With the global economy in turmoil and the weather (at least in North America) following suit, this holiday season seems like an even risker time that usual to stick one’s neck out and make predictions for the coming year.

But there are those who just can’t resist.

And, of course, there are always some trends that are safe to predict — because they’re already underway and set to blossom in the new year.

For example, we already know that the cell phone market is tanking as frugal users hold off on upgrading to newer, fancier handsets. Which is not to say that the folks to just have to have an iPhone or a BlackBerry will hold back on their quest for the latest and coolest gadgets.

Similarly, computer sales are down as consumers and businesses make do with what they have. But those same users have also indicated that Internet access is the last thing they’ll give up in the face of continuing hard times.

But what about new trends and twists we might not have seen coming?

Fortune magazine asked a select group of tech sector movers and shakers what they saw on the horizon for 2009 and they came up with four tech trends almost all of their consultants could agree on.

First, ultra-portable notebook PCs, such as the ASUS Eee PC, will become phneomenaly popular, especially among those who need a light, compact Net-ready portable but don’t want to pay — or simply can’t afford — the price of a full-featured notebook. Acer Dell and HP are also solidly in the so-called Netbook market with a variety of products.

Fortune’s gurus also back the contention that ‘cloud’ services — Web-based computing and storage services — will take off in 2009:

“Corporate cloud computing is getting a big boost from consumers who already get a fair number of services via the Net. Photo-sharing sites are great examples of cloud services, as is just about any service that lets consumers store data or information anywhere but their computer or mobile phone.”

In the same vein, Fortune’s seers predict an explosion in the popularity (in the corporate sector, at least) of virtual computing in the new year. This technology, which is just coming into its own, offers a variety of advantages for business operators and others who must protect their data and keep their systems up ands running at all times.

And, finally… No matter how bad the economy gets, people will still insist on access to recreational activities — perhaps not simply to relax but to escape their unpleasant reality for a few moments.

“American consumers are unlikely to part with their broadband connections, an Accenture study found. Indeed, they are more likely to get rid of cable television channels (once considered practically a utility) or their mobile phones than their high-speed Internet connections.”

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