My Tech Wishlist for 2021

I have spent a bit of time with reporters over the last week who have asked me to comment on my thoughts about tech in 2021. Many of these reporters know that I have done an annual New Year prediction column in late December for about 28 years. Last year was the first time in decades that I decided not to do any prediction column for the next year. Based on what we have gone through in 2020, this looks like a wise move as I don’t know of anyone who predicted the year we are about to leave.

We did see some bright spots for tech in 2020, as I outline in my Forbes column last week. I list areas like increased demand for PCs and notebooks, a move towards the cashless transaction, and faster adoption of things like Apple and Android pay.

I also point out the broader acceptance of work-from-home, which helped deliver greater adoption of video conferencing. Zoom is now a video conferencing company as well as an adjective. Tech companies have bandied about digital transformation for over a decade. But 2020 seems to have forced all types of companies to move faster towards digital business processes, which might not have accelerated without this pandemic.

As I have thought about doing an end-of-year column that focuses on predictions and trends for 2021, I still doubt that anyone can fully predict our economy, political landscape, and most industries’ ability to rebound in the new year. I am in the camp that we may still have some unknown landmines to navigate around in 2021.

On the other hand, there were a few tech developments in 2020 that I would like to see advanced in 2021.

The first one is related to foldable mobile devices. I think that the interest in larger/folding screens on smartphones is a legitimate trend, but a smartphone like Apple’s iPhone 12 Max Pro, with a 6.7-inch screen, maybe the largest screen anybody might tolerate in a smartphone in the future.

Samsung and others have introduced folding phones, and LG has created one that has two screens side by side in a case that, when opened, doubles the viewing screen size. I have tried most of the available folding smartphones, and while they are creatively designed, they are not a smartphone that will ever have mass adoption by consumers.

I would like to see more innovation at the hardware and software level with folding smartphones in 2021 that make them more acceptable, along with more consumer-friendly prices.

Folding laptops, while not what I would call a significant trend anytime soon, show promise. As I wrote in Tech.pinions a few weeks back, I have spent about three months now working with an early version of Lenovo’s X1 Fold.

The X1 fold is very innovative. The patented hinges that allow it to fold are a remarkable feat of engineering. The folding screen works well, and the way they keep the screen flush to the case when folding is genius. As I pointed out in the column, Lenovo and others doing any folding portable computer are stuck using a standard version of Windows 10, which is not optimized for dual-screen apps and multiple screen integration.

Sometime in 2021, Microsoft will make more broadly availale a Windows version, called Windows 10X, designed to work on dual-screen/folding devices. Once this happens, I expect other PC vendors to bring out folding laptops of their own to compete with Lenovo’s X1. With foldable devices, an operating system designed for them is critical for any folding laptop’s success. While they may never be big sellers, many business professionals could adapt them to their mobile business work-styles. 2021 could see new designs and lower prices, and coupled with Windows 10X, they could find a favorable niche in the market.

Another technology that has seen a bit of an uptick in 2020 has been VR travel. Oculus headsets gained a broader consumer adoption in 2020, and virtual travel and gaming drove new demand for this VR product.

While VR is a questionable technology for the masses, it is gaining serious traction in business and the enterprise. Especially in training, simulations, and manufacturing.

I have been working on a project related to VR training and CRM and have been amazed at how many enterprise-class apps are available using VR headsets of various kinds. Even more impressive is how many of the Fortune 1000 have integrated VR into all types of training programs for internal training and even customer service and sales programs.

I do not believe VR will ever be a mass consumer product like I think AR will eventually be; however, VR in business is growing. I would like to see even more VR innovation for the enterprise in 2021.

Over the next few weeks, you will see many articles and story’s about 2021 tech predictions. Some may have legs, and others may only be pipe dreams. Given the turmoil all of us have endured in 2020, and not seeing any of it in 2019, suggests you take any predictions, whether tech or not, with a grain of salt.

I am cautiously optimistic that 2021 will be better for tech and other industries, as well as individuals. But anyone who believes that any forecaster can see 2021 through their crystal ball and accurately predict what happens in 2021 will be disappointed.

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.

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