Ye old crystal ball faired pretty well last year as many of my tech predictions came to pass. Pokémon Go was an augmented reality hit. Smart car hype reached a fevered pitch. And Yahoo agreed to sell its core business to Verizon, meaning Marissa Mayer and Silicon Valley’s longest running soap opera will finally be put out of their misery.
Also as predicted, tech IPOs were almost nonexistent in the first half, although the market did pick up in the latter part of the year. The private equity bubble continued to deflate, as venture funding and the number of deals continued to decline. And there were 63 down events during the year, most of which were down exits.
And while the Nasdaq did fall into correction territory in February, it bounced right back to all-time highs. Guess you can’t win them all.
Once again peering into my crystal ball, this is what I see for Silicon Valley and beyond in 2017:
News of a “Made in America” iPhone will leak. I doubt if Apple will announce a product so far in advance of what’s likely to be a 2018 or 2019 launch, but the tech giant will nevertheless decide to build an iPhone model in the U.S., probably outsourced to long-time contract manufacturer Foxconn. “Made in America” will become a thing.
Tesla will not ship the Model 3 as planned. The low-cost electric sedan that Elon Musk so boldly announced in April with a target shipment date of late 2017 at a base price of $35,000 will not ship. And when it does ship, 18 months late in 2019, it will face major competition and be pricier than originally advertised, causing most to pull their refundable deposits.
Theranos will shut its doors. The lawsuits are piling up and that will drain the coffers of the embattled lab test technology startup. CEO Elizabeth Holmes will finally be forced to seek bankruptcy protection and fade into obscurity, at least until the movie Bad Blood comes out, starring Jennifer Lawrence as the troubled entrepreneur.
Twitter will fire Jack Dorsey. Twitter’s growth has stalled but the social media site does have a treasure trove of business user data that would help an enterprise software company like Salesforce make its products smarter, in an AI sort of way. Sadly, shares of Twitter are too pricey, so something’s got to give. The board will replace Dorsey and dress up the company to be acquired.
The AT&T-Time Warner merger will go through. Despite Trump’s vow to block it, better informed minds will prevail once everyone realizes the deal is largely a vertical integration play that doesn’t give the combined company an unfair competitive advantage that would harm consumers. On the contrary, the merger may actually accelerate cable cord cutting.
Net neutrality regulations will go bye bye. Once the Trump Administration takes over and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is replaced, the order reclassifying broadband internet as a public utility will be reversed and the Web will once again be free of undue regulation. Nobody’s service will be throttled or blocked, as once feared, but Netflix will have to cut backend direct-connect deals with ISPs, just like everyone else.
Unicorns will stampede on Wall Street. Tech IPOs will make a strong comeback on the heels of the long-awaited public offering of Snapchat parent Snap, which is expected to raise more than $20 billion in the first quarter of the year. If that goes well, as I expect it will, other big unicorns, perhaps including Spotify and Palantir, will follow.
Magic Leap will finally launch an AR product. Not the first time I’ve made this call, but I do think the well-funded augmented reality startup will finally quit teasing us with videos and actually launch a product: AR glasses that will beam computer-enhanced video to your eyeballs. Mark my words: Snap’s Spectacles were just the beginning; AR-enhanced smart glasses will be a game changer.
Your next car will not drive itself. If you’re thinking about kicking back sipping Starbucks while a computer on wheels drives you to work, don’t hold your breath. That said, autonomous vehicles are coming, and sooner than you think. Just not that soon, unless you happen to hail a test Uber in Pittsburgh or somewhere in Arizona. Broad deployment of driverless cars will begin in 2021.
Facebook’s fake fake news problem will get even hokier. Saying there’s fake news on Facebook is like saying there’s water in the ocean. Considering that most online content is actually commentary, sensational clickbait, the rants of a self-proclaimed expert or some form of user-generated gibberish, Facebook’s fake news problem is, ironically, fake news. And the fun is just getting started.
Here’s a bonus prediction: Amazon’s Alexa will not become aware, take over the world and kill all the humans, Terminator style. So you can relax and have a wonderful 2017.