Thursday, January 31, 2013

Early Indications January 2013: A Plethora of Predictions

Longtime readers know that I have in some years written prediction newsletters, then followed up 11 months later to grade the list. This year, we'll look at several prediction lists from other people to see what commonalities, divergences, agendas, and insights might emerge. And then I'll offer a modest prediction list of my own.

Assembling predictions was extremely easy, so I settled on a random sample of six lists, ranging in size from five items to about a dozen. (Why so many people feel the need to predict is probably worth puzzling over.) Herewith are the lists:

1) Time

Augmented reality will go mainstream
Google’s Chromebooks will get more consumer attention, gaining traction in 2013
Hybrids and convertibles will see high interest from IT departments
7-in. tablets will dominate tablet sales
Apple will create a hybrid tablet-laptop
Samsung will invest in its own future [in the form of a mobile OS]
Microsoft will get into smart-phone hardware
Apple will make a large investment in its supply chain
Google will go fully vertical with Motorola
RIM will make a modest rebound but will eventually be acquired

2) Deloitte
I quote:

Disruptors are opportunities that can create sustainable positive disruption in IT capabilities, business operations, and sometimes even business models.

    CIO as the Postdigital Catalyst
    Mobile Only (and beyond)
    Social Reengineering by Design
    Design as a Discipline
    IPv6 (and this time we mean it)

Enablers are technologies in which many CIOs have already invested time and effort, but which warrant another look because of new developments or opportunities.

    Finding the Face of Your Data
    Gamification Goes to Work
    Reinventing the ERP Engine
    No Such Thing as Hacker-proof
    The Business of IT

3) Shel Israel in Forbes

Apple's edge will dull
The year of wearables
They'll know who we are [mobile + social + big data + sensors + location = predictive context]
Buzzwords will die
Data contracts and margins will erode [for telcos]

4) The Telegraph
Surprises are guaranteed in:

Facebook monetization

5) ZDNet

3D printing
Augmented reality
[Apple] TV
Anonymous/Wikileaks revival
Big data gets bigger
BYOD soars at work
Tech giants go BRIC
Rim and Nokia declare themselves
Apple faces testing times
Internet of things
T-Mobile+MetroPCS, Sprint+Clearwire
Cloud computing growth meets legal tangles
Yahoo bets it all on mobile?

6) Gartner

Mobile devices battle for market share as mobile > PC
Mobile applications & HTML 5 [fight it out]   
Personal Cloud means services > devices
Internet of Things [esp. embedded sensors, image recognition, and NFC]
Hybrid IT and Cloud Computing
Strategic Big Data
Actionable Analytics
Mainstream In-Memory Computing
Integrated Ecosystems   
Enterprise App Stores


The PC is the platform of the past -- except possibly as a tablet hybrid. Note how every list assumes the primacy of the mobile device. Even so, the PC industry remains big, if highly contested and low-margin.

The TV looks like the next battlefield.

Even when it's not mentioned, cloud computing is assumed in the need for powerful mobile capabilities. A trend is truly powerful when people stop talking about it and just use it: NFC fails on this score; maps/location are huge by this metric.

Several companies face make-or-break (or at least win-or-give up the lead) moments in their corporate history: Apple is no longer "cool" or singularly cool. Microsoft must prove it can win off the PC desktop. Nokia and RIM may both be gone by year end. Google has many irons in the fire but neither Chromebooks nor Android nor Glass nor maps nor YouTube has proven to make serious money. Yahoo can't have many more lives (or CEOs) left to play out if it doesn't crack the mobile code.

Google's wearable/augmented reality play successfully drove very strong PR -- just as search used to do with journalists 15 years ago.


Other than differences in focus -- consumer gadgets vs CIOs -- there wasn't a lot of overt disagreement among the lists.

ZDNet is the only list that mentions 3D printing, which, while not the second coming of Watt's steam engine, is going to make a difference in the long run. Possibly much like GPS or WiFi, there won't be a breakthrough moment but rather one day we will simply notice that it's extremely widespread and wonder why there wasn't much fuss.

I was surprised there wasn't more emphasis on security. Deloitte's tagline, "no such thing as hacker-proof," gets at the conundrum of BYOD, mobile access, heterogeneous computing and networking environments, effectively infinite horsepower for bad guys to crack passwords, substantial investments by nation-states in cyber-disruption (or worse), etc.


Just a word here on what might drive these lists. ZDNet presented theirs as a slideshow, which does wonders for page view counts even when the photos did nothing to illustrate mangy of the abstract concepts: how many more data center server racks must we see to illustrate Big Data? Shel Israel wants to sell books, and his list reflects his current research themes: fair enough. As for Deloitte, the firm clearly needs to sell consulting services to CIOs, but the list was both obtuse (what is a "post digital catalyst"?) and partially wrong: I would wager serious money that enterprise gamification will only be marginally more prevalent a year from now, if that.


The business landscape is extremely volatile. "Built to last" is getting harder to find, particularly in information industries. Leaders in one quarter can lose their advantage very quickly, and stock market responses can be irrational: Amazon missed its numbers pretty badly and its stock prize rose while the fall in Apple's share price is hard to square with objective performance. In that context of volatility, speed, and unpredictability, here are my seven predictions for 2013:

1) Value chain realignment
Whether at Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Dell, Google/Motorola, HP, Microsoft, or Samsung, the mobile-first world is forcing hardware, software, services, content, and carriage to align in new ways. Each of these players is experimenting with extensions and reconfigurations of its original core value proposition. We will see more.

2) Cyber insecurity
The latest James Bond move had strands of Stuxnet, Wikileaks, Anonymous, and the Internet of Things effectively woven into a plausible tapestry of cyber-threat. We will see new unpleasant and potentially dangerous effects of global interconnectedness and reliance on digital records, personas, and entertainment.

3) CIO speciation
For all the talk about IT as a tool for competitive advantage over the past 20 years, for every Amazon there are dozens of companies that use computers to schedule production, ship orders, and pay bills. Rather than insist -- annually -- that the latter will grow to resemble the former, I think it's realistic to see that there are several kinds of enterprise computing scenarios. Just as tigers can't change their stripes, most keep-the-lights-on IT shops will never become sources of strategic advantage.

4) Computing in three dimensions
The Internet of Things, GPS, sensors, robotics, and mass mobility mean that computing power is being applied to physical space as much as to numbers and symbols on a screen. Augmented reality, self-driving (and software-augmented) cars, robots (including drones), and other developments point to a future in which computing leaves the beige box.

5) People and data are two sides of the same coin
Nate Silver's excellent book The Signal and the Noise (more on that next month) raises a fundamental point: numbers do not speak for themselves. People assemble, parse, and interpret data in many ways, few of which are currently very self-aware. Numeracy is one big challenge, especially given U.S. high school math teaching, but so is a more nuanced view of the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, the observer and the observed.

6) Mobile implies social, social implies mobile 
Investors and tech strategists underestimate Facebook at their peril. The connection of people to people in a mobile world is changing profoundly, not all for the better I don't think, but Facebook's massive presence at the nexus of computing, communication, and social signaling gives the company terrific leverage. This stature could change quickly -- Apple's relative loss of cool was inevitable, with significant effects, yet still sudden -- but until proven otherwise, Facebook remains a force to be reckoned with. When Mark Zuckerberg said yesterday that Facebook is NOT building a phone, he merely highlighted the complex set of issues and opportunities at the juncture of people, their tools, and their emotional needs.

7) It's a big world after all
Globalization in the context of computing and communications is playing out in fascinating ways. Japan, Inc is largely absent from the leadership: Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony are losing prodigious amounts of money. Africa is teaching the world about mobility as it applies to banking, social networks, and ad hoc resiliency. The Arab Spring story continues to be written, too often in blood as well as in texts and tweets. Finally, apart from Samsung, name a non-US company of strategic significance: every other tech firm in India, China, and Europe is jostling for position in markets heading toward commoditization. Expect to see even clearer separation of the giants (Apple, Google, Samsung, maybe Microsoft) from the rest of the corporate pack even as local habits and innovations propagate.

As in the past I will self-grade these predictions after the year plays out.