2014 was a big year in technology. Wearable technology broke into the public consciousness, drones had everyone buzzing, smartphones got bigger (again), and large-scale cyberattacks grabbed headlines. Given that the consumer electronics industry is now intricately interwoven with modern culture, predicting the trends of the industry is akin to looking into the future. And because it’s not cool to be a clickbait post that makes vague and generally accurate but unhelpful predictions, each prediction will end with one very bold and probably ridiculous statement. That being said, here are my predictions for technology trends in 2015.
Update: On the Vergecast Ep. 135, the last day of CES, Casey Newton talks about two of my points (cars and IoT) with nearly the same opinion Listen to that podcast here, at 38:10 for the part about cars and about a minute later for the part about Internet of Things, which I find quite funny. I promise this article was written before I heard the episode.
Internet of Things gets a rebrand
The internet of things. One of the biggest buzzwords of 2014, but does the average consumer know what that means? Many manufacturers mistakenly think that adding a screen or a remote control app to every appliance makes it “smart” but I don’t entirely agree. While being able to start a washer machine at work with an iPhone is admittedly smarter than manually doing so, but that doesn’t make it part of the internet of things. The point of the IoT is to connect everything in a web of communication, like its namesake phenomenon, and I don’t see a whole lot of entries in that space. An example would be if a home security system turned on interior lights when it detected motion, or all devices went into “away mode” when one device, like a Nest thermostat does. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s not on the list of IFTTT channels (the digital manifestation of the internet of everything), it’s not actually the an IoT device. Until someone figures out the magic recipe for IoT, I think the hype will die, mostly because brands think people want their television to talk to their dishwasher.
Bold Prediction: The Internet of Things stops being “the thing”.
Self driving cars come of age
Back in May, Google revealed that the longtime project of modding Toyota Prii (yes, that is the plural of Prius) into self-driving vehicles had reached a new milestone: it’s own concept car. Looking like something out of a cartoon, the car has no pedals or steering wheel and is fully functional. Late in 2014, Google asked permission from San Francisco to test its prototype on the road.
Even just this should be enough to forebode the rise of autonomous vehicles, but it’s not just that: everyone is making self-driving cars. Tesla’s Model S P85D has some sweet self-driving features (but they’re quick to label it Autopilot, and not self-driving). Volvo is on the cutting edge as well. Many other car companies are introducing self-driving components, but there are lots of naysayers. I think the technology is progressing faster than we think.
Bold Prediction: In 2015, Google, likely in tandem with an established car manufacturer, will announce plans to introduce a completely self-driving car.
Tablets die a slow death
Since the iPad caught on, the use cases for tablets have been this: 1) when a phone proves too small for viewing the content (like movies), 2) when the television is too dumb to access the content (like Netflix), 3) or when the work too light enough to justify lugging out a laptop.With the ever-increasing size of smartphones, the plethora of ways to stream content on a television (Roku, Chromecast, Apple/Android TV, and the rise of inexpensive, lightweight laptops (Chromebooks), the use case scenarios for tablets are dwindling. The only hope for tablets is for them to become actual productivity devices, which so far has failed miserably. One one hand, iPads, Kindles, and Android tablets are built for consuming content, and are not equipped for what most people do for work or school (I know a few people who try this with frustration). On the other hand, Microsoft Surface tablets and other various hybrids are build for productivity and have had minimal success, mostly because for a tablet to be productive, it pretty much needs to be a laptop, and becomes a less fun tablet. Bottom line? Laptops are good at being laptops, tablets are good at being tablets. And now that phones are getting bigger, phones are getting to beating tablets at their own game.
Bold Prediction: Tablet sales, especially smaller ones, will shrink. Apple will introduce multitasking productivity features into iPads to distinguish them from iPhones.
Streaming content gets a boost
I think 2015 will be the year that studios realize that after the disc sales have died down, they gain nothing by keeping titles to themselves and off streaming services like Netflix. I eternally hate when titles disappear off Netflix, and I hope we will be seeing this less.
Taylor Swift might have gotten away with pulling off Spotify to sell more albums, but anyone with less star power than she would lose out. Even Swift, is not impervious to grumbling from the hordes of people who are used to are used to having access to any music they desire in exchange for a few advertisements. I think that Spotify will be willing to shell out a few more bucks to keep their claim on such a comprehensive library.
Bold Prediction: Taylor Swift comes back to Spotify.
Digital purchases go through the roof
This point is an interesting juxtaposition to the previous one, and while I think music purchases will decline in favor of streaming services, I think that consumers will be more willing to make digital purchases including digital movies, online services, and apps. In the past, many people balked at anything beyond free apps, and apart from Amazon, online purchase were rare. Now with the ease of Apple Pay, and the recent influx of people using Google Wallet to rent movies (a few million people signed up just to watch The Interview), people will be less hesitant to buy services.
Bold Prediction: Apple Pay takes off
Let’s see how those predictions pan out. Have a great 2015!