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SKEPTOID BLOG:

2014 Predictions in Technology: Getting Better

by Bruno Van de Casteele

January 17, 2015

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Donate Each year in January, I make a roundup of one particular set of predictions in technology. They are written by Mark Anderson from Strategic News Service. Over the years, I've come to realise he's not a psychic (he doesn't claim to be one), but that he seems to be a good listener and can connect the dots. Indeed, I assume from his writings that he interviews C-level executives of tech companies, and is able to catch whatever is buzzing in the industry. Coupled with some good guessing and vague wording, it is claimed he has a 94% success rate, according to Alley Watch.


I do not know if he claims that rate himself, or if it's only attributed to him by the aforementioned website. In past years (see predictions for 2012 and 2013) I scored him between 30 and 40%, losing points because of vague wording or failing to see big events happening. So I was interested to see what he predicted for 2014. In past years, he was at least honest enough to publish for free the predictions of the previous years. Sadly, no such thing for 2014! I tried to contact StratNews for a copy of his article, but received no reply.

I therefore have to score based on an article in the Daily Beast. It just lists the items from his predictions, not the additional commentary. I will therefore be lenient on the "precision" score, which I use to weigh the score on what actually happened.

1. Siris Move Into Silos. Internet assistants display their importance as a category by spreading out into a large number of new Siri-like products, many of which work to increase utility by going deep into vertical markets. The results are improved success in voice recognition, knowledge-base utility, and customer trust and acceptance.

A bit vague. Voice recognition in which markets? Any niche application could be considered a hit, but it's just guessing based on the past success of Siri. So 20% for preciseness.

This didn't actually happen... There are some interesting applications (in jet fighters or the moving anecdote about an autistic kid that became friends with Siri) and the results get better, but no real breakthrough. Granted, it was only said "improved success" so any success could be considered a hit... so 50% at best.

2. Visualization Goes Mainstream. As big data, cloud computing, and vast increases in storage and processing take hold, the role of data visualization becomes much more common in our tools. Having created systems much more advanced than the human brain in these categories, we now must find improved ways of digesting all of this information.

Still a bit vague, and big data and cloud computing was already "big" in 2013. Still, quite concrete on tools and what one can do with it. 75% for preciseness.

And speaking from within the industry, the tools are indeed getting much more visual (such as elasticsearch.'s newly launched services, for example). So I give it a 100%.

3. The Cheaper Factor. Low price becomes a critical driver in global consumer-electronics product creation, as emerging economies absorb a dramatically larger fraction of all devices sold. The result of bringing hundreds of millions out of poverty is a shift in design motivation from the radically innovative, to incremental change at low cost, driven by the creation of a new purchaser segment in consumer electronics.

Quite precise, but it could have been worded a lot better: "emerging economies will drive the design of cheaper devices." Still, audaciously worded, so 100%.

I cannot consider this an exact hit, even though prices are going down for products, and India and China are becoming huge markets, especially for cheaper devices. However, I do not see a design motivation for incremental changes at low cost. On the contrary, it seems cheaper devices are created by cutting features (e.g. no front camera, no LTE). Still, 75%

4. Sub-$100 Smartphones dominate the phone category

Nice prediction. 100% for precision.

But... failed. The average price is indeed dropping, and it seems the sub-200 category is booming, it is not yet dominant (let alone the sub-100 category). So 0%, but who knows, maybe in a couple of years?

5. Sub-$250 pads dominate the pad/CarryAlong category. These ought to be the top two best-selling product types in their categories for the year, and these two categories ought to be the top two consumer electronics categories for the year, when measured by volume.

Again, quite precise. 100%.

And, being a bit lenient, that's a full hit. The sub-250 category seems indeed driving growth, so "dominate" is probably OK. 100%

6. Software Plays on a Flat Hardware Field, as We Build Out the Global Computer. This is the real mover behind everything in IT, from the blank black real estate of your cellphone and pad, to virtualized storage and servers, emulated processors, software-defined networks and the most advanced cloud-computing services. Even as hardware continues to advance, software is where most of the energy, innovation, and action occur.

This year the predictions seem to be written while under influence—very woolly. And here, in my opinion, it serves to get quite a few vague terms across. That costs points on preciseness, so only 50%. And that's being lenient, because software is already, and has been for a long time, the differentiating factor for certain platforms.

Therefore it is difficult to estimate if it is correct. For instance, mobile phones just seem to get better, without anything that is surprisingly new. Gadgets like smartwatches do not make the difference either. But then again, in my opinion there are few very innovative software applications that have appeared in 2014 either. So 60% at best.

7. The New Microsoft That No One Expected. Microsoft gets a new CEO, with a new power structure that encourages cooperation instead of warring factions, and which leads to improved success in consumer markets. The stock continues to climb, on an annualized basis, and Redmond starts to get some of its "mojo" back, defined by people wanting to work there.

Yes, mentioning a specific company gets you more points, but "some of its mojo" seems vague. For a company that makes everything from an OS to games, does tablets and phones but also cloud services, etc., any small success can be considered a hit. Still, stock is a measurable item. So 75% for preciseness.

It seems cloud, phones, and tablets are indeed performing better than hoped. Microsoft is indeed doing better, as is its stock price. I have to be honest here, and will score a 100%, even though expectations were already high in 2013.

8. Micromapping arrives. Various firms open the door on a brand new category in mapping, advertising, location and ID, and transactions. This MALT category launches in 2014, with small but fast-growing revenue that will become mammoth in years ahead.

I had to look this up... He's talking about all the usage of "beacons." The prediction is quite OK, but any small revenue that is growing fast (normal for a startup) could be considered a hit. The real hit can only be scored in a couple of years. So I'm scoring this at 60%, deducting points because it's not specific enough to 2014.

Considering if it actually happened; there was certainly some evolution but it's too early I think to consider it for future success. Furthermore, when searching for terms like micromapping and MALT, I always come back to this prediction by StratNews. So 20%. We'll see in a couple of years.

9. The Quantified Self Goes Mainstream. The idea of knowing more and more detail about your personal health and characteristics goes from being a science story to a jogger's delight to a mainstream market. Keeping track of your own health data in real time is no longer something for geeks and workout fanatics, but is accepted as a new and mainstream category of behavior, products, and preventative medicine. Doctors will have to start catching up.

This is quite a good prediction. I'll be lenient and score a 100% on preciseness.

I'm a bit torn on how to score this. There is indeed more and more software and especially hardware to track (proof: cheap Chinese electronic websites now sell it, too), but it is not yet mainstream. I think we are close, so 75%.

10. Encryption Everywhere. The direct commercial result of Edward Snowden's leaks will be a massive move by large technology companies, both in enterprise and consumer markets, to evolve new encryption technologies and products that use them. While NSA-proofing will be the motivator, the real benefit may be improved protection of commercial IP from theft by China and other nations.

I'm going to score 100% on preciseness, but also 100% on actual realization. The move by both Apple and Google to encrypt their phones' operating systems, by default, is sufficient proof. Impressive!

So it seems that this year it was a bit better. Indeed, we still had those vague predictions like last year, but several predictions were now much more precise, and actually happened. No wonder then that Mark Anderson increases his (weighted) score to an impressive 59% (68% unweighted). Still far from the claimed 94%, but I do wonder why they didn't publish their article on the predictions for 2014.

I also found the predictions for 2015 here. It promises to be an interesting list, with precise predictions for this year. And the part about Oculus or net neutrality seem to be a bit unorthodox. I'm already eager to do my follow-up in January 2016!

An earlier version of this article mentioned that the CEO was already announced in 2013 (when the predictions were written). This is incorrect, he was announced in February 2014, but the search for a new one was already ongoing.

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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