2016 Tech Predictions

As has become my tradition now for nigh-on a decade, I will first go back over last years’ predictions, to see how well I called it (and keep me honest), then wax prophetic on what I think the new year has to offer us.

In 2015…

As per previous years, I’m giving myself either a +1 or a -1 based on a purely subjective and highly-biased evaluational criteria as to whether it actually happened (or in some cases at least started to happen before 31 Dec 2015 ended).

In 2015, I said:

  • "Big data", "Big data", "Big data". You will get sick of this phrase. I can't speak for everybody, but I can tell that the end is near for the term, because suddenly everybody is using the term, and they're using it to mean anything and everything. "Big data" is not just about doing deep data science analysis on petabytes of data; it's about any analysis (even simple reporting) on any collection of data (no matter how large or small) for any reason. +1
  • "Internet of Things". You will get sick of this phrase, too. This hasn't quite happened yet, but we're close. IoT is also starting to fray at the edges as a definition, and when that happens, it's immediately ripe for abuse and marketing. More importantly, though, lots of people are starting to realize that IoT is neither the huge "automatic win" that we all sort of assumed it would become. +1
  • "Internet of Medicine" or "Big Med". Well, nobody's started using the term yet, but certainly they're spending a lot of time in this space. They just don't like my term yet. I'm pouting over it, but it's still a -1.
  • "Tech bubble" becomes a "thing". Oh, this one came down to the very wire, but as December of 2015 rolled in, concerns over the actual valuations of the so-called "unicorns" were starting to show up, and lots of people were beginning to openly wonder if Silicon Valley and Wall Street were experiencing a falling-out. It took a hail-mary pass to do it, but I'm claiming my +1.
  • C# and Java will both make big announcements. C#6 shipped, but Java9 didn't, leaving me sort of confused as to how to score this one. However, I did say, "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", and frankly, if you weren't a C# or Java developer, you probably didn't even hear a whisper about either one (pro/shipping or con/not-shipping), either way. +1
  • Go is going to either take off, or crash and burn. The point of this one was that Go was reaching an inflection point, and while I think it's gathering some momentum (including with me personally--this new blog is using Go to do the site generation), I can't really tell if it reached an inflection point, so -1 to me.
  • Microsoft acquires Xamarin. Oh, as much as I thought (and still think) that it would be a great story for both sides, it didn't happen, and probably never will. *sigh* -1
  • Amazon just quietly keeps churning. I dunno how I would measure this one, but in some ways, as long as Amazon just keeps churning out new feature after new feature on AWS, and keeps making money selling stuff on their main web property--which they continue to do--then I think pretty much anything here qualifies as a +1. But it was kind of a lame prediction to begin with, now that I re-read it.
  • Google continues to throw sh*t against the wall, looking for their Next Big Thing. I believe the exact phrase I used was, "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." And, sure enough, we've heard a ton about the Google Car, among other initiatives, but nothing has stepped up as a product yet to even come close to acting as a second line of income for the firm. I call it an easy +1.
  • Web use on mobile devices decreases in favor of apps. In particular, I said,
    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.
    Various "clickbait" sites were the ones I was thinking about in particular, and while some of them (I'm looking at you, Uberfacts) have floated a mobile app out there, the apps themselves don't seem to be lighting any fires in the mobile marketplaces. I'll talk more about this in a bit, but for now, I'm giving myself a -1.
  • Hipster "Uber for X" apps will be all the rage. Have you been to San Francisco recently? Talked to anybody on the street there? This one was a slam-dunk +1.
  • Mark Zuckerberg grows up a little. Zuckerberg will never admit it, but now that he's married and starting a family and all, he's starting to grow up. His paternity leave step was a big one, and signals that maybe he's finally ready to "adult" now. If so, he's in good company--it took Bill Gates getting married and having kids to come in out of the rain, too, and ever since that time, Bill's become a philanthropist of the highest order. +1
  • Larry Ellison buys a sports team. Didn't happen yet. -1
  • Perl makes one final gasp at relevancy, fails, and begins to decompose. Oh, this one is funny; how could I be so right, and so wrong at the same time? Wrong, because Perl 6 actually finally shipped. And yet, so right because... well, how many people do you know using it? Or were even paying attention when it came out? Or.... Yeah. +1

Nine up, four down. Not bad.

That was the easy part. Now, on to the….

2016 Predictions

In no particular order:

  • Microsoft will continue to roll out features on Azure, and start closing the gap between it and AWS. This one is not hard to imagine. Microsoft is committed to making Azure a core part of their company success and survival, and Amazon has a list of features that Azure lacks, so it really boils down to “take one down, cross it off the list, lather, rinse, repeat”.
  • (X)-as-a-Service providers will continue to proliferate. We’re seeing a huge surge in these various companies that are providing some vertical thing as a service, and for most of those they’re tech-related (such as Database-as-a-Service, Container-as-a-Service, and so on). Part of that is because if it’s one thing software developer geeks know what to do, it’s what they wish they had when they were working that last project and really wished they could have when they were working it. This coming year will mark the high-water mark of companies that provide *aaS products to the developer community, and then they’ll all start cannibalizing each other and some shutdowns, acquisitions and partnerships will kick in.
  • Apple will put out two, maybe three new products, and they’ll all be “meh” at best. Let’s be frank, folks, the luster is off the shiny Apple logo on the site of the building. Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, and Apple of 2015 was not the Apple of 2005 or 2010. The Apple Watch is interesting, but it certainly hasn’t taken off. No watch seems to have, in fact, become the “it” thing. I don’t see many of them (or their Android competitors, to be fair) at tech conferences, and casually glancing around the airport doesn’t show a ton of them in use. I don’t think this is going to change any time soon, either. For most people, the wearable just hasn’t really offered up that compelling reason yet, and I don’t think 2016 is going to see one, either.
  • iOS 10 will be called iOSX. Just because they can, and because it would confuse the hell out of people, and because Steve Jobs is not here anymore to tell that VP of Marketing to sit down, shut up, and let the grown ups do this.
  • Android N will be code-named “Nougat”. They might go with “Nutella”, but that would involve copyright and trademark issues, which I imagine they’d want to avoid.
  • Java9 will ship. This is a “no-duh” prediction, but I’m not above claiming a few of those. Really, the bigger question there will be what will ship that Oracle calls “Java9”, and my personal feeling is that modules/Jigsaw/whatever-we’re-calling-them-now won’t be in it. Slamming a module mechanism on top of a platform that’s a decade old, millions of programmers wide and a billion lines of code high is not easy, and I don’t think Oracle really has the energy, motivation or need to push them through the morass of headaches that will stem from imposing a module system into place. UPDATE: @olivergierke points out that Java9 had already slipped to 2017, so this one is automatically going to be a “miss” next January. The article he cites says that Oracle “blamed the delay on complexities in developing modularization”, a la Project Jigsaw. Honestly, I’m going to stand by this prediction, because it would not surprise me in the slightest if Oracle comes back at some point in 2016 and says, “You know what? Fuck it.” and ships Java9 without modularization in place–I don’t really think Java9 needs it at this point, and I’m not entirely sure that shipping with it will make Java all that much better. Time will tell…
  • Facebook will start looking for other things to do. Yes, Facebook has been ridiculously successful to date; it claims more population than most nations on Earth, in fact. But the company is led by a classic Type-A personality, and the softening of his character by the birth of his firstborn notwithstanding, this is when Zuckerberg comes back from leave and says, “OK, boys and girls, it’s time to take us down a new path!” and charges off into who-the-Hell-knows-what. I won’t hinge the prediction on what that would be, I just think it’ll be something outside of the social media realm (or tied to it just a little bit).
  • Google will continue to quietly just sort of lay there. Google, for all that they are on the top of everybody’s minds since that’s the search engine most of us use, hasn’t really done much by way of software product invention recently. Google+, Google Hangouts, yeah, sure, that was so 2013, but what have you done for us lately? And honestly, what have they done recently, in 2015? Casting back through my memory (and setting Android off to the side, since I consider that more or less an independent effort in a lot of ways), I came up with nothing. I suspect the same will be true of 2016–they will continue to do lots of innovative things, but it’ll all be “big” and “visionary” stuff, like the Google Car, that won’t have immediate impact or be something we can use in 2016 (or 2017).
  • Oracle will quietly continue to work on Java. Oracle took a bit of a PR hit this year when they fired/let go a number of “Java evangelists”, and that set the newsstands aflame with hints and rumors that Oracle was getting ready to abandon Java. Frankly, if I’m Larry Ellison (or the VP that has Java under my umbrella), I’m asking a very fundamental question: What the hell does Java need with evangelists at this point? Everybody more or less knows what it is already, there’s nothing to sell in of itself, and that money could probably be put to better use hiring people to work on the codebase itself, or putting the cash back into the rest of the firm to hire a few more Oracle Database salespeople. Oracle didn’t acquire Java because they saw it as a way to inflict the Oracle Database upon the world–quite the opposite. Oracle acquired Java because they use Java, all over the place, and this way they had control over a technology that they had “bet the farm” on in a variety of ways. They’re not going to kill it, but there’s really not a whole lot of need to go around preaching its message, either. So they let the evangelists go, and they’ll just keep on keepin’ on.
  • C# 7 will be a confused morass. Microsoft is now striding boldly into that open-source world it timidly courted just a few years ago. But in a lot of ways, this is highly uncharted territory for the software giant, and for the OSS world as well. Sure, Linus has been releasing Linux kernel after Linux kernel for years, but with himself as the autocrat in charge of it all. Microsoft wants to make use of the open source man-hours to help advance the cause of C# 7, but whether they’ve smoothed out what that process will look like and/or how they will deal with the inevitable conflicts between committers and company isn’t yet clear. (Oracle is in this same boat, in a lot of ways, and there’s a lot of people who think that Java is too much Oracle, not enough OSS, so to speak.) I think the C# 7 release will be one of the first that the world gets to see take shape in a purely public forum, and they will be a bit confused and surprised at how chaotic a product release can really be. (Yes, C# 6 was sort of in that same boat, but only a handful of folks were really paying attention.)
  • Another version of Visual Basic will ship, and nobody will really notice. Actually, that already happened–remember when C# 6 shipped? They shipped a new version of VB then, too. Alas, the ship has sailed on VB, and frankly, at this point, it’s really just a husk of its former self. Most of the VB luminaries are all speaking and/or writing in C# these days, and only staunch loyalty to their fond memories of the language is what keeps it at all in the conversation anymore. Sad, but… Oh, well.
  • Apple will now learn the “joys” of growing a language in the public as well. Swift is now open-source, and that will bring with it the same pains as what Oracle and Microsoft are feeling. Enjoy, guys!
  • Ted will continue to layer in a few features into the blog engine. For example, right now I have no comments feature, and I suspect people will want to start telling me how incredibly wrong I am about so many of these. So, on the docket already, Disqus or Discourse or some other JavaScript-based comment-engine integration. Plus, I want to tweak the template I’m using for the blog’s look and feel a little (although keeping it way simple, especially compared to what I had before), so there’s likely to be more than a few tweaks here and there. (Again, not really a hard prediction to make, but I always like to close on a prediction that I have a relatively .9 probability chance of hitting.)

Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading!