It is a generally accepted requirement that all technology pundits attempt a yearly prognostication of the coming 12 months. Having consulted my crystal ball, scryed the entrails of a falcon, and completed a 3 day fasting ritual in a sweat lodge set up inside a Best Buy, I will now tempt the Gods of Hubris and make my guesses for the year in mobile.
Apple releases a new breakthrough technology (or at least something they claim is a breakthrough.) It’s been several years since Apple did anything beyond incremental improvements to the iPhone and iPad lines. The iPhone and iPad were both breakthrough products, that put Apple several years ahead of the competition, but as time has progressed, that lead has evaporated. Changes in form factor or small features like Siri or a fingerprint sensor are too easy for Android and Surface to ape, or even beat Apple to market. Tim Cook needs to prove that Apple can generate a new set of breakthrough products under his management, and 2014 is the year it needs to happen.
Blackberry goes for the pure software play. It’s no secret that Blackberry is in a world of hurt, and they have signalled that they are going to return to their original strength, the business market. The problem is, the days when employers gave their workers Blackberrys is gone. No one wants to carry around multiple devices, and Apple and Android have the personal market sewn up. We’ve already see parts of the Blackberry infrastructure ported to iOS, and this is where Blackberry’s strength lies. If they’re smart, Blackberry will exit the hardware market and move to providing a secure and auditable network infrastructure for business users on the popular mobile platforms.
Google attempts to rein in their fractured Android landscape. There’s no question that Android has been a huge success, but it’s also proving to be a big headache for developers and users, because the carriers have total control over what versions of Android run on each phone, and when they get updated. While Apple developers only have to worry about one release back, typically, there are popular Android devices out there that are running two or three year old versions of the OS. As contracts come up for renewal, Google needs to start playing hard-ball, and insist carriers keep the handsets up to date with the latest versions of the OS.
Some form of wearable mobile platform finally gains traction. There are now a ton of watch-style devices that pair to phones, and even some rings in development. You also have Google Glass in the mix, although it is getting smeared with an “only hipster geeks would use Glass” stain. There’s clearly a demand for some kind of wearable technology, but no one has been able create the killer app yet. Sometime in 2014, expect to see someone finally get it right.