From the Dec. 2012 issue.
Judging from the media coverage, technology hardly existed at all in 2012. Instead, the nation sat enthralled, week after week, by billions of dollars in political ads, four debates and nearly-endless campaign speeches.
But it wasn’t as slow a tech year as the political wrangling might portend. In fact, between a rising stock market and a declining jobs market, we managed to see tech news that was both good and bad:
- FaceBook did okay, but not as well as other tech IPOs. A continued lag in financial performance by FaceBook has dragged down the market for tech companies looking to go public, but not for the vertical markets. While big-name consumer companies are scrambling to avoid a Facebook-style stock collapse, the overall markets for both hardware and software remain surprisingly strong. And the thirty or so other tech IPOs that have gone off this year are performing pretty well.
- Small is the new big – or is it? Poor Blackberry. After defining the market for a tablet device with a 7-inch screen, the company got battered as Amazon.Com took the same basic hardware and beat them bloody in the marketplace with the Kindle Fire. Followed by the introduction of the iPad Mini, which nailed the coffin shut. But just as tablets decided to get smaller, the cell phone market goes big screen, with 5-inch and larger screens that almost serve as tablets in themselves.
- Nothing happened in tech policy, and no one cared. Dangerous threats to user rights were sharply averted as the ACTA trade agreement died internationally and a user uprising killed the SOPA anti-piracy act. Even efforts to punish Wikileaks have been derailed. All in all, Congress did little in the tech arena for the year, but that did not seem to bother much of anyone. Except Hollywood, of course, which still wants to punish people who want to be entertained.
- Numbers mean less than strategies. In terms of accounting technologies, gaining control and understanding of the numbers has become far less important than using the numbers to manage better. Spreadsheets and cash flow took a back seat to ERP, CRM and CPM. Case in point: the rise of new technologies for document management and workflow management.
Perhaps the best way to define technology in 2012 is that it was a balance of extremes. On the flashy end of the business, Apple products drove the company to the top of the stock markets; Blackberry died a grisly death; and Microsoft pushed out yet another Windows operating system. On the more subdued end of the industry, companies continued to see solid profits; cyber-security became more critical; and software got notably better – with smaller code, better user interfaces and tighter integration.
As for our tech forecast for the year? We predicted, among other things, that a fragile internet would have problems; that the Kindle would catch fire but 3D television would not; that Internet “wallets” would fail to take off; that Windows 8 would be a success; and that privacy would become the most critical legislative issue. Overall, we scored about 8 out of 10.
Where did we go wrong? Well, the Internet was not as fragile as we predicted, Windows 8 hit a small snag when they tried to do away with the “Start” button, and the recession didn’t do as much damage as predicted to the tech industry – mostly because the recession was pushed into 2013 or beyond.
So what’s in store for 2013? Here are our predictions:
2013 Technology Predictions
It’s all about the car. These are the tech wars for dominance, now comfortably settled into familiar trenches. Apple dominant, Google holding its own, with an occasional assault by Microsoft and its allies. Much like the trenches of World War I and the Maginot Line. The only way for anyone to advance is to open a new front, and that’s slowly happening inside the family automobile. Forget radios and GPS systems. Voice-command systems will be the first battle, and this will be a free-for-all in hands-free computing, with the battleground being the center console of your automobile.