What Happens Next Year?

The interwebs are now rife with retrospectives on what happened in the past year, as well as predictions for the coming 12 months. I’m not going to go back and reminisce, because what’s done is done. It is fun, though, to look at ahead to the future. Some of this will look and sound and feel like a “prediction” at times, and I’d be lying if I said they weren’t, but I don’t claim any of them will actually come to pass. Like any estimate, it’s a guess and not a guarantee. And I know I’m more likely to be wrong that right (which is the only prediction I’ll probably get right). But I don’t let little details like that stop me :-).

Blackberry: Blackberry’s new CEO will start on some plan, but won’t communicate the plan beyond a few people, and will shuffle the deck chairs around a bit more. No matter what the plan starts out as, the new CEO, and the board, will continue to beat the drum of failure known as “we’ll be a niche player” or “we’ll focus on enterprise”. They will do this, forgetting there are no niches in a general purpose device world that can’t be attacked with an add-on, that BYOD will have some life in it yet, that enterprises don’t like uncertainty, and that Blackberry represents uncertainty not stability. Rumours start again late in 2014 about a sale to [name a big tech player here] or [name an unlikely buyer here].

Apple: Apple will release something like a watch, and not a television (because they aren’t stupid), the Apple faithful will claim it is disruptive, guys like Pebble will say “where have you been” and it will be an interesting add-on to iPhones and iPads. While the usual hyperbole of an Apple announcement will surround the device, Apple is pragmatic enough to know that a smart watch isn’t changing the game, at best it’s just improving the equipment.

Apple will also start to slowly shift their gaze toward the enterprise, and may tentatively reach toward that part of the market. While they will still not look directly into the eyes of the enterprise, they will do more than glance their way furtively from time to time. Some will start to ask about a real OS X server, and Apple may make noises they are thinking about it, but not much else will come of it in 2014.

And if I’m wrong, and Apple does release a television, we will all get to be witness to Apple’s first real mistake in a long time (probably since the G3 cube, although the Newton was more notable). Apple detractors will revel in it, and news organizations will make heaps and piles off of the page views associated with the fallout. The Apple faithful will find a way to put it behind them, and Apple will learn a lesson about where their limitations actually are.

Microsoft: Microsoft will hire a new CEO. That CEO won’t be able to do much, because Bill and the board won’t let them. Any plan that doesn’t feature Windows as the centrepiece, suggests selling off parts that don’t fit or make sense anymore, that starts to acknowledge that iOS and Android outright own the mobile market, and admits that tablets not powered by Windows are probably the future of mainstream personal computing, will not be approved. Continued revenue growth and profit, and a strong and growing enterprise presence, will overshadow the fact that the ship is sinking lower into the water. The decks won’t be awash in 2014, but the waterline will start to get uncomfortably close to the gunwales, and no one will turn on the pumps. But the new CEO won’t leave, because the board will be sure to hire someone who desperately wants the job, and not someone who will be willing to walk when it becomes clear there is no real room for change (and no one else would probably want them in the first place). Real change won’t come until Chapter 11 is looming directly ahead, but that iceberg is still a ways off in the distance.

Microsoft won’t really know what to do with Nokia, but won’t write down the deal (or sell it off) until near the end of the term of the replacement CEO they hire this year. They will somehow find a way to blame them for the failure. But Microsoft will make some kind of Surface Phone (probably a rebadged Lumia), and alienate the few handset makers still willing to licence and use Windows Phone. Microsoft faithful will hail it as the start of their rise to dominance and ignore that it won’t move the needle on marketshare. They will also pretend the massive write-down on first-gen Surface Phones that happens just before Surface Phone 2 is released (a year later) never happened, and is in no way connected to the company’s inability to move product.

Samsung: The company will try to talk about their own version of Android, or will start to push Tizen more. This will create consternation for Google and most of the Android world. Samsung will eventually realize how good Android has been for them, and will tone it down. But they won’t stop completely.

Google: The company will go back to buying up virtually every company in sight (that Facebook or Twitter doesn’t buy), but still won’t know what to do with the stuff it acquires. They will continue to send mixed messages on Android, and still won’t use their own hardware group (Motorola) to build Google-branded handsets and tablets. Shareholder silence on the cost of Android vs. the lack of any contribution to Google revenues will continue. Google will still struggle to find a way to increase revenue outside of advertising in ways that matter on the income statement. Expect Google to get into unexpected areas (like game consoles or something else completely off the wall), stumble around, and then quietly shut it down. They will do this at least twice this year. And Google Glass will continue as an interesting experiment without any real purpose for the moment.

Marketshare Shenanigans Continue: The tech media will still refuse to challenge market share numbers based on “shipped” rather than “sold”. They will continue fail to connect the dots between the write-downs of unsold inventory a year or so after release and the marketshare claims made a year or so before. The rest of us will continue to wonder how a device with only 20-30% of global marketshare somehow accounts for 80%+ in app revenue, 80%+ in ad revenue and 85%+ in mobile internet traffic. No one in tech media with any clout will appear to notice the disconnect, let alone start to question it. And no one will think to look over at the automotive world, where marketshare is a big deal, and see what their brethren there are willing to put up with (which isn’t much. Shipped? Not reported. Sold? Yes, broken down into retail lease & buy, fleet lease & buy and rental, by month, quarter and year. Also includes days to turn, days of inventory available, and a bunch of other interesting numbers).

Internet Startups Continued: We will continue to see plenty of puffing and hyperbole over companies that are the “next Facebook” or “next Twitter”, mainly with services that are “like [name of famous Internet service here], but aimed at [demographic X] and with more emphasis on [marginally useful feature Y] and it will completely change [some industry that applies to 0.0001% of the population]”.

Warning, Security Breach: There will be at least one major security breach at some cloud-hosted service. It will compromise thousands of accounts, and expose critical data for at least one large company that didn’t realize they were actually using that service. And it won’t slow cloud adoption by anyone by more than a week or two, when the news is overshadowed by some kind of Apple announcement.

Other Stuff: HP will continue to slowly back away from the consumer market, and focus its efforts and attention on Dell and IBM in the enterprise space. Oracle will start to see some pushback as companies continue to migrate to other ways to store and manage data that are just as good but a lot cheaper. Some Linux proponents will proclaim 2014 The Year Of the Linux Desktop (again), and others will shift to the Year of the Linux Tablet and try to include Android into their numbers to claim victory. We will continue to argue about pointless stuff like programming languages (seriously, just learn a bunch and use the right one where it makes sense. Stop this One Language To Rule Them All crap), operating systems, “open” vs. “closed” and all other manner of nonsense where the distinctions are unimportant or irrelevant when viewed in a larger context (as in, the people who buy or use our stuff just don’t give a damn, as long as it works).

Almost The Same Lyrics, Slightly Different Music: Basically, the “news” will be more-or-less status quo for a year. There will be “more” and “faster” and “smaller” and “bigger” and “cheaper” and “better” and “worse” and what-not. All of the “innovation” will be promoted as “disruptive”, even though all of it will be evolutionary and not revolutionary, and the only “disruption” is our train of thought when we glance at Twitter or our RSS feeds. And the average person will ignore all of this, continue to line up to buy new Apple product, not line up to buy everyone else’s stuff, and they will still wonder why none of it works as well as it did on their buddy’s machine or in the store.

The Only Predictions I Get Right: We all get another year older, and I most of the predictions I just made turn out to be wrong.