No matter how you look at it, making predictions is risky business and making technology predictions is riskier still. It’s almost as silly as shooting darts at Jell-O – hitting the target is downright impossible.
Between the uncertainty over killer apps, the unpredictability of innovation, and hot new companies that can change competitive landscapes overnight, there are so many variables you’ve got to be crazy to risk making calls over a time horizon as short as a year.
Well, call me crazy, but here are 7 things that, according to my crystal ball, will happen in 2014 – plus 8 more predictions in the lightning round.
A killer app will emerge in wearable computing. It’s probably more likely to come from Apple’s long-rumored iWatch than Google Glass or any other device for the simple reason that Apple has an insane track record of creating category-killing devices. As for the app itself, I’m willing to bet that it’s something you can already do on other devices, except now it’ll be completely hands-free.
A killer app will not emerge in 3D printing. While 3D printing technology is beginning to look interesting, it’s still in what I would characterize as an enthusiast phase. That said, personal computing and gaming started out more or less the same way. Still, if you’re going to fire a live round from a gun you printed, just remember, arm’s length is not a very safe distance from an exploding projectile.
Millions will lose their wallets. Apple has more credit cards on file than any other company on Earth, courtesy of iTunes, and for years it’s been filing all sorts of patent applications for a digital wallet service called iMoney. I think there’s a 50-50 chance the new service will launch this year, either with iWatch or iPhone 6. Don’t leave home without it.
There will be IPOs – lots of IPOs. While the IPO market took a dive following the dot-com bust, we’ve seen that trend reverse in recent years. In terms of proceeds and number of deals, 2013 was the best year for U.S. IPOs since 2000. Data from CB Insights suggests the tech IPO pipeline for 2014 may be even stronger than 2013 with Alibaba, Square, Box, Dropbox, Coupons.com, Lending Club, Pivotal, and GrubHub Seamless rumored to be in the mix.
Nobody will conquer the living room. For what seems an eternity, the broadcast, media, cable, and technology powers-that-be have waged an all-out war for control of the living room, leaving consumers as collateral damage. Whether Apple or anyone else can pull off a seamless integration of this fragmented mess is anyone’s guess but I wouldn’t hold my breath for 12 months, if I were you.
Microsoft will hire a new CEO. Yes, I’m well aware of the 100% certainty of that statement. But whether the software giant’s board brings in an outsider such as Alan Mulally (my choice) or promotes an insider like Satya Nadella, we won’t know if it was a good choice for years to come. And, as I’ve said time and again, the task of reinventing a company that big, that complex, and that competes in so many different markets, is incredibly challenging.
Time travel will become a reality. Amazon will create an ecommerce service with drones equipped with tachyon drives that will allow them to go faster than the speed of light. In other words, you’ll actually receive your packages before you order them. (Yes, that was, in fact, a joke.)
In case you can’t get enough of this sort of thing, here is a lightning round of eight more tech predictions, some of which fly in the face of what other commentators are putting out there:
Somebody will create an app that will tell you with 100% certainty when a politician is lying – because his lips will be moving (wait, you heard that one before?).
There will be no real, legitimate backlash over privacy concerns. As Sun Microsystems chief executive Scott McNealy famously and correctly said nearly 15 years ago, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”
Google will not overtake Apple to become the most valuable technology company on Earth – at least not yet – but the search advertising giant will continue to bring you ads on any device, on any application, wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing.
While interim CEO John Chen was a good choice, and he may very well help the company survive on enterprise services, BlackBerry will not rise from the dead as a smartphone powerhouse.
Twitter will not become less annoying and people will not stop doing anything they can to gain more followers ... for no legitimate or logical reason.
The Internet of Things won’t change your life. While it is very cool stuff that will affect us all in many ways, smart cities, smart highways, and smart grids are industrial things that happen very, very slowly. Like the Earth’s rotation, you won’t notice a thing.
Just as with weight loss systems, diets, and pills, more and more people will spend more and more money on fitness devices like Fitbit and Fuelband and still, remarkably, continue to become more obese and less healthy.
It will slowly begin to dawn on consumers and the auto industry that range anxiety and having to plug an electric car into a socket is incredibly dumb and a giant leap backwards from hybrid technology where the car actually charges its batteries itself. I’m just saying.
Steve Tobak is a Silicon Valley-based strategy consultant and former senior executive of the technology industry.