Tech Predictions: 2015 Edition

It's that time of year again....

First, as always, we revisit the predictions I made last year, and see how well they stacked up. (Because, as I've said before, anybody can make predictions without going back to measure your accuracy; I believe in accountability, even to my own silly blog predictions.)

On 3 January, 2014, I said:

  • iOS, Android and Windows8 start to move into your car. Ehhhh.... Yeah, sort of, but not nearly as much as I thought they would. There's a few folks experimenting with this, but frankly, after a big splash announcement, the idea pretty much went nowhere. I don't think the idea is "done", per se, but I do think we're looking at a three-to-five year quiescience while the industry figures out what to do with this (and do it in such a way that it doesn't kill somebody). (And no, by the way, I don't count Google's self-driving car as a point for me under this item--that's a wholly different thing.)
  • Wearable tech hypes up (with little to no actual adoption or innovation). I said, "There'll be absolutely zero reason for anyone to get one for calendar year 2014", and frankly, I stand by that. The Samsung smart watch, the Google Glass, all of the third-party wearables... none of them have really "wow"ed anybody with their raison d'etre. Sure, get text messages on your watch, or place a call (on your phone) from the watch.... But nobody's doing that. I see hardly any of the wearables out in the wild, with the sole exception of those who are wearing a FitBit or something similar. (The Microsoft Band looked like a cool device, but again... nobody's using them in the wild for anything but exercise stat tracking. That's hardly a "gotta have it" kind of reason.)
  • Apple's gadgets will be more of the same. Basically, I said, "iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook, they're all going to be incremental refinements on what we see already." And sure enough, the iPhone got a little bigger, there was no real MacBookPro refresh, and the iWatch is still pretty much vapor at this point (and it's not clear what compelling reason it would have even if it did ship). Sure, the image is there on the Apple website, slated for "early 2015", but frankly... it's a watch. One that I'll have to recharge every night or two. Yawn. Not impressed, so far. I said, "Apple is clearly the market leader, and they are clearly in the grips of the Innovator's Dilemma, and they have no clear challenger (yet) that threatens to dethrone them, leaving them with no reason to shake up the status quo", and I stand behind that 100%.
  • Android market consolidates further around Samsung and Motorola. I'm sorry, Moto-who? They've all but disappeared from the Android marketplace in a lot of ways, leaving it to be a two-horse race: Samsung/Android vs Apple/iOS. In fact, I think Google is spinning Motorola back off again into its own entity, and the industry collectively... Meh'ed. Given how much angst there was when Google acquired Motorola, I would've thought this would've had a bigger impact, but I think Google figured out fairly quickly that they're not really a hardware company, and don't want to be.
  • We'll see one iOS release, two minor Android releases, and maybe two Windows8 minor releases. "I can't see the mobile market getting any kind of major surprise this year." Yep. One iOS release (8), two minor Android releases... well, Android 5 isn't a minor release, but until it ships on hardware, it's hard to call it a "major" release, either. I'd almost call it vaporware, except it's the opposite--it's there, anybody can build for it, you just can't... run... it anywhere.
  • Windows 8/8.1/9/whatever gains a little respect, but not market share gains. Surface 3 is an awesome device--not because it runs Windows8/9/whatever, but in spite of it, for a lot of people. But beyond the Surface, are any tablets/mobiles running Win8/9/whatever getting much traction? I don't see it. Sadly, Windows remains a laptop-bound OS, though the traditional definition of "laptop" is clearly getting a makeover as PC manufacturers try to muscle in on the iPad space from the other direction.
  • UI/UX emphasis is going to start moving to "alternate" input streams. Yeah, would've been nice, but it's not there yet. Kinect has kind of faded into a whimper. Minority Report-style interfaces are still the stuff of science fiction for the time being, and probably will be, again, for the rest of the decade.
  • Java-the-language starts to see a resurgence of "mojo". Oh, my, yes. Devoxx this year was quite all abuzz about Java8, and it really feels (to many in the Java community) that Java's got its "buzz" back, at least at the language level. JavaEE is basically shot/fragmented to all hell, but JavaSe is definitely turning a few peoples' eyes in the Java space. Language creators for the JVM that just want to create "a better Java" by taking basic C/C++-style syntax and adding anonymous functions are basically consigning themselves to "this is a fun side research project that I expect to go nowhere" status.
  • Meanwhile, this will be a quiet year for C#. Yeah... kind of. It's hard to call this one; on the one hand, nothing officially shipped, but on the other hand, Roslyn and its ilk got open-sourced, which is kind of a big deal... if you like dabbling with langauges and/or using language tools directly as part of your toolchain... which really is just a small percentage of developers. I dunno--hard to say.
  • Functional languages will remain "hipster" tools that most people can't use. Yeah... *sigh*. I wish this weren't the case, but 2014 was not the "year of the FP'er", by any stretch. Scala is making strides and getting some folks really excited... but those folks were the ones already excited. I don't see it making its way "down" the "programmer hipster ladder", so to speak, to reach "regular" line-of-business developers, and tools like sbt are not helping. (sbt's syntax is really something only its mother could love... and she'd only admit it if it were in the hospital or something.) I get that it's cool that you can use operators like ~>>= in your language, guys, but in a build tool? Seriously? That is not lowering the barrier to entry.
  • Dynamic languages will see continued growth and success. Well, Node got forked. Dunno what that means. Ruby seemed to actually lose a little steam, and some cynicism and frustration seems to be setting in, particularly among the different "breeds" of Ruby developers. Python still just sort of... hangs out there... with a dedicated community that seems to be getting no larger and no smaller. And Apple's Swift... well, it's not really a dynamic language, per se, but it's not exactly a statically-typed one, either... Oh, hell, I give up. You tell me whether this is continued growth or success. On the other hand, I did say, "I'm becoming more and more convinced that having a language that supports both static and dynamic typing capabilities represents the best compromise between those two poles of software development languages", and boy does that seem to be happening, with Swift just being the largest-splash of the examples so far.
  • HTML 5 "fragmentation" will start to echo in the industry. Not happening, unless you call the different browsers' different levels of support for HTML 5 "fragmentation". Wait--that's exactly what that looks like. So... is it any worse than before? Folks, any time a website tells you "This site best viewed in..." or "This page optimized for...", that's exactly what that looks like. And it's happening now: Chrome is the most egregious of the lot, with most developers choosing to optimize for it, but the fact that anybody's doing it for any browser tells you that the "standard" really isn't.
  • "Mobile browsers" become just "browsers". Open your phone browser. Browse to a page. Aside from the smaller screen, is there anything the browser doesn't support that your desktop does? Didn't think so. As a matter of fact, Android finally just up and admitted it, and now ships with Chrome as an app on their Samsung/Android devices. Let the "mobile browser" be done, and it's eulogy written here: "Farewell, mobile browser, and take your crappy disadvantages with you; we missed you not at all."
  • "Mobile web" starts a slow, steady slide into irrelevancy. ... sites optimized for "mobile" browsing experiences--which represents a non-trivial development effort in most cases--will start to drop away, mostly due to neglect. Yep.
  • "Responsive web" becomes the new black. ... we'll see web sites using CSS frameworks (among other tools) to build user interfaces that adjust themselves to the physical viewsizes and input capabilities of the target browser. Yep. This is becoming a necessary skill for web designers, and any new Web-facing application that ships without some level of responsiveness may as well just write at least half of its potential market off.
  • Microsoft fails to name a Ballmer successor. Helloooooo, Satya Nadella. I'm not a Microsoft Insider, I had no idea who this guy was when he got announced. But so far, I'm pleased with what he's done. Granted, he hasn't been perfect, but he's doing the right things from a company perspective--embracing other languages and platforms, and providing clear direction for the company as a whole... for the most part. Jury's still out, and will be for at least the next half-decade, but he came out clearly wanting to make his mark, and he did. Now let's see how far Microsoft employees will follow him and his guidance, and then let's see how the market does. The first is a lot easier than the second, but the second doesn't happen without the first.
  • "Programmable Web" becomes an even bigger thing, leading companies to develop APIs that make no sense to anybody. Have you seen Zapier? It's like the DOS batch file language of the Internet. And if that's too much, try IFTTT. It's the... I dunno, what's higher-level than DOS batch files? Seriously, Web APIs are becoming so expected that any day now I expect to see a Web API that allows you to create a Web API on demand. (And we're actually closer than you think...)
  • Five new single-page JavaScript MVC application frameworks will ship and gather interest. You count--I'm getting tired. AngularJS 2.0 is going to take a different direction from 1.x, which almost makes it a new framework. Famo.us is getting close to ship. Ionic. And that's just off the top of my head. The JavaScript ecosystem is rapidly spinning into that open-source freefall that the Java-Web world turned into, and didn't climb out of for more than a half-decade.
  • Apple's MacPro machine inspires dozens of knock-off clones. Nope. Not a peep. Oh, well.
  • Desktop machine sales creep slightly higher. I don't have the numbers handy, and it's 1AM as I write this, so I'm not looking. Even if it's not happening in 2014, I think over the next half-dozen years we're going to see that 80/20 mobile/desktop split, in time.
  • Dozens of new "cloud" platforms will be introduced, and most of them will remain entirely irrelevant behind the "Big Three". Well, dozens are coming out, depending on which flavor of "*aaS" you consider to be "Cloud", and what seems to be happening is that the Big Three are picking them up and incorporating them as part of their offering (a la what happened with FireBase). This is probably only going to rise--Heroku got picked up by SalesForce somewhere along the way, for example, and I fully expect Parse to do the same before long. As for the big players (Oracle, HP, etc) that aren't one of the Big Three... yeah, they'll quietly fade and die.
  • We will never see any kind of official announcement, much less actual working prototypes, around Amazon's "Drone Delivery" program ever again. Anybody? Anybody? Lots of discussion around drones, but nothing from Amazon, and certainly nothing shipped.
Overall.... *shrug* About par for the course, 50/50 by my count.

So what do I see for 2015? Here goes:

  • "Big data", "Big data", "Big data". You will get sick of this phrase. What I didn't say last year was anything about big data, and frankly, the hype machine is not even remotely close to being done with this. EVERYTHING will be made into a "big data" play before 2015 is over, to the point where nobody knows what "big data" really means anymore... except for the people quietly doing it.
  • "Internet of Things". You will get sick of this phrase, too. Look, let's just call it right now: IoT is clearly in the overestimate-in-5-years/underestimate-in-10-years Bill Gates quote territory. We have no idea what IoT will end up looking like, practically speaking, and yet billions will be spent on people who claim to know exactly that. Save your money. Or, if you really want to give a smart-sounding consulting some cash to tell you what you already know, send it my way, and I'll show up at your place of business, look wise and distinguished, and tell your boss, "It depends" in fifty pages and with two-hundred PowerPoint slides. Everybody wins.
  • "Internet of Medicine" or "Big Med". I'm calling this one right here: with all the health-related big data plays going on right now, it's only a matter of time before some chirpy journalist or press agent coins this. It's a fascinating opportunity--there's a lot of really interesting and cool ideas around the intersection of big data-about-your-health, the wearables world, medical AI/data-analysis, and mobile devices, and just about every entrepreneur and VC is going after it. So within the next year or two, many of those are going to ship in some form, and then... I have no idea, but it'll be big/catastrophic, whatever happens.
  • "Tech bubble" becomes a "thing". Internet- and technology-related firms are getting ridiculous valuations, and those of us who were in the industry in the years leading up to 2000 know what this means. I'm sorry, but when a technology-training company gets valued at $1 billion, which is more than some Fortune-5000 firms that've been around for a half-century or more.... this is clearly "bubble" territory. Trust me, I don't want this bubble to pop, particularly since I'm supposed to be releasing a few courses through them, but I remember when everybody was certain that "Pets.com" was a multi-million Web property, too... and I remember when I worked for a company that thought technology training was a "recession-proof" industry. These numbers are ridiculous, and it's only going to take one high-value collapse to start pulling the rest of the house of cards down. Before 2020, you mark my words. In 2015, though, the warnings and arguments against those warnings are only going to intensify.
  • C# and Java will both make big announcements. C# 6 will probably ship somewhere in 2015 (they called the product "Visual Studio 2015", after all), and Java9 will probably start to make some news towards the end of 2015, though I don't expect it to ship. Those who care will take note, those who don't, won't. Really, we're kind of past the point where either of those languages are going to be interesting to anyone who's not already in that space.
  • Go is going to either take off, or crash and burn. Go seems to be approaching an inflection point, and while I'm not smart enough to know what's going to happen there, I think this will be a year of decision for them.
  • Microsoft acquires Xamarin. Microsoft seems to be coyly flirting with the idea, and really, it makes a ton of sense for them to do so: it gives them a way to be relevant on the two major mobile platforms without abandoning .NET or their own platform. Really, the only question that remains is what kind of cash it would take to do the buyout, and does Microsoft have that money available to it after its rather (IMHO) ill-advised acquisitions of the past (*cough* Nokia *cough*).
  • Amazon just quietly keeps churning. Really, this seemed like a pretty quiet year for Microsoft's cross-Sound neighbor, and I don't know that'll change in 2015. Kindle seems pretty successful, but the Fire doesn't seem like it's gone far as a full-fledged mobile device. Amazon is fighting some brush fires on its borders over licensing and royalties, and that's probably distracting them in some major ways. (They're also developing a reputation as a firm that burns employees out fast, which also isn't helping, I imagine.) I don't think 2015 is a year of huge developments for them, but in a lot of ways, they don't need them--AWS is, as near as I can tell, the gold standard of "cloud", and as long as they just keep pace with whatever Azure comes out with, they're in good shape there.
  • Google continues to throw sh*t against the wall, looking for their Next Big Thing. What I mean by that is this: Among wine snobs, there is a story (possibly apocryphal) of a wine-tasting expert who had a wall in his house painted a very particular shade of white. Then, when tasting a red wine, he would throw the contents of the glass against that wall, to observe the color and the way the wine beaded and ran down the wall as part of his evaluation. Frankly, that kind of feels like what Google is doing: throwing idea after idea "against the wall" of public opinion, trying to see what stands out and looks great and garners interest. If I didn't know better, I'd say they're desperately trying to find a new line of revenue beyond AdWords, just as Microsoft a decade ago was desperately trying to find a new line of revenue beyond Windows. Expect a lot of announcements, a lot of "beta"s, and none of it with any kind of realistic or even well-planned business model behind it--including the Google Car.
  • Web use on mobile devices decreases in favor of apps. This is going to happen whether the public wants it or not, because companies have figured out that it behooves them to have you "trapped" inside their app (where they can control all the content) rather than on their website. More and more websites are going to try and redirect you to inside their app, rather than allow you to casually browse on their site, because then they think they "own" your eyeballs. The only way this changes is if/when some firm gets crushed in the court of public opinion by doing something really stupid... and that won't happen in 2015. Wait for it in 2016.
  • Hipster "Uber for X" apps will be all the rage. Every technology event is going to be filled with 20- and 30-somethings who are convinced that the world wants/needs an app that will allow customers to get X (service or good) delivered right to wherever-they're-standing, without doing one iota of business research as to whether that model makes any sense anywhere outside of New York or San Francisco. They will get millions in VC, confidently proclaim themselves the next Facebook, and then implode. (This might actually be what starts the tech bubble implosion.)
  • Mark Zuckerberg grows up a little. Remember his "You're washed up when you're 30" crack? He turns 30, and I suspect he doesn't think he's "done" quite yet. As he tries to become more of a "technology statesman" (which is really the next step for him), however, he's going to get caught up on that remark over and over again from people who just want to see him fail or be embarrassed, until he either admits, "Yeah, OK, I was wrong" or gets so frustrated he buys a small island in the South Pacific, screams "I hate you all!" and flees the country. (Hopefully he remembers to update his status before he goes.)
  • Larry Ellison buys a sports team. Yeah, he's got a yacht, but now Ballmer owns the Clippers. Paul Allen has the World Champion Seattle Seahawks. If either of the Google boys puts in for the Buffalo Bills or St Louis Rams, this is a given.... and I think he buys the Golden State Warriors.
  • Perl makes one final gasp at relevancy, fails, and begins to decompose. C'mon, when's the last time the Perl community made a "This time we mean it! Perl 6 is going to ship!" announcement? They're like the Daikatana or Duke Nukem Forever of programming languages by this point. If you're still using Perl, just accept fate, switch to Python, Ruby, or even Node. Nobody can take your memories from you.
... annnnnnnd I'm spent.

Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2015 be everything you want it to be, and a few more things beyond that. Be kind to yourself, generous to others, humble in the spotlight and lavish in your praise of those around you. Cheers!