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.