Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Scott's Big List Of Tech Predictions For 2014: It's Going To Be A Wild Ride

2013 was a very neat year for tech. There were some big winners (Google, Samsung, Motorola), some big losers (Apple, Nokia, Blackberry, HTC) lots of yawning (Yahoo), and lots of spying (Microsoft, Facebook, NSA).

Here are my predictions for 2014!

*User Detection Unlock

Fingerprint scanners are stupid. Faceunlock is stupid. NFC unlock is stupid. People don't want to have to do anything to unlock their phones, and it's ridiculous that they should have to. What if your phone just knew when you were holding it, and just was unlocked? Motorola is close with Trusted Bluetooth devices. If it senses your bluetooth headset or keyfob or watch it unlocks, then relocks if it travels a short distance from you. It's not quite the same as the phone just sensing your presence and being unlocked, but it's pretty close. Nobody is closer than Motorola though. Eventually we'll have honest to goodness DNA unlock, but I don't expect that in 2014. 

*Chrome OS Surge

With very little in the way of actual promotion, Chromebooks have already become quite popular. Some reports are showing them making up 33 percent of all new laptop sales. People love the things, and for good reason. They are ten times easier to use and live with than Windows or OSX devices while doing 90 percent of what they do. They are stunningly inexpensive, stable, secure, and reliable. They boot in under 10 seconds. They update easily. Your data is secure in the cloud, and there's zero learning curve. They are a "family tech support" person's dream device. Schools are adopting them like crazy. Despite this, they haven't gone full mainstream yet. Expect that to change this year. Companies are starting to make inexpensive desktop Chrome OS machines that will make perfect secondary or even primary computers. Chrome OS is also seeing very rapid development. If you buy a Chrome device now, a month later it's a better device as they continue to add functionality. It's like Christmas every few months when they give you a big feature update.

*NSA-Proof Technology

Right now other than pedophiles and Audi drivers, nobody is hated more than the NSA. Expect companies to start using "NSA-Proof!" as a selling point. An actual marketing term as fake as "retina display" might evolve from our collective hatred of their domestic spying assholishness. 

*An Actual Hard Android Push

The most interesting thing about the Android phenomenon is that Android took the entire smartphone and most of the tablet market with very little actual effort. People genuinely just preferred Android because it's clearly better. Device manufacturers and developers preferred it because it's comparitively easy to develop for, and use for almost anything. Expect a serious Android push this year. Android already has everybody else on the ropes. It's time to finish the job. 

*Death To Patent Trolls

Patent trolls are destroying economies, and stiffling innovation the world over. East Texas patent trolls like Rockstar Consortium are in for a rude awakening this year as we collectively get sick of their shit. The Obama administration has already said they are sick of it, and as consumers we need their nonsense to stop. Unless you enjoy paying too much for things, and waiting years for innovation. Legislation has already passed that will be used to hurt the hell out of these enemies to consumers. 

*Phones Size Will Normalize

If the best in class Moto X taught us anything, it's that 4.5-4.7" does appear to be the sweet spot for a "normal" phone. Anything smaller of course being a "tiny" phone made for children. The current trend of most phones being things that can double as a snowboard will probably cease by the end of 2014. 

*Apple's Continued Decline

Failure to innovate will kill any company. This one is pretty much a given, and not a hard prediction. We've been watching Apple steadily lose marketshare since Steve Jobs died. With the recent revelation that the China Mobile deal was all a pipedream made up by analysts, and the complete lack of anything resembling a new innovative product launch, you can expect iPhone marketshare to slip from the current 12 percent into single digit numbers, with the risk of Apple becoming the third place smartphone vendor by the end of 2014 as Windows Phones surge, and smarter consumers upgrade to already better Android devices. The iPad continues to be passed over for less expensive and in some cases better product offerings from Samsung, Google, and Amazon, and is also losing marketshare. The Google Play store is growing at a rate much faster than the Apple App store, and Macs are losing marketshare just as rapidly as normal PC's are, with only Chrome OS devices showing any market growth. 

Could Apple turn it around? Perhaps. They are getting a little bump right now because they release new products right before Christmas, but you can be sure the writing will be back on the wall by the end of February. The failure of the iPhone 5C to do anything but get beaten by better products from Samsung is a clear sign of things to come for Apple. What they really need is a change in leadership before it is too late. The sooner the better. I don't see that happening though. Expect an even uglier and more hated iOS 8 to be released with a slew of "new" copied Android features, and exciting new bugs. 

*The Wearables King

By the end of 2014, we'll start rallying around some sort of hands-free wearable tech. Will it be Google Glass? Probably. But that isn't chizelled in stone. The thing is we WANT it to happen now. We've been sold on the idea. I think most of us expect Google Glass (or something like it) to be the "winner". So only something amazingly disruptive could stop the incoming storm of wearable magic for us to choose from. Something even more convenient and easy than a smart pair of glasses, or a watch. 

*Your Friend The Robot

The things we expect to happen mirror what we've been seeing in movies all our lives. That's why we joke about flying cars and hoverboards and jetpacks so often. A smart company delivers those products because they have a pre-existing fanbase. Expect Google to toss us a demo for some sort of robot for the home by the end of 2014. 

*Your Enemy The Robot

Labor is about to get very very cheap. This is going to seriously piss off China, and it's going to disrupt economies on a massive scale. Right now third world economies are growing rapidly off the cheap human labor they can give the less than ethical companies that exploit it. Very soon that won't be a factor anymore. Smart companies like Foxconn are already building robot assembly factories stateside in anticipation of this new infinitely cheaper labor pool. The US is getting back into manufacturing again. Just not in a way beneficial to human workers. The effect this will have on economies and trade agreements is wholy unknown and unpredictable at this time. We'll have to figure it out as it happens. The side effects are going to be a very turbulent market, and a death sentence to companies that don't adapt fast enough. The consumer is going to win some and lose some on the situation until it stabilizes. 

*The Beginning Of The End For Broadcast Television

TV has been living on borrowed time for a few years now. Cord cutters are growing in numbers very rapidly, and nothing is going to stop all of us from eventually learning that broadcast TV essentially sucks now in comparison to "watch when I feel like it" technology. Smarter companies saw this coming, and are moving very rapidly to provide solutions superior to broadcast TV in every way. Expect to see one or two big traditional broadcast regimes close up shop this year if they can't adapt to market realities. 

And that's all I got for 2014.