in 2012.

Even if the most apocalyptic predictions don’t come to pass, the relative strength of the tech industry in the face of trying economic times doesn’t mean that technology is completely decoupled from the global economy.

The next big thing on the consumer internet

Groupon has gone public, Zynga is going public as early as this week, and Facebook is rumored to be prepping a 2012 IPO.

The rest of the really big ‘Web 2.0‘ winners (like Twitter) can be counted on ten fingers while there are enough ‘Web 2.0’ zombies to film a horror flick. Which begs the question: where is the next big thing?

The world doesn’t need another daily deal site, social network or geolocation play. Perhaps 2012 will be the year that a significant new trend emerges on the consumer internet.

Patents

Patent trolls weren’t born this year, but patents took center stage in 2011 thanks to major patent disputes involving likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft.

By some estimates, the patent wars are costing the United States economy tens of billions of dollars per year and barring some swift, unexpected legislative action, look for patents and patent strategy to only become more prominent and important in the new year.

The enterprise cloud

With Oracle’s Larry Ellison pushing his company into the cloud, both through acquisition and homegrown initiatives, and SAP shelling out billions for cloud HR solutions provider SuccessFactors, it’s clear that the cloud is not just for startups anymore.

Look for continued maneuvering next year as companies serving the enterprise try to figure out a cloud strategy before it’s too late.

Online taxes

A big battle is brewing over internet sales tax in the world’s largest online retail market, the United States. If companies pushing for a nationwide online sales tax law, including Amazon, get their way, it could radically change the online retail landscape in 2012.

The primary losers? Upstarts and mom-and-pop retailers, many of whom would find dealing with a new layer of red tape harmfully time-consuming and costly.