10 Tech Predictions for the New Year

For the last 26 years, I have taken a stab at predicting tech trends. Here is a link to my predictions for 2014. Note I was half right when I predicted Google would spin off Motorola to its own company. They instead sold to Lenovo. Interestingly, three years earlier, Ben and I predicted Google would buy Motorola and it what happened.

Ben and I also predicted last year PC sales could actually grow again in 2014. This has turned out to be basically true. In 2013, the industry was -10% in total PC sales. This year, they will only be off by -2-3%. Part of the reason for the slide in PC demand in 2012-2013 was people were still trying to figure out if a tablet could replace a PC. Now that most understand they still need a PC or laptop, demand for PCs has seen an uptick in 2014 which is why the decline is smaller. If you followed my yearly predictions from the beginning, you may also remember in the late 1990’s, I said within 10 years Apple would be the largest CE company in the world. I remember that because I got so many comments telling me I was an idiot.

With that in mind, here is what I see as some major trends for 2015.

1) I believe 2015 will be the year of the Chromebook. What is bizarre about this is, in the late 1990s, Larry Ellison, along with the CEO of Bell South, announced what they called the network PC. Bell South believed we would have high speed, ubiquitous bandwidth by early 2000 and Ellison felt that all a person needed was a device that connected to the internet — thus the Network PC. 15 years later, this particular vision is gaining ground — Chromebook’s were the top selling PCs during the holidays. While Chromebooks could never replace PCs in business, the education market and low end consumer markets are buying up Chromebooks in huge numbers. By the end of 2015, we should see them eating into established PC markets and impacting growth of the laptop segment.

2) In my December 2012 prediction column, I stated I believed we would have even more security breaches in 2013. That did happen but as you know from recent news, these types of breaches have not only occurred but became nastier. Look at the recent Sony Pictures security problem and its fallout as well as from Home Depot, Target, etc. Anyone can see this is a problem not going away. I also stated in that prediction I was very afraid our power grid would be attacked. Thankfully, that did not happen although we now know there were attempts to attack them during this time. However, from the things I am picking up from the security community, 2015 could be shaping up to be a very difficult year in keeping hackers away from our corporations, financial institutions and utilities. I know it does not take a genius to make this prediction but I have a sense 2015 will be the worst yet for these types of attacks.

3) Tablets will be positioned as personal TVs. The tablet market has become so competitive and prices have become so low that just about every household in the US has at least one. Around the world, tablets have become major product hits, especially ones that are low cost and used primarily for consuming media.

But in 2015 we will see a major push to position new tablets as personal televisions. Qualcomm’s new Broadcast LTE chip, which enables media to be broadcast directly to a smartphone or tablet and not use the local LTE radio, will help make this happen. In China, one of the major TV broadcasters is creating a branded tablet positioned and sold as a TV that can get all of their content as part of a subscription service. The tablet will be $99 with a small monthly fee for the content. Thanks to the Slingbox, I turn all of my tablets into personal TVs. People can already get video content via apps or over the web but this device would be a TV first and a tablet second. This “Tablet as a TV” push will start by mid-2015. 

4) Streaming media everywhere. HBO’s decision to go direct to consumers in early 2015 is a big deal. This type of unbundling of traditional cable content is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to moving even more content into direct streaming models and services. Add dedicated social media services being developed around sharing streaming content and even shared viewing from remote locations and next year we could see streaming media expand its reach and have a big impact on traditional media distribution.

5) We are hearing we could have some real breakthroughs in battery technology by the end of year as well as various electronics and new software techniques to squeeze more life out of our laptops, tablets and smartphones. By the end of 2015, we could have laptops that get close to 20 hours of battery life using this new technology.

6) While Apple is expected to release a larger iPad, I think Apple’s really big hit in 2015, besides the Apple Watch, will be a newly designed Macbook Air that is ultra thin and very light. The MacBook Air pretty much pushed the market to thin and light overall and, if Apple does something even thinner and lighter with a new MacBook Air, it could coin the term “ultra thins” and make them the next big thing in laptops.

7) You may have heard of things like Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner. In 2015, we should see a new category of devices some have called domestic robots. Robots are being developed to help in the garden, clean up after pets, assist the elderly and clean your home. We should see a lot of creativity around this concept by mid-2015.

8) Application specific tablets. Did you know it is cheaper to buy a $99 tablet than a souped up clock radio for the bedside? You not only get a variety of clock faces and alarms, but the versatility to listen to internet and AM/FM radio, podcasts and more. This is just one of the trends we are seeing as people buy cheap tablets to hang under kitchen cabinets, place in bathrooms to listen to news, podcasts, watch TV while getting ready and even for the kids’ bedside tables. This will be another growth factor for low end tablets.

9) Apple’s Watch will be more successful and disruptive than most think. Last year’s column predicted the death of smartwatches. Even though we did not see them die, they did not take off and, at the moment, are a floundering category. Although the Apple Watch may be a hard sell for most, early adopters will drive its first big push into the market and I predict there will be at least 5,000 apps available for the Apple Watch when it finally ships, it will find its place in the market and become the standard other watch makers will have to follow to be successful. More importantly, this will be the product that allows Apple to become a data broker between a person and their healthcare provider, which will eventually become a major revenue stream for Apple in the near future.

10) While 3D printers will gain more traction in 2015, what is really needed is easier ways to design or create 3D products. I believe we will see the first laptops with built in 3D cameras by the end of the year. You’ll take an object, put it in front of your laptop camera, push print, and it gets printed on the 3D printer on your desk. Don’t be surprised if Apple goes big on 3D cameras and/or ways to capture 3D images for use with 3D printers in 2015.

Published by

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.

23 thoughts on “10 Tech Predictions for the New Year”

  1. I would add to the second point is that the attacks of security breaches will lead to a major move to replace the use of credit cards. The U.S. is planning to move to EMV-based chip-and-pin cards in 2015, but that is nowhere near enough. The cards just have to go.

    The big winner is likely to be Apple–if they play it right. Apple Pay and Google Wallet are essentially similar,but Apple Pay uses the technology better and, more important, Apple has a much clearly way to move into the business while Google, typically, doesn’t seem to much care. But Apple will need a way to extend Apple Pay to other devices (with potentially a huge source of money in a new business). The alternative, making the Apple Phone the universal mobile device, would’t not take Apple where it wanted to go in the massive low-end phone market.

    1. You’re right, there’s another shoe waiting to drop with Apple Pay. I’ve read enough analyses about Apple to know that rule number 1 is Apple is a device company, and rule number 2 is Apple makes software and services so that it can sell devices. From that perspective, Apple Pay is a service to sell phones and watches.

      And Apple doesn’t do low-end. Parsing that double negative (“wound’t not”), I think the second “not” is a typo, resulting in “making the Apple Phone the universal mobile device wouldn’t take Apple where it wanted to go. So how does Apple Pay get on other devices? Waitin’ on that shoe.

      1. Apple has a history of not telling us about their future until they launch it. (I remember Steve Job’s vehement statements that they didn’t want business with wireless phone companies while they were fiercely negotiating contracts for the iPhone.) Adopting a business that requires support of transaction for non-Apple phones is outside of anything they do, at least until they change their mind. Remember the iPod.

  2. I’m wondering about Chromebooks (or other dumb-ish terminals, this is not about Chromebooks per se) in businesses. Are they such a no-go ? Between web apps, app streaming, the very limited tasks performed by most entreprise PC user (ie, data entry and basic Office), I’d assume Chromebooks lower purchase+setup+admin costs to be interesting ?

    1. Chromebooks are great as a modern version of the terminal tied to the mainframe. Schools, businesses, government, other highly managed organizations can benefit from their use.

      For the user there’s simplicity, at the expense of freedom and control. In some ways Chromebooks are the antithesis of what the PC brought to the party.

    2. Chromebooks have some real drawbacks for employees who take their computer to client sites or work from home, where connectivity is not always great. However, workers who have/had a desktop PC could be prime candidates for Chromebooks once Microsoft starts selling Office for Chromebooks (not holding my breath).

    3. I guess that many business and corporate users could use Chromebooks, especially as more applications are available. Perhaps Chromebooks (or similar dumbish-terminals) will be the default case, and only those employees who need something more would be allocated a full-function PC or tablet.

  3. About application-specific tablets… I’m not sure it’s really about being dedicated to a specific app/use, as much as about having specific, targeted features.
    – AM/FM radio is not that important in a (mostly home-bound) tablet; it is important in a phone though, and many do have it (woe on Samsung for dropping it in the S5, maybe even S4; my Huaweis do have it).
    – Sound in tablets is sorely lacking, both in volume and quality, whether for radio or TV use, let alone music. BT speakers or headsets don’t really fix the issue; Lenovo’s “fat bottom” Yoga line with its increased room for speakers is the best compromise right now, until they find a way to make small and flat speakers sound good and loud, if they ever do. For sedentary tablets, maybe trading thinness for better sound (and a built-in stand) makes sense ?
    – Splash- or even vapor/water-resistance would be nice, I know I’m extra careful while washing dishes w/ my tablet hung above the sink, and I’d love to have my tablet for reading/videos when taking a bath, or even just a to take a shower w/o interrupting my podcasts/radio.
    – Rugged; outdoor-legible; maybe even e-ink based (ie precluding video & color, but enabling weeks of battery life and pool-side reading at midday – how can Amazon not have upgraded its readers to full tablets yet ?); XL (Samsung and Lenovo already have 12-13″ models); ….

    1. I don’t think e-readers like Kindle and Kobo *should* be upgraded to full tablets. As it is, they are the perfect device for reading text – easy on the eyes, long battery life, no distractions, inexpensive. I would like to see Android tablets with a e-Ink screen, so that you can access e-books from different sources. There are some available now, but they may take some time to have the kinks worked out.

      1. I think there should be a choice. E-ink technology imposes harsh limitations anyway (monochrome, very slow refreshes), but a competent browser, email client, newsreader, Sudoku/Crossword/Solitaire, and IM (maybe other social: Twitter, FB,…) would complement e-reading nicely. Hey the screen could even be marketed as an automatic photo filter à la Snapseed ^^

  4. “Chromebook’s were the top selling PCs during the holidays”

    Will this show up in internet usage statistics? Because for all the hype, Chromebooks don’t seem to be making much of a dent in usage numbers, and considering that their whole point is as a dumb internet terminal, they should have more usage than traditional PCs.

    1. We have been looking for those numbers too and can’t seem to find them. Will keep looking as they have to be impacted Internet Usage stats.

    2. Chromebook aren’t likely to show up as a separate category. They simply show up as a chrome browser/ PC.

      Chromebooks do about 1.4 million each quarter vast majority to edu market.

    3. How many were given as gifts because they were cheap? How many will be used briefly, until the novelty wears off and/or the limitations become apparent, and then get left in a drawer, the back of the closet, etc.?

  5. While Chromebooks could never replace PCs in business…

    I think to some extent they can if Office 365 would work on them. At large businesses all work is done while connected to the internet so Chromebooks would work as well as any other PC.

  6. I’ve never been able to see the concept of the smartwatch as a viable one and I still can’t. If it was anybody other than Apple I would say it’s never going to happen. But Apple may surprise me. I’m waiting.

  7. “While Chromebooks could never replace PCs in business, the education market and low end consumer markets are buying up Chromebooks in huge numbers. By the end of 2015, we should see them eating into established PC markets and impacting growth of the laptop segment.”

    It’ll be interesting to see how this affects iPad sales going forward, even in light of the rumored 12″ iPad.

  8. The looming spectre of ever-escalating security breaches may well be the unexpected decider of the future of Chromebooks or netbooks/PC’s in the enterprise; what’s not certain is in which direction this issue will drive the fortunes of one or the other.

  9. I bought an “application-specific tablet” years before the iPad came out. It was called a “digital picture frame”. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  10. Actually, the network computer had just about nothing to do with the modern conception of the Chromebook.

    Network computer was a product of Oracle back in 1996. Oracle’s own NCOS was a derivative of RISC OS, and designed to boot over the network.

    That’s how it gets the name “network computer”; it’s a diskless computer that boots over the network, much like PXE boot, today. In fact, Oracle published a specification for “network computers” that was so broadly defined, it encompassed every computer – even Windows. The Oracle product, however, was a full Unix, with the Unix architecture, and running native apps locally just like every Unix. So, again, there’s not really even a slight similarity with the webtop architecture and the “network computer” architecture. Chrome OS is not designed to run native apps, it has a disk, and it doesn’t do network boot.


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