It’s that time of year when various pundits sharpen their pens and make predictions on what they think will be trending for the coming 365 days. Predictions are usually based on what happened the previous year, especially when it comes to technology, and this year’s predictions definitely follow that methodology, with very few big surprises or outliers. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to extrapolate technology trends and logically plot where they might go in the next year, but it will be interesting come the end of 2014 to see which predictions were correct and which ones were wildly off the mark (and there’s always more than a few of those!).
Gadgets like Google Glass and the smartwatch just barely had time to pick up steam in 2013, but many pundits agree that wearable technology will be one of the strongest trends to watch in 2014. Google Glass really started the purchasing power of the wearables market with a vengeance, and many people are looking forward to purchasing their copy of this smart gadget, along with smart TVs, smart watches, and smart home technology. Key technologies here will include connectivity, extremely sophisticated image recognition, and NFC. NFC – near field communication - can be used between two devices so they can “talk” to each other with or without touching, usually at close range. There’s quite a few applications of this technology already out there, for example, zero-contact payment systems, e-ticket smartcards, mobile payments, virtual wallets, public transport, box offices, and more on the horizon.
There are different schools of thought on how much personalized information is safe to share via NFC; personally, I’m definitely on the side that says “as little as possible”. But wouldn’t it be nice to have all your stored networking information (name, email, phone, business card, resume, past jobs, LinkedIn profile, portfolio of work, articles, etc.) in one convenient hub that could be instantly ported over via NFC to someone you’re talking to? You could have different levels of shareability on this as well: perhaps one level for networking contacts, one level for friends, one level for family, and so on. Instead of doing the business card dance with promises to email more later, you could just use an app on your NFC-enabled smartwatch to instantly transfer information; no muss, no fuss.
Wearables showed up at IDF 2013 in the keynote given on Day One of IDF 2013 by new Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and new President Renee James, touching on such subjects as datacenters, ultra-mobile devices such as tablets, phones and wearables, and “lifestyle computing”. One of the biggest confirmations of whether or not wearables will really take off in 2014 will happen in just a couple weeks at CES, which is scheduled for January 7-10, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The really big showstoppers are sure to be there, but wearables are slated to make a big splash as well:
“…wearable computers may not achieve huge commercial success so quickly, said Jon Peddie, president, Jon Peddie Research.”We’re in the very early days with wearable computers in terms of experimentation," he said, pointing out how companies are still defining the right usage models, the right physical size and where exactly people would wear these things. He called the current first wave of wearable devices disappointing, but has no doubts that companies will figure things out. "Long term, wearable computers are definitely going to be a component among the things that we have because they will augment our life," he said. "It will help us get through the world, navigate commerce, airports and social situations." - “Will wearable technologies steal the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show?” iq.intel.com
If just one field of technology could be said to have ruled 2013, most industry analysts would agree that mobile development and mobile form factors would take the first prize ribbon. Mobile PCs, mobile phones, and tablets are expected to continue to increase, especially touch-enabled form factors. According to the quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report from NPD Display Search, mobile form factors are not going anywhere:
- The mobile PC market is expected to increase from 367.6 million units shipped in 2012 to 762.7 million globally by 2017, driven by touch-enabled form factors
- The majority of this shift will come as tablet PCs begin to replace notebook PCs this year as the dominant mobile PC form factor, and touch becomes a key feature in mobile PC adoption.
- Notebook PC shipments are expected to decline 10% over the next four years, from 203.3 million in 2013 to 183.3 million in 2017, but there will be pockets of growth. Shipments of notebooks with touch capabilities are expected to grow 48% Y/Y in 2014.
As long as tablet PCs continue to offer users what they have continually been choosing in their form factors – great design, robust battery life, and quick response – this particular market will continue to grow.
What about the mobile ecosystem that provides that ying to this yang? Mobile app development is just starting to hit its stride, and as users demand more and more apps to meet a wide variety of needs this will only continue to grow. Keeping in mind that this is a very young market that is barely getting started, here are just a few numbers grabbed from 2013 statistics:
- There are 641 new apps in the App Store per day - and more than 19,000 new apps every month - ReadWriteWeb
- Google last reported 700,000 apps in the Google Play Store, which made the app store tied with the Apple App Store at the time in quantity of apps - InsideMobileApps
- DragonVale developer Backflip Studios and Supercell, developer of Clash of Clans and HayDay, raked in a combined $100 million for their freemium titles DragonVale and Clash of Clans.
- Flurry estimated that a record-breaking 17.4 million iOS and Android devices were activated on Christmas Day, along with an equally record-breaking 328 million application downloads. Studying the data from December 25 – December 31, additional records were set, now for the highest number of device activations and app downloads of any week in history. Over the holiday week, Flurry estimates that over 50 million iOS and Android devices were activated, and 1.76 billion applications were downloaded. - Flurry.com
- Apple’s current App Store count lies at the 775,000 apps mark (with more than 300,000 native iPad apps) and a total of $7 billion paid to developers for their apps. Those apps are available to users in 155 countries around the world. - TheNextWeb
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Google CEO Eric Schmidt states his claim that mobile is the “trend to follow” for 2014, and that people with connected devices (aka tablets, smartphones, and the above-mentioned wearables) will have an advantage over other people:
“The trend has been that mobile was winning, it’s now won,” he said. “There are more tablets and phones being sold than personal computers. People are moving to this new architecture very fast.” He continued, “The biggest disruptor that we’re sure about is the arrival of big data and machine intelligence everywhere. The ability to find people, to talk specifically to them, to judge them, to rank what they’re doing, to decide what to do with your products, changes every business globally.” - “Eric Schmidt says mobile has won 2014”, TheVerge.com
I’ve written a lot about developers in this space this year, and there have been a few trends that stick out that I think will continue in 2014.
Motivation: The sense of achievement and not profit is what really drives developers (although nobody’s going to turn down a check). I’ve talked to developers who have literally been up for three days straight to figure something out, simply for the love of programming. According to a recent survey, creativity and a sense of achievement are what make the difference for 53% of developers, while the most important goal for 33% of those surveyed is simply gaining knowledge, having fun, or making strides towards self-improvement.
Platforms: iOS and Android won the day in 2013, and I believe that this trend will continue in 2014. In fact, SiliconAngle found that Android, iOS and HTML5 are the top three platforms chosen by developers across all the regions where the survey was conducted. In North America, 67 percent of developers use Android, 62 percent on iOS, and 55 percent on HTML5. The survey revealed that three main things affect developer choice, and that is Speed and cost of development, revenue potential, and the ability to reach target consumer.
Developers choose Android because it is faster and cheaper to develop apps for this platform, but if they want bigger revenue, they’d opt for iOS. I see this changing in 2014, with more and more developers switching over to Android and HTML5 as their platforms of choice, and with the tools that Intel has provided for Android and other mobile platforms, it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities.
Rise of the Indies: You don’t have to be attached to a big name studio to really make a success of yourself; on the contrary, 2013 saw independent game development take on a life of its own with a much lower entry barrier as far as revenue needed for success. Independent game development and smaller indie teams are making steady gains as seen in a survey from the Game Developers Conference; 53% of respondents identified themselves as “indie developers”, and 51% of these had been developing games for less than two years
Cross-platform mobile development: If you’re familiar with the term “don’t put your eggs in one basket”, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that cross-platform mobile development is only going to increase in 2014. A report titled “Cross Platform Mobile Development Tools Market Analysis and Forecast” published by Smiths Point Analytics reports that the market for cross-platform mobile development tools exceeds $1.6 billion right now, and is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2016: “Developers are taking a number of cross platform development approaches and successful developers will match the right tools and approach to appropriate requirements and use cases. With the complexity of mobile app development continuing to grow, the tools vendors’ ability to reduce development time and increase application reach is generating significant opportunities. This new trend in mobile application development will also help fuel and more open and prosperous mobile app ecosystem.”
What’s your crystal ball prediction?
From wearables to mobile app development to the rise of the independent developer, there was a strong push to interconnectivity that was the overreaching theme of 2013 – and what I believe will be the continued push into 2014. What’s your prediction for where we will go in 2014?