RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Even if the U.S. economy should slide into recession in 2008, here are some predictions for the New Year.

1. Epic Games will launch a sequel to its multi-million copy selling hit “Gears of War” to critical and sales acclaim while plans gel for a movie and a series of books as well as graphic novels.

2. More local games and technology – from casual gaming such as at Merscom to the most sophisticated engines and titles produced and supported in part by Emergent, Icarus Studios, Red Storm Entertainment, Funcom, Themis Group, Destineer, Electronic Arts and Vicious Cycle – firmly establishes the Triangle as Hollywood Southeast for interactive entertainment.

3. Having absorbed the mobile business unit from Inform, Motricity will execute a very successful initial public offering and continue to emerge as a major player in the mobile content space.

4. Two or three semiconductor startups in the Triangle have breakthrough years as products hit the market. RTP thus will emerge as a significant player in the chip industry.

5. Fast-growing Quintiles, with new investors, will continue its expansion under the steady hands of founder Dennis Gillings. The growth means more jobs for the contract research organization in the Triangle even as it builds a new headquarters.

6. As Matthew Szulik slowly steps away from Red Hat, the Linux software developer fends off growing competition from Oracle and begins to capitalize on its acquisition of JBoss.

7. Internet Service Provider EarthLink pulls out completely from metro WiFi network projects and is acquired, perhaps by SK Telecom, its partner in a national wireless venture. Mindspring e-mail addresses become an even rarer badge of honor as memories fade of the once powerful Atlanta-based ISP.

8. IBM continues its acquisition binge, especially in the data storage arena with Cary-based Arsenal Digital becoming an increasingly important part of Big Blue’s strategy. Meanwhile, IBM will confirm its largest employee campus is in Bangalore, India – not in RTP.

9. John Chambers will designate a new successor at Cisco Systems. Rule by committee can’t adequately insure the firm’s future should something happen to one of the world’s smartest men – and brilliant entrepreneurs.

10. North Carolina’s CRO and biotech industry will continue to grow at a rapid pace as the state aggressively recruits new companies and fights to keep existing ones. The cultivating and growth of the CRO/biotech will be seen as one of the key pieces in the legacy of N.C. Governor Mike Easley.

11. As the world’s embrace of “green” technology continues to tighten and energy prices keep growing, Cree capitalizes with new light-emitting diode products that make LEDs an explosively growing lighting alternative.

12. LED Lighting Fixtures in Morrisville, led by some of Cree’s co-founders, will experience explosive growth in LED fixtures for businesses and homes as its markets begin global distribution.

13. Lenovo will fall from the No. 3 position among the world’s PC producers behind rival Acer but will continue to look for acquisition targets. Whether its strategy to increase sales to consumers and small businesses outside of China pays off is crucial to the Morrisville-based firm’s long-term survival. If Lenovo continues to grow, William Amelio will write (or hire a ghost writer for) a business best-seller based on his “Worldsourcing” concept.

14. Nortel either has a break-through year with an acquisition and produce some serious growth under Mike Z. (Mike Zafirovski) or will be seen as an acquisition target itself.

15. Despite all the gloom and doom in much of the media and among many seers, 2008 will be a good year. Take heart. Fight on. Don’t ever give in to those who feast on fear.

16. Is NetJets coming to RDU? That’s a mega-million-dollar question that we’ll address later.