Top 5 Tech Predictions for 2015

on December 30, 2014

As the New Year approaches, I’m inexorably drawn to making predictions. I can’t seem to help myself, honestly. As an analyst, it just seems to be in my blood. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 picks for predictions in what promises to be a very interesting year.

Prediction 1: Retro Tech Will Be a Major Theme in 2015

The tech products we’ve all come to know and love—smartphones, tablets, 2-in-1s, etc.—have arguably reached a plateau in their physical design. As a result, we now all own several pieces of thin, flat glass that can be used for an enormous variety of amazing applications, services, communications and thousands of other uses. Don’t get me wrong, that’s great; but be honest with yourself. At a certain point, isn’t “smart glass” kind of boring?

In the quest for finding something new and dramatically different from the norm, I believe we’ll see a variety of experiments this year with adding buttons, knobs, switches, sliders and other analog controls onto our digital devices. Much of these developments may come initially from the “maker” movement instead of large vendors, but I sense a growing interest in bringing a more visceral, tactile experience to our digital devices. Plus, I’d argue the devices are in desperate need of character and distinction as one piece of smart glass looks a heckuva lot like another piece of smart glass. It’s time to shake things up and this is the year I think it will happen.[pullquote]I’d argue our digital devices are in desperate need of character and distinction as one piece of smart glass looks a heckuva lot like another piece of smart glass.”[/pullquote]

We’re already starting to see signs of these more retro tech developments. Vinyl records made a big resurgence in 2014 and many of today’s young hipsters have rediscovered flip phones. In an era of clean, multifunction devices, the need to create unique, single-focus products that can cleverly leverage technologies of the past is an intriguing opportunity that I believe several clever entrepreneurs (and maybe even large vendors) will start to tap into.

Prediction 2: There Will Be More “Dis-Connected” Homes Than Connected Ones in 2015

One of the big themes predicted to influence the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is products and services designed for the smart or connected home. In fact, I have no doubt that we will see quite a few intriguing new developments in that area at this year’s show. But there are still fundamental challenges around connectivity and standards that will ultimately put a damper on many of these efforts.

The bottom line is that there are a number of interesting products that can bring specific functions to your home. Each one typically requires its own app or service, however, and trying to get them all work together in some sort of unified fashion is challenging, if not impossible, even for tech-savvy consumers. As a result, consumers willing to dive in will likely find they have to manage a series of disparate, disconnected solutions in order to achieve their dream home of the future. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of a connected home, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

Prediction 3: Custom Mobile Applications Will Go Mainstream in Business, But Android Will Lead

The Apple/IBM announcement regarding building custom mobile applications for business was widely seen as demarcation point in this burgeoning market. Not only did the announcement bring together strange bedfellows in a historically intriguing way, it signaled that a wide variety of industry players and potential customers were finally ready to get serious about mobile apps for business. The truth is, despite all the hype, most companies only have a handful of active mobile apps versus hundreds that they have for PCs.

Despite all the Apple/IBM efforts, however, making choices about what platforms to support for those mobile apps isn’t necessarily as simple as it appears. In many instances, it’s about the numbers. Like it or not, Android’s dominant share of the smartphone space, even in the US, gives it a huge advantage and I believe it will lead Android to become the platform of choice on more custom business apps than any other platform (even in spite of some of its potential security flaws).

Prediction 4: Windows 10 Will Be a Hit and Will Reinvigorate the PC Market

Microsoft’s forthcoming release of Windows 10 is arguably one of the most important releases in the company’s long storied history. The Microsoft haters may not like it, but the company still holds a powerful sway with both consumers and businesses and many have been eagerly awaiting how they would pull themselves out of the whole they put themselves into with Windows 8.

Early signs and early reports are all very encouraging and I believe Windows 10 will end up being a bit hit for the company. More importantly, Windows 10 will keep Microsoft as a relevant point of conversation when it comes major platforms for smart connected devices.

Windows 10 will likely lead to intriguing new designs from major PC vendors and give them a renewed sense of vigor. For consumers, Windows 10 will be a fresh new choice that delivers on the promise of what Windows 8 could have been—all the while maintaining strong links to the familiar (and popular) Windows 7. Most importantly, for businesses, Windows 10 represents a desperately needed clear path forward. Even though I don’t expect many businesses to quickly jump to the new OS shortly after its introduction, just knowing it’s there will provide them with a roadmap for where they’re going and give them the opportunity to skip Windows 8 entirely.

Prediction 5: Wireless Charging Will Be Broadly Adopted

The general reduction of wires necessary to use all our devices has been a blessing, but the one umbilical cord that’s remained attached to most everything we regularly use is a power cord. After several false starts, I believe 2015 is the year wireless charging will finally deliver on the promise of a completely cord-free device.

As with the connected home, there are still some standards wars brewing in the wireless charging arena, but the general momentum seems to be pointing towards the A4WP’s Rezence standard. Another driving factor will be the more widespread deployment of charging pads in public places. These deployments started in 2014 but are expected to expand greatly this coming year. Like many core technologies, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg game with device makers waiting for ecosystem partners to support it and vice versa, but I expect to see a lot of wireless charging-enabled wearables, smartphones, tablets and even some notebooks in 2015.