My Tech Industry Predictions for 2013

by Tim Bajarin   |   December 14th, 2012

Each year, about this time, I put out a list of predictions for the coming year. I have been doing this for 23 years and over that time have I have had a reasonable level of success with these predictions. I have had some spectacular failed predictions too, like the year I said Microsoft would buy RIM. Because of our work and research, we get to see a lot of technologies in the works behind the scene as well as look at the data and numbers and make some educated deductions about the tech trends for the new year.

With that in mind, here are my top predictions for 2013.

1: Augmented Reality will go mainstream in 2013

Companies like Zappar and Arusmus have some great technology that adds an AR touch to published content, posters, and physical places. AR technology has been in the works for many years, but the demos I have seen from these two companies have me believing that 2013 is the year that AR becomes very important to the mobile world. More importantly, many of these AR companies have created great relationships with movie studies, game makers, publishers, and more, and their technology is already showing up in many of their products. I wrote about these two companies recently (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2412990,00.asp) so check out some of the examples I have at the end of this column to get a visual sense of why I think AR will be big in 2013.

2: US Power Grid hit by Hackers

Call me paranoid but the more I read about security hacking from China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the more I am concerned about the safety of our various networks. While IT networks of all types remain a main target, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned recently that successful attacks have been made on computer control systems of American electricity and water plants and transportation systems. Security experts point out that many of these water and electricity plants have old architecture that is not tied to networks but many of them do and could be a target. Those impacted by Superstorm Sandy already know how the lack of power and electricity could impact their lives. So imagine if a power grid is taken down in large metropolitan areas and the impact it would have on individuals and businesses. I applaud our security experts on their diligence in combating all security threats and really hope that if our power grid does come under attack, they can head it off. By the way, this is one prediction that I hope I am very wrong about.

3: Google’s ChromeBook gets more consumer attention-Chrome laptops will gain traction in 2013

Acer and Samsung’s Chromebooks are priced around $250 and has become an attractive alternative for consumers as price continues to be a real issue with this market segment. I know that this only works when it is connected but the proliferation of public WiFi makes this less of an issue going forward. We all know that an HTML Web browser as an OS will someday happen and the Chromebooks are a good first step. Buyers of these laptops will also serve as an important testbed for us industry watchers in 2013 and could give us important hints about how this market will develop over the next five years.

4: Hybrids and convertibles get high interest in IT

In our discussions with IT directors recently we have heard that they are quite interested in hybrids or convertibles aka laptop and tablet combo devices. Today, with tablets part of the BYOD trend, as well as their own purchases of tablets for specific internal use, these IT managers are now forced to support three devices-PC, Tablet and Smartphone. The idea of just having to support a convertible or hybrid, instead of a separate laptop and tablet, is quite attractive to them. The first generation of these products, such as Lenovo’s Yoga, HP’s Elitebook convertible and Dell’s XPS DUO are being bought in good numbers from IT types who are starting to test them inside their organizations and newer models that are even more powerful will be out by Q3. All this points to potential growth of hybrids and convertibles within IT beginning in 2013.

5: Mobile Malware will be up 100% on consumer devices

For decades, the PC was the only real target for malware, security breaches, and targeted attacks. But with mobile devices soon surpassing the amount of PCs shipped each year, these devices have become major targets for all types of malware. In fact, we believe mobile devices will become the biggest target for hacking by the end of the 2013 because all of these devices are tied much more closely to personal identities and personal information then PC’s.

6: Intel Becomes a top 3 Foundry

There have been various reports from Asia suggesting that Intel’s current fabs are not operating at full capacity due to reduced demands for computer chips in 2012. Although there are others from the semiconductor world who feel demand for chips will increase next year, they believe the biggest benefactor of this growth will be foundries that produce chips made by ARM. If it is true that Intel’s fabs are under utilized, it would not surprise me if they move to extend their fabs to the likes of Apple and others who wish to leave Samsung and may be concerned that TSMC cannot keep up with their needs in the future.

7: e-Book sales over take the amount of physical books sold in retail

The move to eBooks is in full swing. One key reason is that tablets have become the #1 eBook reader and we will sell close to 230 million tablets in 2013. Amazon’s Kindle Reader app is on just about every tablet available, this there is no lack of digital e-books readers already in the market with more coming in the future. The ease of purchasing and keeping libraries up to date on all of your digital devices is the big draw. Plus the fact that about 1000 books can fit on and average reader. This is why you can see e-Books becoming the largest growth area in book distribution next year.

8: 7″ tablets dominate tablet sales

Given the price of the 7″ tablets, which can be as low as $79 but most hover around $199, it is not a surprise that these sized tablets will dominate the market in 2013. But what is not obvious is how they will impact the PC market. The problem for consumers with 10″ tablets is that with a cheap Bluetooth keyboard, it is almost a mini-laptop. Also, since many consumers can do about 80% on a tablet that they can do on a PC, many consumers are either extending the life of their current PC, or if they buy new ones, they purchase cheaper models since they see them sitting idle most of the time. The traditional PC does not go away because they are still needed for heavier computing tasks like managing their media, creating digital movies, etc.

However, if consumers begin to adopt 7″ tablets in big numbers, they may go back to buying new laptops since 7″ tablets are mainly for consumption and are not good at all for traditional productivity tasks. Many industry execs hope this theory is right since it could actually help laptop sales grow in 2013 instead of subtract as many have suggested it will. I believe that next year consumers will sort out which tablet is best for them and in doing so will finally determine the role the PC will handle for them in the future.

9: Apple creates a Hybrid tablet/PC with iOS

I am going out on a limb with this last prediction. But one of the more interesting developments with 10″ tablets is that if you add a Bluetooth keyboard, it becomes a mini-laptop. The Android and Windows side of the tech market are moving quickly to create tablet/laptop combo devices and business and consumers alike are showing interest in these kind of products. If these types of products gain serious traction, I believe Apple may need to respond to this growth threat in the same way they have now entered the 7″ tablet market despite the fact that Steve Jobs told everyone that Apple would never do a 7″ tablet. But imagine a sleekly designed hybrid that perhaps has the design lines of the MacBook Air but the iPad screen detaches from its ultra-thin keyboard. For lack of a better term I call it the Macbook AirPad or iPadAir. I know Tim Cook has denounced this type of design suggesting it is like attaching a “toaster to a refrigerator.” But a sleek and elegant iPad/keyboard device designed by Apple would be of interest to a lot of people, me included.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
  • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

    “3: Google’s ChromeBook gets more consumer attention-Chrome laptops will gain traction in 2013″ – Tim Bajarin

    I think the generally crappy state of mobile broadband will keep a lid on Chromebooks for the foreseeable future. If the spotty service isn’t problem enough, the data caps are.

    One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is Ubuntu loaded on the new Samsung Chromebook. IMO I think it is the perfect example of a true netbook. I think if desktop Linux made a strong move to switch to ARM, such devices could easily apply pressure to Windows from the low-end and actually make Linux a viable alternative for some Windows users.

  • Englishmole

    Hybrids and convertibles are a clumsy, inelegant solution. It provides a tablet that’s too heavy to use as a tablet and a laptop that’s too underpowered to use as a main computer, so nobody will.

    Don’t hold your breath for an Apple entry into this market – not just anytime soon, but ever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1131685622 Peter Buckton

    I think there is space for a PC-Desktop-Lite.

    If 80% of what people do can be done on a tablet, then 98% can be done on a desktop that is optimized for consumer (or terminal) work. Power-users are a microscopic minority.

    In reality, an iMac is already WAY more computer than most people will ever use.

    So the equivalent of a oversized (13-15+ inches) iPad that desk mounts (but could be taken mobile for a couple of hours away from its power cord) could be powered up to handle some of the more computationally intensive jobs that a tablet can’t quite do.

    For instance, run Windows so you can use Excel, Word, Powerpoint etc. None of those actually requires that much power. Any 5 year old computer can still do that easily enough.

    Where the real crunch has come from is with the internet and browsers (and opening multiple tabs). Multi-cores is the critical tech.

    Effectively take a Mac-Air, and turn it into a proper desktop. Even ease up on the tech specs, to make it cheaper ($800+). I think you could sell a boatload to enterprise.

  • Mel Gross

    I would just like to say that the iPad Mini isn’t a 7″ tablet, which Tim should know. It’s an 8″ tablet, that is also 4:3, rather than the 16:9 and 16:10 that the 7″ tablets are.

    The Mini is 80% of the full size iPad, whereas these 7″ models are much smaller, about 45%. It’s a big difference.

    • pawhite524

      As someone who is usually in agreement with your posts to this site I write in support and in disagreement.

      While I agree the iPad Mini is not a 7″ tablet, as you noted so well, I must point out it is *not* 80% of the full size iPad. It closer to 66% (or a little less) the size of the full size iPad. The fact that it is approximately 25% larger than the 7″ tablets is still, IMO, a big difference.

  • Kewl Phactor

    Sizes of computers/laptops/tablets are sort of like vehicles. You have the big RV, the SUV, and the two seat sports car. Just let people decide what they need.

    Telling people that what they really want is a tablet that can transform into all kinds of shapes and can do everything like a desktop is like selling a sports car with room for baby seats and a refrigerator and can pull a camping trailer that sleeps six.

    Maybe some of these companies need to rethink the whole multipurpose idea. Apple never intended for the iPad to replace their other products. The intention was to complement their other products. Why don’t these designers understand?

  • http://www.facebook.com/josh.alfred Josh Alfred

    I feel if Apple were to do a Hybrid they will tweek OSX rather than base it on iOS. The reason being if you can have OSX applications and the ability to run bootcamp to install Windows 8 then it will be more productive.

    After playing with the Sony Duo 11 and loving it I really hope Apple goes down this route because there is a market for this new type of computer.

  • Eyemahsource

    The best solution is OS X running on atom feeding twin 1080p screens built into narrow reading glasses or sunglasses. This means OS X wins over iOS because with glasses touch is not possible. These tiny screens will not only greatly reduce power consumption, but also be the world’s best camera viewfinder, not to mention be hands free and 3D in the bargain.

  • def4

    I expect (more wish than predict) Apple will use the March iPad launch slot to introduce a new iPad model.
    This iPad Pro model would have an 11.4″ screen made of fusing two iPad mini screens to allow running two iPad apps side by side.

    The larger screen and wider aspect ratio would also open the possibility for a great dock and/or cover featuring the same full size keyboard as on the 11.6″ MacBook Air.

    Pen input and 32/64/128 GB storage sizes on top of side by side multitasking should make this package very appealing to a significant chunk of professional users.