Opinion: Matt's Top 10 Tech & Gaming Predictions for 2014

Out with 2013 and in with 2014!!!

So here are my top ten (10) predictions for technology and gaming related things in the coming new year.  I can hardly wait!

1) PC "Next"?  It's your SmartPhone!  Expect the specs and performance of these little buggers to make some very interesting baby steps, and leaps.  In terms of 'wearable' computing I don't like wearing watches, glasses, necklaces, having piercings, wearing rings etc.  So the phone is as good as it gets for me, and likely most people, when it comes to 'wearable computing'.  The winner in this next age of computing will target your phone as having more convergence, not less.  So expect them to pair and connect better with things like Smart/er TVs & displays; and peripherals such as mice, keyboards, and gamepads.  Note:  My caveat here is if no one in 2014 realizes this, then shame on them, and the industry for such an obvious miss.

2) Tablets grow up.  There are dumb Tablets and there are smart Tablets. If you follow any of my previous blogs you'll know what I'm talking about.  Tablets are nothing more than a PC 'form-factor'.  Tablets such as Microsoft's Surface Pro, and other 2in1's demonstrate what a Tablet PC should and can be.  Expect marketing and some analyst firms to continue to obfuscate this for as long as possible. (They want you to buy both)  The reality of it though is that Tablets are nothing more than the latest bright shiny object of PC-land.  When Laptops came out there were similar debates about the impact to Desktops.  Ultimately we as consumers don't care so much about what form-factor the PC takes next, or what OS its running; just as long as it's allowing us to connect, run, & or play the software apps we love and care about.  (For work or play)

3) An Xbox Surface or something bigger?  After all - why wouldn't they?  I'll conjecture and take it a few steps further. Xbox has very much turned into Microsoft's entertainment brand.  So it's not just games anymore; but technically their portal to other forms of entertainment such as movies/tv/video, and music. (Long Live Zune). Ok, great, so what's the big deal?  I believe at this point they could do one of two things.  1) Either go bigger and turn Xbox into a more fully grown OEM-type brand. (a la Apple) This could be an attempt to divide consumer from business software applications. - OR - 2) Go smaller; but lock the OS and API's down even further in an attempt to position Xbox as being "premium" content in an effort to charge more for their connected cross screen cloud apps.  IMHO both of these are very poor decisions.  Please burn the Innovators Dilemma book since that has now turned into herd mentality strategic thinking - good grief.  I really hope I'm wrong on this #3.

4) Microsoft buys or invests heavily into an OEM Display Mfg.  I won't put this past them at this point.  Given OEM manufacturers (Mfgs) response to what Windows 8 and 8.1 and it's impact on their businesses; coupled with the over-hype of Tablets supposedly being the demise of PC's has really backfired for those with too many eggs in the Microsoft basket.  As a result, it's made many OEM's more vulnerable than before for purchase, and or takeover.  Even without an outright purchase many OEM's will be desperate to agree to many terms and conditions they wouldn't otherwise. We're likely to see Microsoft do more of what we've already seen in buying/propping up some select OEMs with cash/stock/etc (e.g. Dell).  Unfortunately I also expect us to lose a few OEMs over the next ~24 months.  I really hope I'm wrong in this prediction as well.

5) Google = Wow.  Given Google's success with Android, and even Chrome (especially this holiday); we should expect to see them gain additional traction in both the consumer and even work environments; both domestically and abroad.  Keep a close eye on their partnerships; especially with Amazon, and Samsung.  I fully expect both Android and Chrome to mature more fully and become more capable over time.

6) Apple's next big thing?  It seems that everyone is expecting Apple to unveil the 2nd coming in the next few years. Which is somewhat unfair to expect; but this is what happens when one sets such a high bar and former precedents.  Given their patent filings; we should start to see a bigger push from them into the living room. (Gamepads! Yay! Gaming from Apple finally?!?)  This will likely spark an even bigger "Destroy all Monsters" type of fight for what we affectionately here like to call the "Hearth".

7) Amazon = Dark Horse.  Given that Amazon has such an incredible online retail presence I fully expect them to go very big into more, not less, consumer devices in 2014.  We've already received tons of hints about their push into gaming into the living room as well.  This will most likely look like a Kindle on steroids (which I think they should call the Bonfire)((Should I tm that for them? Here - Kindle Bonfire(tm)).  I'd also keep a very close eye on their partnerships with the likes of Google (for Android), and Qualcomm (for Snapdragon, etc.).

8) Consoles vs PC Gaming.  This will be interesting to watch.  I'm not feeling the same sense of excitement for this 8th Gen of Consoles as there was for the previous generation.  Great, so GTA V hits a billion in 3 days.  This is awesome. There will always be a few games like that.  However; the true test will be to see how these suckers perform over the next 36 months. Remember that 'Destroy all Monsters' analogy I just mentioned?  Consider this: the 8th Gen's biggest competitor is ironically the previous 7th Gen.  PC's are going bigger into the living room.  (Enter SteamMachines & even just normal Windows/MacOSX PCs).  We have Amazon and Apple likely making a play.  So grab a bag of popcorn. This will be interesting to watch and see how this unfolds over the next few years.  Ultimately I think the real form factor winner for gaming will look something like today's TabletPC form factors.  (+Docking Stations for enhanced graphics etc).  PC Gaming will continue to dominate globally revenue-wise.  I expect Xboxes in China to perform about as well as they did in S. Korea.  What a lot of people still fail to understand is that Consoles tend to be a luxury item in most of the known world.  A smart strategist would pass go, collect the $200, and converge the platforms.

9) Smarter Devices and Voice.  Well... my voice prediction for 2013 didn't get as far as I'd hoped - darn it.  I'm still hopeful that someone will create something like we see in the Iron Man movies such as the "Jarvis" personal assistant.  (A PA?)  Couple that with more RFID-type enabled devices; which can be embedded in nearly anything nowadays such as business cards, trading/game cards, clothes, toys (e.g. Skylanders, Infinity, etc), you name it; and we now have a recipe for some very interesting connected and smarter homes, and businesses.  A little too 'Big Brother'? Yes; which is why I want my "PA-Jarvis" to be locally hosted, and not in the cloud.  I'm hoping my Jarvis will be my first line of defense before I go on the www.  This type of artificial intelligence (AI) is reason enough for me start demanding more personal computing horsepower again.

10) Big Data.  Am I the only one sick and tired of hearing about this?  I'm pretty sure the NS of A is more than willing to share with us all what a PITA it is to suss through that much data.  I do find it amusing that all those tin-foil hat people that we all used to make fun of might have actually been onto something.  Who are we really helping when there's an algorithm that enables so few to have access to so much data?  I have to stop and ask myself, how does this really help me, or anyone for that matter?   For now I'll just have to trust that it'll never be abused or hacked into.  /sigh.

Sorry for the long post.  I love to pontificate on the future; and hopefully some of my predictions never come to pass!  I hope you've all had a great 2013!?  I hope you all have an even better 2014!  Onward and upward!

Best wishes,