Predicting technology in the new year is like predicting the weather. The patterns point to expected forecasts but, if the soothsaying was always accurate, what would we talk about?
So, in support of both accuracy and conversational topics, we asked some of our favorite soothsayers to scope out 2013 for IT technology -- starting with the big picture.
Appliances, iPhone 5
For 2013, Pund-IT analyst Charles King sees a continuation of three of the biggest trends from 2012 -- big data, computing, and bring-your-own-devices (BYOD).
In addition to those, he said growth will continue in data , with a possible shake out among vendors, and there will be increased growth in converged systems that integrate hardware, and services into turnkey appliances -- although he noted that it remains to be seen if the market is "as hot for these appliances as vendors are."
King said that, as the rollout of Windows 8 tablets, hybrid/convertible laptops, and all-in-one PCs continues, he expects the emphasis to shift from its current focus on consumer products to businesses. Security, particularly among businesses, is a "perennial subject of interest," he said, but 2013 could "lead to a watershed event that changes the way people and organizations consider and implement solutions."
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart covers devices, and he is focusing his 2013 predictions on smartphones. He expects the iPhone 5 to continue to sell well, as it has done in the past, built on a wider launch in more geographies for this model than for previous ones. He also expects to see broadened distribution of the iPhone "to more prepaid carriers in the U.S., including Leap and Virgin Mobile."
RIM, Chinese Handset Makers
With regard to BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, Greengart predicts that RIM's big "comeback bid" in 2013 with the BlackBerry 10 platform and devices will be accompanied by some strengths and a variety of challenges. On the plus side, Greengart points to RIM getting carrier distribution for BB10. He also says his hands-on with BB10 phones left him "impressed."
On the down side: Apple has "made real progress in government and large corporations" where RIM has been strong, Greengart said, and Android with its free messaging apps "has eaten" into RIM's BlackBerry Messenger-fueled global youth market. RIM "doesn't have enough cash on hand to go head to head with Apple's or Samsung's marketing spend for very long," he added.
"Restructuring the business around its shrinking base," Greengart said, "would require shrinking RIM so much that a selloff would almost certainly be preferable."
He noted that RIM is not the only smartphone vendor facing a brutal landscape next year. In fact, he said, aside from Apple and Samsung, "nobody else is consistently making money," and some are losing "hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter." Even if you're Motorola and part of global conglomerate Google, he said, "that simply isn't sustainable." As a result, Greengart expects some vendors will be "forced to retreat from the mobile market entirely in 2013."
2013 will also see Chinese handset makers, particularly Huawei and ZTE, continue to build their global market share -- even if, he said, it's "not clear whether they are growing profitably." Greengart predicts that, unless they undertake a strong brand-building effort -- as Lenovo does before it sells into a market -- they will continue to have to compete primarily on price.
New Apple Product Category?
In 2013, Greengart said he expects Samsung will build on the 2012 launch of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III, with the launch of the IV in the second quarter, containing "the latest and great component specs" and more Android customization.
And then, there's the LTE rollout. He sees "pretty much every postpaid smartphone that's heading to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Sprint will have LTE in the coming months, with LTE starting to hit entry-level and prepaid smartphones this holiday season and increasing next year.
Ross Rubin, Principal Analyst for Reticle Research, agrees that the continuing LTE rollout in the U.S. will be a big part of the story next year. He also expects to see more natural, gestural interaction capabilities for computers, and, if the company remains true to form, he predicts Apple is on schedule to introduce a new product category. It could be the much-rumored Apple TV, he said, or "perhaps the company will go smaller than the iPod."
Rubin also sees 2013 as a time of opportunity for Windows Phone and BlackBerry to "take market share from Android," driven by some of the frustration that vendors and business customers have had with that ecosystem.
'A Foothold Would Be Fine'
While Rubin sees opportunity for Windows Phone in 2013, Information Technology Intelligence Corp's Laura DiDio calls it a "make or break year" in smartphones for Microsoft, as well as for their venture into tablets. If she had to bet, DiDio said, she'd give the company better chances in tablets, given that the company has already "had time to make it in phones" and hasn't acquired much market share.
DiDio said it would be "very problematic" for the company in the long haul if it doesn't succeed in the near future in either category, and "even a foothold would be fine." As for Windows 8 for PCs, she predicts it "will do fine," adding that we're "nowhere near the end of the PC yet." She added that Microsoft is building their rollout of Windows 8, especially in the enterprise, on a foundation of "lots of people with Microsoft experience and 35 years of tech support."
As for RIM, DiDio expects that they'll have a rough time next year "unless they can find someone to buy them." On another front, she forecast that 2013 will continue a trend where some companies, such as Kodak or Alcatel-Lucent, keep themselves afloat by selling or licensing their patent trove.
Al Hilwa covers applications development software for IDC, and he expects HTML5 will enter a "period of balanced enlightenment" in 2013, where developers will more clearly understand "what it is suited for and what it is not." For complex client apps that want to take advantage of the latest device features, or where performance is key, he said, "native platforms will continue to dominate." For other apps without such stringent requirements, he predicts that HTML5 will gain share.
HTML5, Cloud-Based IDEs
"Over time," Hilwa said, "the bar will continue to shift" and HTML5 will be utilized for a wider set of requirements.But, at least over the next few years, "we are going to have a truce between native and Web apps."
Hilwa also sees cloud-based integrated development environments, or IDEs, becoming "mainstream for a much broader set of users" in 2013, such as cloud application development and Web platform development. He points to such examples as Cloud9 and Salesforce.com's BrainEngine, and said that 2013 will also "begin to see companion IDEs that are congruent with full-featured siblings but are oriented to get in, fix something and get out."
Next year, he also expects that "software release cycles for many of the massive software products that characterized the last few decades will begin to shorten considerably." The focus, Hilwa predicted, will shift to "incremental improvements on a quarterly, biannual or at most annual cadence."
Accompanying this shift, he sees a shift in pricing from the perpetual license to the subscription model, and an increasing "cloudification of software," where software features and functions are "co-mingled with cloud services." Hilwa gave as examples IDEs that have device or browser testing services.