Many of you have asked me to make predictions for the upcoming years so I’m pulling out the dusty old glass ball and presenting to you the things I will look at in the coming year. The prediction game is a dangerous game as one steers into trends and tries to pull out short insights into grand theories. That said, here’s what I’m keeping an eye on.
The Post-app World Enters its Growth Phase
With app stores now clogged by millions of apps and users generally not downloading them, smart companies will look to grow in user’s existing workflows. For the past year, the rise of chatbots has shown that light context-aware applications can win without having an app in place.
Meanwhile, smart assistants like Amazon Echo (or Alexa), Google Home, and Siri are making voice an important interface component for consumers. Expect those trends to start filtering back into the business world, with conversation either through a chat interface or through a voice-driven tool to grow this year. Much as the iPhone and smartphones were not dominant players in 2007-2008, you will see early adopters move to those tools ahead of the mainstream. Expect strong growth in that area where companies are laying the groundwork for what I call Internet 4.0 (a term I will write more about this year).
With the rise of those interfaces, Artificial Intelligence will become a required component of every technology offering. As app give way to platform-based interactions, the need for intelligence will increase. Expect 2017 to be the year when more and more companies are asked about their AI strategy. Much as 2009-2011 were the years when investors and consumers starting wondering about everyone’s mobile strategy, 2017-2019 are going to be the years when increasing questions about artificial intelligence strategies will arise.
As a result of this new trend, expect enterprise software as a service (SaaS) to experience a rebirth, as existing SaaS models will be refreshed with a dose of AI. Those new systems will be characterized by dramatically simpler front-end interfaces that gather data from a variety of source to help them anticipate and help perform specific tasks.
New Financial Models
2017 will also be the year when new financial models will appear for a variety of offering.
In the digital media space, some companies will move beyond the advertising-backed model as revenues from traditional advertising continue to decline. Increased adoption of ad blockers will drive increased techniques to stop users from using ad blockers, leading to audience leakage and the realization that the advertising-supported model of media may not be applicable in a lot of cases.
In the Internet of Things world, many companies will realize that consumers are not necessarily interested in purchasing products directly from them. The result will be an increase in the subsidized model of deployment where insurance companies, utilities, and other service providers will underwrite the deployment of those technologies in exchange for access to the data those devices are generating.
The Great Tech Backlash
Following an almost giddy decade when the tech world has been seen as new masters of the universe, 2017 will be the year when a large consumer backlash will take hold.
The usual valley swagger that shirks the rules in order to create a new world order may suffer some setback as people angry with automation and continued sluggish employment for blue collars will start to lash out at the world we’re trying to build. Systems like the gig economy, blockchains, and autonomous vehicles will bump into social resistance and politicians will work on painting the tech world as out of touch with the real world. They will still progress but the pace of that progress will be slower as a result of external opposition.
Two events will mark a turn in consumer acceptance and they will be around VR and Apple.
The hype over VR will die as the first products to enter the market fail to wow users. Unfortunately, the attempts at driving VR at a low cost, combined with a set of promises around mixed reality that cannot yet be fully achieved will lead to consumer questioning whether the technology makes sense at all. This will generate a pull-back and some of the companies leading the charge in the space will be painted as out of touch.
On the other side (or possibly on the same side), Apple will introduce a product that fails to wow consumers. 2016 marked controversies surrounding the launch of the iPhone 7 (“no headset plug”) and of the new Macbook Pro (“USB C as the only connectors”). These have led to rumbles of unhappiness among a lot of the initial fan base. The narrative of an organization that fans had heralded as infallible seems to be replaced by that of a company that is not that innovative. Many may discuss the fairness of that point but I am hearing, for the first time, an increasing chorus from long-time fans who feel the company is abandoning them. While many despair about that state of affairs, Apple does not yet have to worry about any mass exodus yet as it is still perceived as producing a higher quality product than what its competitors offer. Those cracks in Apple’s perception will lead to a mainstream belief that since Apple is broken, the rest of the tech world may be too.
I will be wrong
One thing that is clear is that some sub-components of those predictions will be wrong. By predicting that I will be wrong on some of this, I ensure that whatever way these predictions go, I get to have at least a right one.