Some people like to get a head start on their 2013 predictions and get a jump on the rest of us. (Ok.. I'll admit... I'm a ~month late!) So here's my gift to you. I'll go wayyy out on a limb & do some 2014 predictions.
Honestly; I wasn't really surprised by too much announced at CES. Smarter devices, thinner displays, more form factor choices than the year before. Done. It's really that simple. It's part of the reason I didn't attend this year. However; without sounding overly trite or dismissive. These developments really are quite interesting and it all does lead somewhere.
1) More Convergence and More Form Factor choices than ever before. I keep trying to tell people to not confuse the form factor with the function. There is no "Post PC era" in my books. When that term was concocted it was referring to the beige PC desktop. So... "Post PC Beige Desktop"..sure... I'll buy that. However; PC's are not going away anytime soon. In fact... expect that Smart/iPhone to converge and get closer & closer to what PCs (Personal Computers) have been doing for you for years -- which is to remain 1) Personal to you, and 2) Compute tasks or soon anticipate your needs.
2) More Tablet Form Factor mania. It's difficult to not see at least some of this as being herd mentality. I'd view this an opportunity to not do what every one else is doing; but it'd also be folly to ignore this Form Factor that will come in all types of screen sizes. We're already seeing some blending where Tablets leave off... and the All in One's (aka AiO's) pick up & emerge. Sometimes the display is on a vertical plane, while others it can be brought into the living room, etc, & placed horizontally. Most (or all) will have touch. (& or Surface functionality) of some sort.
3) Smart TVs continue to get Smarter & more connected. (I call it the Household Social Hub(tm)) Is this really a surprise to anyone? Why wouldn't your local cable provider just pass go, collect $200, and deliver content (Web, Movies, Games, etc) straight to the TV without the need for a 'dongled' DVR or Console? Expect a massive behind the scenes land grab to sew up content. Critical to the success, or failure of #3 here segue ways into the "Cloud" prediction next.
4) Cloud opportunties mature & aggregate. (Get smarter?) So there's cloud this & cloud that. I think the reality is that it means different things to different people in the chain. There's Cloud: Services/Digital Distribution, Hosting, Streaming/Paging, eCommerce, and the Web. The issue here though is that the 'last mile' is still very much the Achilles heel in this equation. This is going to take some time. What I think we'll see though is all of the content service providers get smarter about what works & what doesn't. With luck... we might even start seeing the tip of some 'smart' AI-like Server side interactions starting to emerge in at least a few of the Cloud options I outlined above.
5) [Spoiler Alert] PC Gaming exceeds all 3 Console Revenues combined! Yes, you saw that here first. We've all seen & heard of the gaming market crashing over the past several months? The root of that is simply tied to the way things are reported on. Two major things are occurring. 1) Those sources are only reporting on retail sales. We all know what's happening there. and 2) Those #'s, since they're Retail, are about ~95% representative of ONLY the Console gaming units and are therefore impacting those platforms. PC Gaming on the other hand can't really fall too much further to hit rock bottom at Retail. Consoles on the other hand have a very very very long way to fall. To hear the rest of this story you'll have to wait till GDC.
6) Consoles by Sony & Microsoft will be announced between now & E3. However; expect a few not so obvious surprises along the way. For the record I've been isolating myself from anyone, or anything, that could pollute my theory on the 8th Gen crop of Consoles. I did this to ensure I don't pollute them or vice versa and land anyone in hot water. Here's the deal. Consoles died. They know it, you know it, everyone knows it. They painted themselves into a nasty corner and now they're desperate to re-brand themselves as 'something different'. For starters, they can't really call themselves a PC, that's taken. Can't call themselves a Tablet, that's gone too. So what do you do? It's simple. You turn yourself into a broader Spec & Marketing brand and start plastering your Logo all over every device you can. You do your best to blur the lines between what has worked, is working, & what you hope will work in the future. Expect Playstation & Xbox branded SmartPhones, Tablets, SmartTVs (Which are borderline AiO's), & yes, perhaps even some PCs. We're already seeing the tip of this iceberg now. I'd expect to see more of it. That way you can claim innovation without being branded as a 'failure' to save face.
7) The 'Box' I can't talk about - a major Dark Horse? Right now this is too hot for me to talk about. Let's suffice it to say that when this ships it's going to be extremely disruptive to a couple of very well established players in the industry. I'll go so far out on a limb as to say that I believe it's the beginning of the end for at least one major player unless they get back to their basics.
8) Rise of AI on top of all the latest device input/outputs. Touch...check. Gesture....check. Voice... check. Face Recogntion... check. So where do we go next? AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the horizon. It'll sort of be like the 'Last Mile'. It's likely going to take a very long time to perfect. However; it does transform PC, & PC like devices into both input & output devices. AI'd devices can turn into more of a 'personal assistant'. The example I love to draw from is 'Jarvis' from the latest Iron Man movies. How cool would that be?
9) 2013 through 2015 turns into a bloodbath for Game ISVs. I REALLY hope I'm wrong. Sadly.. I don't think I will be. <sigh> The reason for this is simple. So many game ISVs have been dependent on the Console business model for so long that I feel it's really impacted their abilities to stay 'Agile' in a market that has accelerated & become more fractured than any time in history. When a new Console launches.... there's typically around ~1.5-2 million units shipped. They don't even start ramping up to full production until the following year. In which case it's around ~8-14 million units. Well... ok; but as a game ISV for a major platform console game you now have to sell between 2 to 3 million units just to hit break even. Good luck doing that. Your attach rates have to be through the roof. The cost, stakes, & risks, have never been higher. My advice? Target devices with the largest pools of opportunity. That's PCs (Tablet/Laptops/Desktops/AiO/etc), and SmartPhones.
10) Expect more 'sky is falling' news about the PC. So much to say here. The root of the issue here is the artificial measure of what a PC is in the first place. Yes... some form factor sales/units are falling. However; we need to accommodate for the ever changing & morphing PC industry. What we can all bank on is the fact that Processors are going to shrink, become more performant, do better graphics, with less power, equating to longer battery life, less cooling, making them quieter. They will become smaller, faster, thinner, lighter, & smarter over time. Research Analysts that measure this are going to have to also stay 'agile' and keep up.
So there you go. That's 2013 in a nut shell. There's several more predictions and things I could talk about; but let's move on to 2014. Which frankly I won't bore you all with 10 more predictions; I'll give you my top 3.
This is largely going to be the same as 2013 but more turn of the crank.
1) 'Cloud' aggregators get more closely partnered with SmartTVs. I think Amazon, iCloud, Google_Android, et al will really start cranking up the heat & noise. Also expect smarter & easier connections between these SmartTVs, & your PCs, or PC-like smart devices up to & including SmartPhones. We're seeing this now; but I expect this to be way more widely adopted & accepted than what we see today or for the rest of 2013.
2) Expect the PC Ecosystem tied to Windows, their OEMs & suppliers to make an even bigger comeback. I'm optimistic about Windows. There's a lot of critics out there right now about Windows 8. I've said it before & I'll say it again. While they may get skinned up a bit with Win 8, (Only time will tell) I think the more important thing is what they learn from Win 8 & how they move forward with that knowledge. The only thing I'm dubious about, which I believe is a mistake, is pulling Xbox into the Windows Style UI. This is the best time for them to get 'back to their roots' and make a better 'open-sandbox'. Not lock their system down more for one of the most important consumer app usages in the market - games.
3) PC's (Connected Computing Devices) everywhere. Yes... we see it now. Connected Cars, Planes, Trains you name it. The last mile will slowly shrink over time.
There you have it. It's actually all pretty exciting. When I look at all the above I do see some mega-trends. I really do think that Smart/iPhone I carry around with me everywhere slowly turns into a glorified PC/Memory stick. All I'll need in the not too distant future is some sort of HUD that pops up displaying the information, app, or call on demand. Fun stuff to conjecture about.
Hope you enjoyed this piece. Let me hear your thoughts & predictions!