4 Technology Trends, 5 Technology Predictions

by John Kirk   |   January 3rd, 2013

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. ~ Niels Bohr, Danish physicist (1885 – 1962)

Trend #1: Two Seperate And Incompatible Types Of User Interfaces

Personal computing will be divided into two types of user interfaces:

1) Touch; and
2) Pixel-specific (surface-required)

Touch will require the use of only a finger for user input and will work best on the go. Pixel-specific will require the use of a mouse or trackpad which, in turn, will require the use of a flat surface. These two user inputs are inherently incompatible with one another – and that has consequences.

Prediction #1: There Is Little Room For A Category Between The Tablet And The Notebook

I do not think that there is room between the touch-only tablet and the mouse/trackpad-only notebook for the new category of computer that Microsoft is trying to create with Windows 8 tablets. Tablets are becoming more capable. Notebooks are becoming ever thinner and lighter. There is little room for the hybrid. Hybrids will survive as a niche – but they will not thrive as a category.

Many disagree with this opinion, including some who write for Tech.Pinions and everyone who works for Microsoft. That’s the beauty of free speech and free markets. Time – and sales numbers – will tell the tale.

Prediction #2: Tablets Are Going To Be Even Bigger Than We Thought

Tablets are the future and in a much bigger way than even I had imagined.

They are not just becoming an equal to the pixel-input, surface-only devices, they will soon be the default, go-to device of choice. We’ll use our tablets whenever we can, our phones whenever we’re traveling and our surface bound devices only when we absolutely have to.

Pixel input personal computing devices will become like land line phones. They will persevere but with an ever shrinking base and and ever decreasing significance to our lives.

Prediction #3: Apple Will Create A New iPad Mini In The Spring

This is really a sub-set of prediction number two, above.

I believe that tablets are going to be huge in education. Last year, many school districts tested the waters with tablets. This year, many are going to move from trial programs to initiating programs designed to eventually put a tablet in the hands of every single student. This is a profound computing shift which will have a profound effect on education. By 2014 and beyond, the flood gates will have opened and tablets in schools and colleges will be accepted as the new norm.

Apple knows that they currently have an in with the education market. Educational institutions make most of their buying decisions in the Spring. In my opinion, Apple is not going to let the Spring go by without refreshing the iPad Mini.

Trend #2: Two Phone Operating Systems

In the Ninties, there were only two personal computer operating systems that mattered – Windows and whatever Apple was running on the Mac. Windows dominated, but the Mac survived and, in terms of profits, thrived.

Simiarly, there are going to be two operating systems that matter to smartphones. But this will be a duopoly with a difference. Google is not a strong and domineering operating system shepard the way Microsoft was. iOS has 500 million users and is self-sustaining. This time, iOS will be the premium operating system while Android will be the majority operating system.

Prediction #4: iOS will become the premium model, Android will take the rest

iOS will appeal most to businesses, government and education. (The irony of predicting Apple as the preferred operating system for business is not lost on me.) Android will take the rest.

Both operating systems will unhappily co-exist with developers flocking to iOS and cost-concious buyers flocking to Android. The dollars will continue to flow to Apple and the market share will continute to flow to Android and both sides will continue to insist that the other side doomed.

In the meantime, RIM and Nokia will continue to fade and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 will stubbornly cling to third place. But a licensed operating system does not fare well as a minority player.

Trend #3: Freemium v. Premium

The chief divide between tablets will not be their size, but their business models. Amazon and Google follow the freemium model. Samsung and Apple follow the premium model. The Freemium’s give away their hardware at or near cost and seek to make money on the sale of content and services. Apple’s premium model seeks to sell their hardware at a profit and encourage those sales through the use of both content and services.

Prediction #5: Samsung Will Be Forced To Create Their Own Ecosystem

In a world where your operating system provider (Google) is undercutting you by selling hardware at cost and taking in all the content and service dollars, there is simply no other choice — Samsung needs to create their own content and services ecosystem. Samsung has been preparing for this moment for quite some time. And we’ll see the fruits of their labor in 2013.

Trend #4: Multiple Screens

I think the biggest trend that is receiving the least attention is that of multiple screens. In 2001, we had one computer screen and it sat on our desktop. In 2006, we had, at best, two computer screens – our desktop and our notebook. In 2013, we have 4 computer screens – our phones, tablets, notebooks/desktops and TVs. And the when and why we use those screens is going to help to shape the future of computing.

I’m going to cop out here and not make any predictions other than to predict that this trend is going to change everything. People are already using two screens – a television and a phone or tablet – to watch TV. And the way we rapidly switch from phone to tablet to notebook and back again is already baffling that way pundits think about categorizing and pigeonholing our computing buying and using habits. Multiple screens deserve not just a simple prediction on our part but ongoing examination and analysis. It is not an emerging trend but an existing trend. It is the consequences that we haven’t yet fully fathomed. Expect to see us talk a lot more about the effects of multiple screen computing in 2013 and beyond.

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Robert Smith

    “Prediction #3: Apple Will Create A New iPod Mini In The Spring” Don’t you mean Ipad Mini?

    “cheif deviosor” ???

    ” teleision” ???

    ” baffeling” ???

    “Please by respectful.”

    Does anyone read these posts before they are put on line?

    • FalKirk

      Thank you for pointing out my several mistakes. I hope I have fixed them all. Mea Culpa. I’ll try to do better next time.

  • steve_wildstrom

    I agree about the importance of the iPad mini in education, but I’m not sure why this requires a refresh in the spring. I expect Apple will move to a retina display mini as quickly as it is economically feasible, but I think its move into the education market depends more on making it cheaper rather than better. Education, especially K-12, is an extremely price-sensitive market.

    • http://www.livingsmart.dk Kenneth WedMore Lund

      Don’t you think we will see a mini-ish 9.7″ iPad Retina (thinner, lighter, same look as the Mini) long before a 7.9″ iPad Mini retina, Steve ? :)

    • rj

      I agree. For educational buyers (and other cost-sensitive markets), a lower price on the current mini is more important than adding retina or other features.

    • Defendor

      I agree. I don’t see Apple moving to rapid (faster than annual) refresh of products as some analysts were quick to assume after one easily explained anomaly (iPad 4th gen).

      Though I suspect Apple would like to pull back from the fall to summer as a more ideal release time, so they are fully ramped for back to school and Xmas. As it was, the Mini was in short supply throughout the quarter. That is just leaving money on the table.

      Summer is the ideal release window IMO. Long enough after Xmas so people don’t feel they bought an obsolete product for Xmas, but with enough room to ramp product for back to school/Xmas.

    • def4

      I agree.
      Also, institutions generally care way less than consumers about having the latest and greatest. For many of them it’s actually impossible because of various trials and certifications products must pass.

  • capnbob67

    Sorry to start the new year off negatively, but while this piece is not bad per se, it does seem like an attempt to cast a slightly haphazard structure upon which to hang a series of anecdotal and/or obvious predictions rather than insightful or portentous ones. Also, too many jarring typos as Robert Smith has noted (nice to see him taking time off from fronting The Cure to comment).

    Predictions #1 and #2 describe the current situation and extend it forward. It would have been interesting to try and define what would make convertibles/hybrids work as a mainstream device and who might do it? You note the multiple screens situation but I think there is something inherently appealing about consolidating 2 or more of those screens. I see my mother (a typical non-techie user) managing her phone, iPad and Macbook and being frustrated at trying to remember how to do that for all 3 (which is already much easier in one ecosystem) with their different OS, apps, UI, etc. Don’t even get me started on trying to integrate the AppleTV…

    Prediction #3 would have been interesting if you had better dissected Apple’s predicted change to 6 monthly product cycles. Rationale and impact on Apple, competitors, customers, etc. but this might not have fitted into the restrictive structure. A new spring iPad Mini to make it retina is what everyone else is saying and the large iPad upgrades are expected then anyway. US K-12 market has nothing to do with it. What about the spring iPhone?

    Prediction #4 is too simple. Samsung is clearly taking a reasonable and growing share of the premium phone segment with Android (SGS3, Note 2, etc.) and its superior distribution and marketing muscle will probably continue this trend. Also, to ignore the premium segment of the consumer market is a big miss where Samsung is making a ton of apple-like revenue and profit and will probably continue to and grow its share of that segment. What, if anything is Apple going to do to arrest this (specific emerging market products and strategy?). RIM and Nokia have already almost disappeared and MS not giving up are hardly predictions of great insight.

    Trend 3/Prediction #5 – this is more like it – sticking your neck out a bit. Many have predicted this for a while (with Samsung’s endemic copying of Apple’s business model) but what would be interesting is to predict Samsung’s multi-platform strategy, tied together with its emerging ecosystem. It could tie together Android, WP8, Tizen, Chrome etc. certainly at a content level but how if at all does it manage apps, services, etc.

    Trend #4 has some pretty obvious questions associated with it… the growing efforts to develop more robust ecosystem services to manage multiple screens better, the potential for consolidation of screens, solving the problems of managing cross-platform multiple screens. There will be probably be some advances in these areas this year. Apple will continue to strengthen iCloud, Maps and have to invest big to do it, MS will extend its multi-screen strategy and Samsung will build out their ecosystem independently of Google. What will Google do, and how will non-multi-screen OEMs fare because of this trend? All interesting (to me at least)…

    • FalKirk

      “You note the multiple screens situation but I think there is something inherently appealing about consolidating 2 or more of those screens.”

      Quite true. But I think we’re heading in the opposite direction of multiple screens. This is counter-intuitive and quite important if true. Rather than focusing on which form factor will be dominant, we should be focusing on which screens are used where and how they interact together.

      • capnbob67

        Thanks for responding. I agree our screens have fragmented and there is room for more (watch, glasses, public screens) but normal users (non-geeks) are already being overwhelmed and solving those problems is front and center for smart device and OS vendors (partly because it is key to selling more devices for integrated multi-device players). More overlapping capability (e.g. tablet/laptop) will create more opportunities for consolidation. MS is trying pretty unsuccessfully and so are Android OEMs. It is a pretty strong trend for everyone but Apple (who are focusing on primarily on content level integration).

    • FalKirk

      “Prediction #3 would have been interesting if you had better dissected Apple’s predicted change to 6 monthly product cycles.”

      I’m intrigued by the idea of a six-month product cycle, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. I’m not going to predict something that I don’t believe strongly in. However, I do feel that Apple’s commitment to education will drive them to refresh the iPad Mini in the Spring. It will be fascinating to see what Apple does with the Phone and the 9.7 inch iPad.

      • capnbob67

        All and sundry are predicting 6 months for the iPhone but the iPad is unclear. This year was a one in ten year occurrence (change in i/o connector) to force an update for all devices in the fall.

        Education buyers care not at all for retina screens or A7 chips or LTE+ – they buy cheap and want longevity/robustness and cheap manageability. They would be happy with the current mini if the other things are right. What they want during buying season is some education models/discounts and reasonably priced lightning-based accessories like mass charging stations etc.

    • FalKirk

      “Prediction #4 is too simple. Samsung is clearly taking a reasonable and growing share of the premium phone segment with Android (SGS3, Note 2, etc.) and its superior distribution and marketing muscle will probably continue this trend.”

      Samsung’s problem is that they don’t control the Android operating system and they don’t garner any income from the sale of content or services in the Google Play Store. This is a huge weakness that leaves them extremely vulnerable. They know it and they’re are going to act to correct it.

      • capnbob67

        :-) That is rich after spending most of the year berating Google for not being able to make money from Android. Even if Samsung owned the complete ecosystem, it wouldn’t make them much or any more money than they do now. Google’s monetization if at all is from Android delivered ads and almost certainly not content or apps. Apple’s pricing to content providers or App devs leaves no price umbrella for Google who typically have to undercut Apple and make even less money.

        Samsung will do it but not for that reason. Controlling the ecosystem is nothing to do with the inherent revenue or profit potential but the ability to differentiate itself from other OEMs, eventually from Apple, and control the speed and direction of development following their hardware sales-driven business model rather than Google’s ad-driven agenda.

    • FalKirk

      “Trend #4 has some pretty obvious questions associated with it…”

      Trend number 4 needs to be fleshed out. And I think we’ll spend the rest of the year doing exactly that as this trend grows more important and its ramifications become more obvious.

  • Rich

    “The irony of predicting Apple as the preferred operating system for business is not lost on me.”

    John, are you really saying that iOS will become the majority operating system in the enterprise, in the large corporations of America? If no, please explain your prediction. If yes, by when do you expect that to happen?

    My own prediction is that, seeing no compelling reason to change to Windows 8 because it’s too big of a change for too little reward, most businesses will simply stay with Windows 7. It seems like it’s quite adequate for their needs, reasonably far into the future.

    • FalKirk

      “…are you really saying that iOS will become the majority operating system in the enterprise…”

      Let’s say that it is headed for a plurality. This is not that hard to accomplish. Microsoft’s Windows dominates and will continue to dominate notebooks and desktops, but the sales of notebooks and desktops are on the decline. Most everyone has or will have a smartphone and many companies are standardizing on or emphasizing the iPhone. And if tablets continue to grow at their current pace, the combination of iOS phones and tablets may soon push iOS into the preeminent position even if Windows devices continue to retain their majority computing share.

      It’s like land phone lines. They still exist in huge numbers but all the action is in mobile. Similarly, Windows computers are deeply embedded in the Enterprise but all the action is in mobile and, so far, Microsoft is nowhere when it comes to either phones or tablets.

      Without a doubt, a lot of companies will stay with Windows 7. But the way Windows is set up, a lot of people will automatically upgrade to Windows 8 as they upgrade their computers. The question, in my mind, is not whether Windows 8 will sell successfully – it will. The question is whether Windows 8 penetrates the phone and tablet markets. Microsoft can win the battle of Windows 8 on notebooks and desktops but still lose the war. They NEED to get Windows 8 on phones and notebooks or they will be left dominating an ever declining market segment.

  • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

    Cool article.

    I won’t bother to dispute or disagree with the predictions because I think they are all pretty reasonable. My only criticism is that they are pretty conservative and assume the status quo will prevail. I’m inclined to believe that something unexpected will happen to throw many of these predictions off. Things rarely play out according to script.

    Re: “Prediction #5: Samsung Will Be Forced To Create Their Own Ecosystem” – John Kirk

    This one is a bit tricky. Will Tizen offer a level of differentiation and value that will motivate its adoption? It will be built so that carriers love it but will it be compelling enough for consumers? This play for Samsung is for all the marbles. If it pulls it off, Tizen could become a bigger ecosystem than Android and supplant it as the #1 mobile OS by marketshare. This has the potential to be HUGE. I give Google the advantage but Samsung has shown that it can not be underestimated.

    Re: “Trend #4: Multiple Screens” – John Kirk

    I think the fundamental assumptions re: multiple screens are false. It is assumed that people are using their screens in a supplemental fashion to one another but they aren’t. “Second screens” are DIVERSIONARY from, not in conjunction with, the TV. The bottom line is that a huge percentage of what is viewed on a TV is ADVERTISING. To fill in those gaps, people are turning to their mobile devices. The lack of compelling or intuitive programming is forcing people to split their locus of attention between the TV and their mobile devices. People are literally switching back and forth between the screens. This is actually bad news for proponents of the TV. This shows that the TV viewing experience has degraded so badly that people are actively filling in the gaps with other content. I couldn’t tell you what the last commercial I viewed was if my life depended on it.

    One prediction I think you missed is that Apple will be the first to bring a mass market wearable technology to popularity (iPod shuffle notwithstanding). The reason the newer iPod nano is no longer square is because Apple will create a smartwatch and I think it’s going to be big. Apple won’t be the first but it’ll be the first to get it right.

    • capnbob67

      I think you are projecting your habits onto others and US situations onto others. There is increasing multiscreen collaboration going on in more and more shows during broadcast and either side, (twitter, online voting, ask the cast type things). Not all shows or all formats but increasing. Add in all the people searching for things about the shows they are watching and there is a lot of multiscreening going on.

      With increasing use of DVRs or streaming delivery (catch-up TV) and channels with no ads (national broadcasters in many non US countries, TV ads are a declining medium but TV viewing has been increasing over the past few years and even this year has only declined 0.5%. Extra screens appear to be increasing overall screen time rather than substituting one for another. I assume human contact, cooking and hygiene have all suffered… ;-)

      • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

        “I think you are projecting your habits onto others and US situations onto others” – capnbob67

        Science has determined that humans don’t truly “multi-task” when they do several things at once, they actually “serial-task” and not very well. Shifting one’s locus of attention repeatedly, even for simple tasks, severely drops comprehension and information retention.

        Another factor is that watching TV and using the Internet, particularly to read, engages different areas of the brain that are not complementary.

        So using supplemental screens goes against what is natural and optimal for human comprehension. That’s why it won’t catch on. There have been other attempts to engage users while they are watching TV using the Internet. They’ve all failed. The human mind does not work in a fashion that allows such tasks to be done together in an enjoyable fashion for an extended period of time.

        • capnbob67

          Your points of theory sound convincing but fly in the face of real world evidence. However people are doing it (time slicing, reducing comprehension), they are and it is growing.

  • pawhite524

    Thanks, again, for an interesting and intelligent article article. And your use of quotes is always a plus for me.
    The Nils Bohr quote you used happen to be my second favorite about the future. My favorite is Yogi Berra’s “The future ain’t what it used to be…”

    All the best for a great New Year.

  • Defendor

    I agree with number #1, but it seems to contradict your other replies indicating the success for Touch notebooks. Are these not hybrids?