It's that time of year, when news slows down and we journalists try to be sages and look at the year ahead. I've noticed that some people who make these predictions often confuse their own hopes and wishes with objective predictions, so I'm going to be upfront about it and separate the two.
First, a look back at the predictions I made for the tech industry in 2015 one year ago. Let's run them down real quick:
- Wearables continue to tank: Fairly true. Apple Watch is not a hit and Microsoft's new Band, as good as some reviews have said, is going nowhere.
- IoT proves a hard sell: I think this came true. People are still pitching IoT, but there isn't a lot to show for it as far as a market goes.
- BYOD chickens come home to roost: Wrong here. What happened is BYOD went mainstream. Apple finally got corporate religion and teamed with IBM. The enterprise is now a $25 billion business for Apple.
- Stock market crash and burn: Happening now. This month has been atrocious, and Apple has taken it the worst.
- AMD finally bottoms out, Qualcomm acquires it for IP protection: Wrong there, but boy it's not been a fun year for AMD investors.
- IT continues to dump its own data centers in favor of the cloud: This is continuing to happen, albeit slowly.
- Windows 10 is a hit, mostly: I think I got it, except for the prediction that it would revive PC sales.
- Big Data's growth will be hampered by talent shortages: Definitely the case.
- Tablets will crash and burn: Sales are slowing, but it wasn't as dire as I predicted.
- MMOs start dying off: WoW has had a severe drop-off, and EverQuest's new owners seem to be trying to destroy the game. There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm around the genre.
OK, on to the predictions for 2016:
1. IBM becomes a major cloud player
This will come almost entirely through its SoftLayer subsidiary. A recent test by a cloud platform provider found SoftLayer trounced Microsoft and Amazon at pure performance. SoftLayer might go down as the best acquisition IBM ever made.
2. The Dell-EMC merger will cripple the company if it goes through
Meg Whitman predicts Dell will need to spend $2.5 billion a year just on interest on the debt to fund this merger, and others are speculating that Dell will sell off a lot of units and subsidiaries, many of which it acquired to diversify its business. I pray they realize what a bad idea this is before it's too late.
3. Election year politics will hit tech hard
One more attack in the U.S. with a social media element like we had in San Bernardino, and Facebook and Twitter won't be able to ignore the issue of ISIS recruiting right under everyone's noses, especially in a presidential election year.
4. Many Web-based sites will be challenged by mobile
Wallapop, Close5, Sell It Easy, OfferUp, and Varage Sale are all companies that are targeting eBay and Craigslist for selling your old junk. But instead of posting an ad on a Web page, you do everything from your smartphone. If this takes off, they could take a chunk out of the hides of CL and eBay, although I fully expect both sites to come out with their own apps to do the same.
5. Abandoned tech will be revived
4K DVD will be the only way to get 4K content for your shiny new UHD TV, so it will be back to buying and renting shiny discs. Vinyl is in such demand that the few factories left pressing it are at maximum capacity. Even print is showing signs of comeback, and more people are returning to physical books than Kindle. We were all too quick to throw out the old and embrace the new without realizing what we'd lost.
6. Cloud leaders will flip from the new guard to the old guard
Five years ago, when you said "cloud providers," the first two names were Salesforce and Amazon. Very quickly it's becoming Microsoft and Oracle, with IBM also catching up. It seems you can teach an old dog new tricks, and the old guard is preparing to cross the chasm again.
7. The economic condition of San Francisco will reach a breaking point
You cannot maintain a working class or middle class in a city with $4,200-per-month rent. It's so bad even a Google engineer is living in a truck parked in Google's parking lot, and you have to think he makes more than a Starbucks barista. Something will have to give soon, and it could be a mass exodus from the Bay Area, which could be disruptive (in a bad way) for the Valley.
8. SSDs will continue to displace hard drives
Consumer SSDs are now $0.50/GB, and even high-performance PCI Express cards like Intel's monster 750 SSD are dropping to $1/GB. There really isn't much reason to have a spinning hard drive for a boot disk any more.
9. Antivirus software runs out of road
The old trick of blacklists just isn't working, and the good guys can't keep up. I'm not sure what will replace them, but the AV companies are going to have to come up with something better than virus signature databases that they update two or three times a day and still miss things.
10. DevOps moves beyond just development
Right now, DevOps is a way to build an application. But what if that same methodology is applied to a marketing program or to create documentation? The mechanism is there and is being shaken out by developers, and it would not be too much of a stretch to apply it to other aspects of the business that don't involve code.
And now, here are five wishes from me for the new year:
1. Windows 10 stops spying on us
2. Windows 10 gets a facelift
It's something that hasn't been discussed much because the spying issue is so big, but Windows 10 is a butt-ugly piece of software. Easily the worst-looking operating system I've ever seen, and that includes the primitive X Windows desktops of 1990s Unix. Windows 10 interface pieces look like they were designed by a high schooler teaching himself Photoshop. Seriously, it's a dog, and when you have to stare at it for several hours, it really sticks out. I hope there is a major overhaul of the UI pieces in the works.
3. An ARM add-in board for PCs allows for iOS and/or Android on PCs
Would it be too difficult to create a PCI Express add-in board with an ARM processor and some SSD storage and DRAM that can basically turn your PC into an Android and/or iOS machine? Let the operating system(s) run in a sandbox so there is a solid wall between the PC and mobile device. I would welcome this.
4. My smartphone connects to my PC as easily as my car
When I get into my Camry, the iPhone connects via Bluetooth. If someone calls, the radio goes off and I can speak to the person hands-free via a microphone and the stereo speakers. Now, why can't my PC do that? I have speakers and a webcam microphone. Let the call go to the PC and let me speak with the person hands-free.
5. A complete Facebook redesign
Facebook is using a design largely conceived in Zuckerberg's dorm room. It's clumsy, slow, and severely lacking in many features you find on message boards, like the ability to "sticky" a message. That’s where the message remains at the top for all to see every time, because it's helpful and useful and saves asking the same question over and over. Some sites should never change; I will cry if the Drudge Report ever gets overhauled. But in the case of Facebook, it needs it badly.