Predictions for 2014

Here are my tech predictions for the coming year…

predictionsGazing into a crystal ball isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially in the tech world.   So much can change so quickly, that guessing what may or may not happen is, at times, nothing more than a SWAG – a Silly Wild <BEEP!> Guess.   Figuring out what is and isn’t possible vs. what is or isn’t probable, I try not to get into. It simply doesn’t make for good journalism in many cases, because so much can and usually does change so quickly in the tech world. In most cases you either end up with a, “well THAT was way off,” a “close but not quite,” or “keep trying… you’ll get it eventually.”   If some journalists DO get things right, it’s usually not because they made the right level of analysis, it’s usually because they were fed or had access to inside information, or the guess was so totally obvious that most anyone who follows the news could have guessed it and been right.

Well, I’m going to try to hit on all of those and I’m going to give it a go anyway. I figure that I haven’t got anything to lose. As I said, I’m either going to be way off, or I’m going to hit the no brainers.   Be that as it may, here are my tech predictions for 2014 in no particular order.

1.    Wearable Computing Still Doesn’t Take Off
This is really an easy one. The Samsung Galaxy Watch isn’t selling well. Having a wearable that does nothing more than pair with your phone and mimic some of its functionality when the device is in range of its Bluetooth 4.x radio hasn’t been received very well. In fact, the watch isn’t selling well at all.   Samsung may have gotten to market first on this, but despite being heavily anticipated, the watch hasn’t delivered much to its users except a high price tag.

Apple has hung back on this, and hasn’t released its highly anticipated wearable, popularity thought to be called the iWatch.   If it does nothing more than what Samsung’s wearable does, you can pretty much expect it to be a dud too.   I think this, more than anything else is why you haven’t seen Apple release this device yet.   If you remember, Apple released the iPhone in 2007, after it had been rumored to be in development for at least 4 years.   At the time, Steve Jobs KNEW that he had one shot at this. If he didn’t get it right, then the iPhone would have been an iDud, and the tech world would be very different today, indeed.   I think Apple is doing the same thing with the iWatch.

The iWatch needs to be innovative. It needs to be elegant. Most importantly, it needs to be affordable.   Having an additional $300-$500 iDevice accessory added on to your already expensive iDevice isn’t going to do your checking account any favors. Not only will it need to do everything that the Samsung Galaxy Watch does, but it will have to do much, much more.   While it might be nice to have fitness, activity and sleep monitoring built into it, it’s going to have to do much more than that as well. It may be that figuring out exactly WHAT else it needs to do is the key holdup in the device’s release – no one really knows exactly what else it SHOULD DO, especially since the Samsung product hit the market with a clear and solid thud.

It’s for this reason that I don’t think wearables take off in 2014.   In fact, it may be the end of the concept as well.   If Apple can’t figure this one out, then the whole device concept may just fade and –uh hem… – wear itself out.

2.    Blackberry Totally Folds – Sells off its Assets
I’ve been pretty bearish on Blackberry, formerly RIM, for quite a while.   I had a good feeling that the one serious buyout offer it had wouldn’t fly, and that its (former) CEO, Thorsten Heins, would end up on the outside looking in.   Like most of what its known for, the actions that the company took were too little, too late to garner any serious buyout candidates.   Blackberry’s new CEO, John Chen really has one chance to get it right, and if he’s on top of things, then he will act on the TRUE best interests of the company and forget the restructuring and rebuilding of the business and just sell the company’s assets off to the highest bidder(s) he can find.

The organization’s time is over; and while farming out the manufacturing of their handsets to FoxConn may have been a good idea, like the rest of what the company has done, it is also a development that is very late in coming to reality. If John Chen is smart, he’ll realize the company is too far gone to breathe serious life back into and will just sell off what he can to retrieve shareholder value back before the company has to declare bankruptcy and then its assets are worth just a fraction of their worth.   The biggest problem the company has is that it can’t afford another loss like its last quarter.   It doesn’t have another $4.0B to lose.

3.    Apple & Samsung Still Can’t Get it Together
I’ve seen a number of articles that point to the fact that Samsung and Apple are headed back to the arbitration table in 2014 before their trial is set to restart in 2015.   The two organizations don’t have a track record for cooperation or doing things on the cheap. Given this, and the fact that Samsung is totally on the hook for a HUGE wad of cash, I don’t think they’re going to agree to disagree, let alone agree on an appropriate settlement between them. Given all this, I think it’s a decent bet that Apple and Samsung will drag out negotiations up until the trial date and then put the bulk of the matter back in Judge Lucy Koh’s lap…and she’s prolly gonna have a cow.

To put it bluntly, this is going to extend well into 2015, and then it still won’t end well for Samsung. They’re going to have to come up with a great deal of cash to resolve the issue; and they aren’t going to be happy about that.   With extra scrutiny on them and their design processes, I think that many new devices that come out of Samsung will be viewed as Apple iPhone copies for many, many years. I also think they will likely have trouble coming up with new, innovative designs, as they haven’t really done anything original since just before the release of the iPhone in 2007.

4.    Microsoft’s Next CEO is…
Satchin Mulally.   I mean Alan Nadella.   Yeah… this one isn’t any easy call.

However, I believe it’s going to come down to one of these two candidates. Nadella has the history and familiarity with Microsoft and its products; and probably has enough juice within the organization and familiarity with the Board to get the level of support he would need to be successful. He also has YEARS of tech experience. The one thing he doesn’t have – experience turning a large company around…

Which Mulally has…   Ford was in an awful mess.   It took a lot not only to turn public opinion of the brand around, but a lot to get the company back on track.   Windows in and of itself isn’t a bad brand. Neither is Microsoft, for that matter.   They’ve got brand management issues to be sure, but with the right CEO, I still think Microsoft can turn it all around.   That’s what Mulally can do for the company.   Not only do I think he’s up to the challenge, I think it would be interesting for him to take on the role and see what he could do with it.   If he could do the same thing for Microsoft that he did with Ford, then the remainder of his career would be set. He could go where he wants or stay at MS and retire a very happy, VERY rich man.

Unfortunately for Mulally, he has absolutely NO tech experience what so ever, and would have to rely on his executive staff to provide him with the support he would need to drive the company.   This could also be a good move for Nadella, as his level of autonomy could grow and he could basically have his way with his divisions, providing ample evidence that he can run the entire organization once Mulally does decide to retire, marking him as the heir apparent. For Nadella, this could be a win-win.

What do you think will happen with these four issues?   Am I off my nut, or did I hit some of these on the head, or merely come close? Do you have any other predictions that you think might or might not come true? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion below.   Why not join us there and give us your thoughts on these and other tech predictions for 2014?

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