Tech Predictions for 2014

by Tim Bajarin   |   December 16th, 2013

For the last 27 years I have written an annual industry prediction column where I try to forecast what I see happening in the PC and CE markets in the New Year. To be fair, I spend thousands of hours each year researching these industries and their products and get to see inside the labs of many companies as well as peek into start-ups and garage shops all over the world. So what I predict has more to do with taking an intelligent guess about what I see happening in 2014 and less an actual prediction. So as I look into my crystal research ball, here is what I believe will happen in tech’s New Year.

1-Google will spin out Motorola

Google says they bought Motorola for their patents, but patents only go so far in allowing any company to keep the doors open and profitable. I believe that in 2014 Google will spin Motorola out as a dedicated company that creates great products around Google IP and have it be responsible for its own P&L. We have heard rumblings that they have some stunning and innovative products in the works and they could use these to become the branded arm for all of Google’s hardware related products. Having Google and Motorola products that are basically the same is just confusing to customers. Google will see that it makes sense to use them as their hardware arm and make them accountable on their own.

2- Larger tablets for sharing will hit market by mid-year

I recently wrote about how Dell’s 18” all-in-one was now being used as a kind of giant tablet in the home with people putting them on their laps for use in front of the TV or for tablet laptop games. The industry has seen the potential of a larger screen device that can be shared and instead of making them clunky all-in-one’s, we should see some sleek designs optimized as actual large tablets for use by two or more. The industry does not have a name for this but I have heard them called lap tablets or shared tablets for the home. Should be on market by mid-year.

3-Dual OS laptops and tablets

It is clear that Windows 8 is very slow to gain a large volume of software that can compete with IOS or Android’s Apps stores. So expect to see Windows laptops that will also have Android on them that taps into Android apps for use on Windows. The folks from Bluestacks have had a solution for this for years but in 2014 this will be a big issue for the industry and a lot of PC and tablet vendors will have dual OS products on the market starting in Q1.

4–Apple will release a ground breaking productivity device 

The iPad has become a powerful productivity tool in its own right, even without much help directly from Apple. As you know, Apple does not have an enterprise sales group. They don’t even have an enterprise services group. Yet, iPads have become the dominant tablet in IT and enterprises around the world. But there is stiff competition for the hearts and minds of business users coming from Microsoft and Google and some of their partners with tablets of their own aimed at this market. I can’t imagine Apple sitting still and letting these competitors gain ground on them so I believe Apple will create an iPad class product that will be unique and ground breaking focused on business and productivity. I have no clue about its design, although some think it might be what they call an iPad Pro while others think it could be some type of convertible. I am not sure what it will be but I suspect that whatever it is it will be a surprise to all. By the way, I do have one prediction related to this. Whatever Apple releases in this category will have a major negative impact on traditional Windows laptop sales next year and I think total sales of laptops could be off as much as 20-30 million units in 2014 over this year.

5-Smartphones and beacon-based sensors become a big deal

2014 will be the year when Bluetooth Low Energy beacons take off. These beacons can be placed around ballparks to communicate with smartphones and tablets to give users related information about game stats, deals from the concession stands, and coupons for discounts on logo’ed clothing. They can also be used in stores so that as a person goes by an end cap that has a beacon on it, it can send a short burst of information to their smartphone announcing a discount or deal on what is on the end cap if they buy it within 30 minutes. Apple is leading the charge in this space with their iBeacon technology but Microsoft and Google are working on similar programs. The marriage of Bluetooth Low Energy radios integrated into beacons and smart devices will start to take off next year.

6-Smartwatches are dead in 2014

All attempts at creating a smart watch for the masses have failed. The ones on the market today only appeal to male geeks and ultra early adopters  Although we may sell as much as 1.5 million smart watches in 2014, unless someone masters the issue of elegant design and style matched with non geeky technology, they are not going to be a product for the mass market anytime soon. Next year will still be an experimental year for smart watches. 
What will be hot will be wearable health related devices such as the  NikeFuel Bands, Fitbit, Jawbone UP, etc. These types of wearables along with Bluetooth related health devices such as wireless blood pressure kits, wireless blood glucose testing kits, etc. will see serious consumer interest next year. These health devices come under a category called Digital Health and there will be a lot of exciting new products along with health related wearables coming to market in 2014.

7-The PC market could actually grow in 2014

I know that this sounds contradictory given my statement in the Apple prediction that a new product from them could have a 20-30 million negative impact on current laptop demands next year. The discrepancy comes from something that is a bit of a problem for us market researchers at the moment. In the past when we counted computers shipped we had two distinct categories. 

We counted desktops and laptops separately but in final totals combined them. For example, we will sell in total about 300 million PC’s in 2013. However, 67% of these are laptops, the rest is desktops, which include all-in-ones, traditional tower desktops, etc. Enter now the 2 in 1’s and convertibles. Are they tablets with keyboards and should we count them as tablets, or are they tablets/keyboard combo devices and should we count them as laptops? At the moment some researchers are putting these in the laptop category and since they have not been huge sellers yet, they have not had a dramatic impact on our total PC sales in 2013. IDC now says PC sales overall will be negative 10% this year over last year. I believe that we will see a stronger uptick in 2 in 1’s and convertibles and whatever Apple releases in a new design will probably also be counted as a laptop. If this is true, then the overall market for PC’s, especially laptops, should stabilize or possibly even grow in 2014.

8-Internet of Everything goes mainstream

Cisco, Qualcomm, Intel and pretty much every major tech company is now focusing on the Internet of Everything. Basically this means that all tech devices get some form of connectivity, become smart, and can be connected to all types of devices and to the cloud. Although this often now comes off as a buzz word, the idea of IOE is a big deal and represents an important part of all tech companies’ strategies. I believe that in 2014 the industry will come up with a better definition of IOE and how this will practically impact business, consumers and education. 

9-Greater acceptance of Chromebooks

I was in a coffee shop in Santa Barbara recently and an elderly woman was sitting in the booth in front of me searching the Web on her Chromebook. On the way out I asked her why she bought this laptop and she said besides price, it did pretty much what she needed a laptop to do. I hear this story a lot in our research and understand that Google and their partners will become even more aggressive in pricing and marketing this in 2014. I expect this to help Chromebooks gain more ground in the new year. 

10-Digital Health will be a big focus in 2014

In a way this is the health arm of IOE. I have been testing the new iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring system, that allows me as a diabetic to test my blood sugars and transmit the results wirelessly back to my iPhone. Their Wireless Blood Pressure cuff also uses my iPhone to manipulate the cuff itself with all of the reading being done on the iPhone. There are dozens of other medical examples tied to smartphones and represent another key function that uses the smartphone as a personal digital hub. The recent Health Summit in Washington D.C. drew hundreds of people to their largest event ever and friends who attended it were excited about the growth of the products and services in this space. In 2014 Digital Health products will become more available to the masses and be its biggest growth year to date. 

11- 3D cameras and 3D Printers

At CES we will see the first 3D printers under $500. And we will see new desktops and laptops that will employ 3D cameras in them. While 3D never took off in TVs, it’s role in personal computing will be better accepted in the future. Although 3D printers are in the discovery phase with consumers, at prices this low millions could be tempted to buy them and begin experimenting with creating 3D objects. With the help of 3D cameras popping up in new computers, this will help these discoverers to be even more creative. It will still be a small market in 2014 but 3D printers and cameras could start reshaping the way we view our personal computers and what they can do for us. 

12- Jeff Bezos buys the US Post Office :)

This is a bonus prediction and I highlight here a tongue-in-cheek article Carl Schlachte wrote for Techpinions recently. It is a futuristic piece that imagines the implications should Jeff Bezos set his eyes on the US Post Office. Very provocative piece and well worth the time to read.

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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.
  • Glaurung-Quena

    “I can’t imagine Apple sitting still and letting these competitors gain ground on them so I believe Apple will create an iPad class product that will be unique and ground breaking focused on business and productivity”

    No. totally no. for crying out loud, you just said yourself that Apple does not have an enterprise sales group. They’re delighted to sell to corporations who come asking to buy their stuff, but that’s never been their focus. Apple is 100% consumer focused. They make consumer products and high end products for creative professionals (aka artists, not companies), full stop. They sell a lot of their stuff to schools, but they don’t make e-macs anymore, nor do they make x servers anymore. They have no interest in chasing the enterprise market, and your prediction is woefully off base.

    • hezrin

      You might want to get ready to be surprised.

    • Bill Smith

      Apple won’t chase the enterprise market the way Microsoft does, but they will dress up and show some cleavage.

      Apple is playing the long game. There’s a big push for enterprise-friendly features in new software for iOS/OS X. Apple stopped making Xserve because they have a different vision of “enterprise” computing, completely new form factors. Take a look at what’s happening with micro servers, GPU computing, Seagate Kinetic (database object storage on hard disks with gigabit networking built right in), hybrid memory, East-West server connections instead of network switches. The Mac Pro is not a fluke; it, along with Thunderbolt and a few other technologies are setting the stage for something new that will change things just like the iPod, iPhone and iPad have.

      Apple is playing chess while so many others are playing tic-tac-toe…or maybe rock-scissors-paper.

      Put another way: Apple is skating to where the puck will be.

      • klahanas

        Wholeheartedly, and begrudgingly agree. They are also tilting the ring to favor puck possession.

  • sobasky

    “All attempts at creating a smart watch for the masses have failed.”

    That’s because the smartwatch is a mistaken concept in several ways.

  • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

    Interesting prediction re smartwatches, which seemed filled with so much promise. There was this old commercial that went something like…”we will sell no wine before its time.” Apple is like that with technology.

  • JoeS54

    The Apple delusions on this site are insane. And these are people who actually purport to have some clue what they’re talking about. There are plenty of apps in the Windows store. More importantly, when you have Windows 8 and IE, you don’t need 99% of the phone apps out there. They’re strictly gravy, until touch integration becomes mainstream for traditional flagship desktop apps and it all merges.
    As for the iPad being the “dominant tablet in enterprise and IT”, do you have any data to back that up? And any data regarding how many tablets are even being used professionally, or bought by companies? Market penetration of tablets is still extremely low, and most of the tablets being sold are Android-based. This stuff sounds flat out nutty.

    • benbajarin

      Given that we are market analysts we have more data on these things than most people should have to sift through and interpret.

      iPad outsells nearly every other tablet of its class 3-1. Those are just the hard numbers, so by nature of volume and given that there are only a handful of “tablets” which are even usable by enterprises it is easy to see the iPad’s dominance. Despite that and the mounds of CIO surveys we have where the vast majority of Fortune 500 CIOs state explicitly that the iPad is the most dominant tablet on their network and infrastructure. Good technologies has confirmed the same a number of times, and if we were to just look at iOS including iPhone it is again extremely disproportionate.

      You are welcome to your opinion but as we see what is actually happening in the market place we get a sense of what is being purchased by consumers and business and more importantly we understand why.

      Spend some more time on our site and you will find a wealth of information explaining market dynamics of a range of market forces and form factors.

      • JoeS54

        The latest numbers I could find show that Android accounts for 67% of the tablet market. I suppose “of its class” is the key phrase. Individual employees bringing iPads to work does not constitute enterprise adoption. Are there widespread examples of enterprises buying iPads? Do you have any evidence of manufacturers planning dual boot Windows/Android systems? Any evidence that Apple is developing this mythical productivity device? Frankly, both of your posts are somewhat surprisingly blunt in their pro-Apple bias. And I guess my question would be, why? Do you own Apple stock? I know this is the internet, but some baseline level of journalistic ethics and some actual evidence to support your predictions would be welcome.

        • benbajarin

          No. We are market analysts so it is our job to give an outline of what is actually happening in the market. Apple is a key part of the industry narrative so that is why we tell it. Why are you so anti-Apple is the question. We should encourage competition from many market players not be against it.

          To your point on Android. Far from the actual reality. Here is where I explain.

          http://techpinions.com/when-genuine-data-leads-to-disingenuous-conclusions

          iPad leads in every statistic and in particularly usage. But as I said CIOs don’t lie and their hard data show iPad as the king of enterprise tablets right now. Microsoft should hopefully fair well in 2014 with new form factors like Surface but all our consumer research points to the iPad as an edge with consumers due to the large dedicated iPad apps.

          We are already tracking a huge iPad Q4 well beyond any other tablet.

          • JoeS54

            Your link perhaps supports an argument that iPads are popular in the U.S. But it doesn’t show that tablet penetration is deep enough to claim Apple “dominates”. And why would employers with non-Apple systems want to encourage employees to log onto their networks with iPads? To watch video on Netflix on the job? If Apple was interested in enterprise, they would have to develop the kind of device you’re talking about. But I have seen no indication that they’re doing so.
            As for me, I’m not anti-Apple (although I despise iOS7, which made me switch from an iPhone to a Samsung). The problem is that the tech press in general is so enamored of Apple that it gets irritating. I like useful information, not bias.

        • steve_wildstrom

          Top 10 Enterprise iPad deployments (excluding education) This data is a year old; I suspect there are more and larger ones today:
          Korea Telcom 32.000
          US Air Force 18,000
          SAP 17,000
          Roche 13,700
          Cisco 12,500
          United Airlines 10,000
          IBM 10,000
          Singapore Military 8,000
          Royal Caribbean 6,000
          KLA-Tencor 5,400

          Source

          And read here about Apple’s supposedly non-existent enterprise efforts: http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/it/

          JoesS, you are definitely entitled to your opinions. But you have to stop making stuff up and trying to pass it off as fact. We actually are analysts. We really do research.

          • JoeS54

            That is the kind of information I was looking for. But if you follow through on the Forbes link, you see that Windows and Android have some large deployments as well. The thing I guess I’m not clear about is the depth of tablet penetration into enterprise. Everyone I know who owns an iPad uses it for entertainment, along with some light productivity, primarily email. They don’t take them to work, and the few who have gotten them through work got it as a perk. A Windows PC sits on their desk at the office.

    • steve_wildstrom

      You may be the last person beating the dead horse of Flash. These days, Flash is about as good a way as blinking text to advertise the obsolescence of your web site. (A major exception, and one that I admit mystified me, is that YouTube still serves flv video, but only to desktop browsers.)

      • klahanas

        It’s not (just) about Flash. It never was (just) about Flash. Flash is Adobe’s and their user’s problem. The principle of “freedom to code” has been violated, as has the user’s choice as well. When I say Apple is the user’s de facto IT department, it’s stuff like this I refer to.
        That the Flash story may bore you (and other’s) the underlying problem remains valid. We get used to it, when we shouldn’t. Kind of like the Patriot Act leading to NSA. Yet the fourth amendment is still there.

        Liked the part about presence of Flash being a measure of obsolescence of a site. That made me chuckle.

        • steve_wildstrom

          I’m not quite sure where “freedom to code” exists as an articulated principle. Apple has made it clear since 2008 that iOS was a curated environment in which it would decide what was best for users’ experience. The decision to leave out Flash was consistent with this; Apple felt it would not provide a good experience for both user interface and performance reasons (and ultimately even Adobe decided that flash could never be made to work right on mobile devices.)

          Some people do not like the iOS walled garden. They are free to buy Android. But while there are users who chose Android for this reason, it is my experience that they represent a minuscule part of the Android market.

          And it is interesting that Microsoft, long a champion of system openness, looked at both the android and iOS models and chose to follow Apple for both Windows Phones and Windows 8 (Metro apps.)

          • klahanas

            On one hand my frustration stems from the arrogance I perceive coming from Apple. On the other, I would love for these devices to be *more*. I suppose I object to the imposed curation, rather than a hypothetical recommended one. Still, this must remain at the forefront of attention, if only as a reminder, lest we get accustomed to censorship.

            Here we have an ecosystem that keeps sucking large swaths of people deeper into proprietary and locked in devices and services. Proprietary, by itself, isn’t necessarily bad. Locked in is. So switch to Android you say. Well what about all the movies I bought? Then there’s the notion of ownership. The owner should be the ultimate authority. Apple is on record saying that jailbreaking my device is a violation of DMCA. They say they own the firmware. If I don’t own the firmware in my device, that specific physical copy, then I don’t own the device.

            Apple is not alone at this locked in behavior, but they perfected it and lead at it. Compound that with the new attempts to define a tablet as a PC, and this compounds the very points I always raise.

          • steve_wildstrom

            You are conflating several things here.
            DRM: Apple was instrumental in ending DRM on downloaded music. Movies and TV shows are wrapped in DRM because the content owners insist on it and efforts to do cross-platform DRM (Microsoft PlaysForSure, Ultraviolet) have flopped for a variety of reasons. Apple, of course, could either license its Fairplay DRM or make the iTunes player available on other mobile platforms, but in general, its approach to DRM is no different from anyone else’s.

            DMCA: That jailbreaking a phone is technically a DMCA violation is an artifact of the law, not of anything Apple has done. To the best of my knowledge, Apple has never pursued a DMCA claim against jailbreakers. They say jailbreaking voids your warranty (same thing Android makers say about rooting) and play an endless cat-and-mouse game with new iOS versions, but that’s it.

            In the end, you ay your money and you make your choices. Yes, your movie content is locked to the Apple ecosystem (plus desktop Windows), but you knew that when you paid for it. Your still better off than people who bought PlaysForSure content that couldn’t be played anywhere when Microsoft abandoned the project.

          • klahanas

            Let’s see:
            Video DRM:
            Amazon: Plays on just about everything. This includes many Blu-Ray Players and TV’s.
            Google:
            Android and anything with a browser. Can’t confirm iOS, maybe you can.
            Windows Marketplace:
            Windows devices, Browser (coming soon)
            iTunes:
            Only iTunes compatible devices.
            I would say that iTunes approach to DRM is quite different from everyone else’s. Just because something is DRM’ed doesn’t mean it’s single platform.

          • Space Gorilla

            That you perceive arrogance coming from Apple says more about you than it does about Apple. I’ve used Apple gear since 1984, not once have I ever felt limited in what I could do, locked down, or less free. You’re starting to sound like a conspiracy nut.

          • klahanas

            You also believe that I’m going to be doing all my computing on a tablet. That speaks volumes about you too friend.

          • Space Gorilla

            That’s not quite right. What I say is the screen is the computer. Think about that for a while, let it simmer.

          • klahanas

            Okay, I let it simmer. The screen is the screen and the thing doing the computing is the computer. There.

        • Air_Cav

          Exactly which users choice has been violated? The ghost of Steve Jobs has not forced me to buy anything?

          • klahanas

            Should a user want to switch, and they have a lot invested in a movie library, that won’t play on their target device, I would say that there’s pressure to stay in the fols, if not forced.

    • TheEternalEmperor

      Flash? Talk about delusion…

  • http://www.slideshare.net/samirsshah Samir Shah

    1 Yes
    2 Yes
    3 No
    4 No
    5 No
    6 No
    7 No
    8 Yes
    9 Yes
    10 Yes
    11 Yes
    12 No

  • Bill Smith

    Here’s a prediction for 2014, and I’ve already put my money where my mouth is…

    This will be the year when TechPinions becomes a powerhouse in technology, a place where incredible columnists tout their skills, where great analysis and insight can be found first, and in the most useful forms. I strongly believe this is the best value around. Even the comments from the community are unrivaled in quality. You’ve earned your keep in 2013, and I’m convinced that this is going to be one of my “most visited” sites during 2014.

    Thank you for this treasure trove of information.