Hello French Fries!
Since it’s New Years Eve, and I was too busy Friday to push a post, I am going to do a special post today. I’m going to list my 10 bold predictions for what will be the top trends in tech in 2018 based on my observations of the industry in 2017. At the end of 2018, I will revisit this list, see what I got right, what I got wrong, and what I will predict for 2019. So, without further ado, here’s the start of a tradition:
1.) Virtual Reality is a fast growing medium, and it’s only going to continue to develop in 2018. In 2017, VR tech like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive quietly built up their profile while maintaining an off the radar profile. The layouts of the latest models have become more user friendly, while manufacturing innovations have brought the prices down. 2017 has the feelings of a groundwork year in VR, building a strong foundation so that VR tech would be in a great position to truly grow and thrive in 2018. Besides allowing us users to escape real reality and explore a virtual world, there are many applications of VR. While gaming is the most popular use, they can also be used for artistic, scientific and medical purposes. Film festivals are even starting to realize the value of the medium. Look for VR to become more prevalent and rise in industry awareness in 2018.
2.) Autonomous cars were in advanced stages of testing and pilot studies in 2017. Driverless cars were tested on public roads en masse for the first time. Driverless busses were rolled out, with setbacks that should be addressed in 2018. Furthermore, initial tests were conducted on introducing driverless ambulances. What does all this testing and initial rollouts in 2017 mean? It means 2018 is going to be a banner year as the tests lead to wider rollouts. I am willing to bet 2018 will see initial public offerings of driverless cars and introductions to public commercial sells of driverless vehicles.
3.) Facebook, amongst other social media sites, has gotten a lot of slack with regards to how they handle news media and accusations of fake news in 2017. While Facebook’s handling of fake news hasn’t harmed it’s bottom line, it has harmed Facebook’s credibility. As a result, I feel that at some point in 2018, Facebook will remove itself from the news business or distance itself in some way, weather it’s redesigning and de-emphasizing their news and trends department, or by reclassifying and focusing on entertainment at the expense of news trends. Look for Facebook to do something to address it’s news criticism, especially as if it’s profit margins begin to be affected.
4.) In 2009, Windows released Windows 7, they released Windows 8 in 2012, and they released Windows 10 in 2015. Mac released Sierra in 2016, following their trend of annual OS release structures, but they did not release any new OS’s in 2017 (although they released a large overhaul upgrade called High Sierra). Going with Microsoft’s three year cycle and Mac’s annual cycle, look for new Operating Systems and UIs to be released and promoted in 2018. Furthermore, as users continue to shun desktops and laptops for tablets and smart phones, look for the continuing trend of recent OS’s to be more tablet and smart phone friendly at the expense of traditional OS’s focus on desktop users.
5.) As I just mentioned above, PC sells are in decline due to the advancement and availability of tablets, smart phones, and other more portable, integratable and modern variants of computers. This is a trend that will continue and accelerate in 2018. More and more businesses are shifting towards tablets. My office where I work, almost everyone is on a Surface Pro, and while tablet sells may have hit a snag in 2017, they should pick back up in 2018, especially as prices have come down for the latest models of tablets. Some industry experts predict a revival of PC and laptop sells in 2018, but if there is one, it’s just a delay in the inevitable. Eventually, I predict that the PCs, specifically desktops, will go the way of floppy disks and the dot matrix printer: outdated fascinations of nostalgic collectors. As the biggest players in the computer production market have moved beyond the personal computer, look for 2018 to be a continuing trend that highlights society’s move beyond the PC to newer technologies. As Microsoft and Apple remodel their business strategies for a post PC world, this will be something to look out for in 2018.
6.) 2017 was a banner year for the emergent financial alternative of Cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin. Bitcoin finished 2017 on a huge price bump. In 2018, look out for a volatile up and down disruption to what has been an unhealthily quick strength growth compared to the dollar. Bitcoin could either come crashing back to reality, or solidify itself as a golden commodity that those who bought in in prior years got rich, and everyone else is priced out in 2018. 2018 will be a huge year for Bitcoin, it will either make or break the currency. Also look out for many competing cryptocurrencies to emerge in 2018 and try to ride the bitcoin coattails. Whatever happens in the cryptocurrency market, 2018 will be a banner year for it as consumers try to capitalize on the market.
7.) 2017 saw lot of high profile hacks, from criminal, money seeking attacks on large corporations such as Equifax and Yahoo, to nationally backed nefarious attacks such as North Korea’s WannaCry attack and (allegedly) Russia’s NotPetya attack. 2017 was not the best of years for the cyber security professionals such as myself. As volatility in the international geopolitical order continues to increase, along with increasing income inequality, with a general international turn against liberalism, expect 2018 to see more hacks and more headaches for cyber security experts as more computer savvy actors become desperate enough to start robbing and the geopolitical tensions encourage more state-sponsored attacks as opposing factions look to get an edge on their competition.
8.) Disney has long been rumored to establish a competing online streaming platform to Netflix, and moves made in 2017 seem to indicate that the groundwork is being laid so those plans can come to fruition. Disney is acquiring the resources to truly compete head to head with Netflix. From purchasing popular and high caliber catalogues through acquisitions of Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, Marvel, in addition to earlier acquisitions of ABC, Touchstone, ESPN and their own, renown content producing subsidies, Disney is positioning itself to completely throttle Netflix with a large catalogue the moment it’s new streaming service comes online. I believe that Disney won’t actually create a brand new streaming service. Disney, Fox and Comcast each own a 33.3% stake in Hulu, and with Disney and Fox merging, they will become majority owners of Hulu, and I believe they will reorganize Hulu as Disney’s main streaming service as soon as the merger goes through (probably late in 2018). Furthermore, with this merger, Disney will own ESPN and Fox Sports, the two largest sports broadcasting and content producing organizations in the United States. Look for those two brands to be merged into one, and have at least some of their content streamed through Hulu in order to encourage customers to ditch Netflix for Disney’s own service. Also look out for some smaller scale acquisitions of indie and foreign studios by Disney as they try to increase and compliment their catalogue. 2018 will be the year that Disney’s war on Netlix begins.
9.) 2018 will be an introductory year in the United States and Western markets for tech brands from China. In 2017, China went on a buying spree of start ups and smaller tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Led by the Chinese BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, China’s three largest tech giants), China has been pouring its newfound wealth into many American start ups. Some feel that China is taking advantage of trade and competition laws in the United States that do not compute with the Chinese economic legal system in order to buy tech with military applications in order to prevent access to the US military while augmenting their own military’s rise in prominence. Furthermore, China has an active policy of giving Chinese owned companies economic and trade preferences domestically while encouraging or enabling patent infringement and theft of foreign companies’ intellectual property. This has fueled a tech boom in China, with many Chinese companies, including BAT, growing in prominence in 2017. I am predicting that in 2018, at the very minimum, the BAT companies will scale globally and try to introduce some of their products into foreign markets such as the United States and Europe. China’s leadership has been pushing for a global marketing of Chinese products in an effort to grow China into a global economic and political superpower, and these companies should be confident enough in 2018 to heed the call. However, this rush to market outside of China will not be smooth. Chinese companies have a historical track record of failing to adapt to American and European consumers mainly due to cultural differences. In China, the ends justify the means, which means companies focus solely on profits at the expense of professionalism. Furthermore, due to the five year plan system, they fail to take into account more long term strategies for the sake of short term, 5 years or less profit margins. Furthermore, the socialist based political structure means the Chinese consumers are used to being told what they need through a planned economic structure, and Chinese companies produce products based on what they tell their consumers. Western consumers dislike being told what they want, and expect to be listened too. Furthermore, the top down approach by Chinese companies generally fails to take into account local attitudes or needs, since China is generally ran at the national level, not the local level, and this furthers their misunderstanding of their consumers in the west. This disconnect leads to products that are not fulfilling in western economies, and a bad reputation on the part of the Chinese companies amongst western consumers. Hence, while 2018, we should expect to see a strong push into the market by Chinese brands, it will not be a very successful introduction.
10.) There will be continued political scandal within the tech industry. In 2017, sexual assault and issues with diversity plagued the tech industry with scandal. In the age of hyper-polarization, expect this to continue into 2018. If there was one cultural change one could highlight from 2017, it would be that in 2017, American society did away with individuals maintaining a pretense or a semblance of a sociably acceptable veneer, and instead are saying exactly what they think. As diversity and gender equality have in the past several decades lead to a more equitable share of perceived power, those who once maintained higher levels of privilege feel threatened, and are lashing out. In the current climate, this type of outburst is encouraged, and with the no change to the current government until after the 2018 election (which takes effect in 2019), social, economic and political policy will not be expected to change much in 2018. Consequently, 2018 will look a lot like 2017 with grievances being aired publicly, scandal being common place, and polarization allowing few to remain silent in the middle of it all.
Well folks, those are my bold predictions for 2018. If you agree, disagree, or have a completely different set of predictions, please share in the comments. Otherwise, I wish you all a very Happy New Years! Until next year…
…the champaign is in the flute