I’m still kicking myself for not buying Facebook stock. In the beginning of 2012 I made a mental note to pay attention to the Facebook IPO that was announced for later that year. By that fall, when it had dropped to a third of it’s initial price, I had forgotten to pay attention.
Therefore, my resolution this year is to write down what I think the top tech trends will be and to put my money where my mouth is.
Here are my top four forecasts for 2014:
Everything’s turning up mobile
If you’re a smartphone owner, chances are you already connect to the Internet more through that device than a laptop or desktop. Half of all emails are now opened on mobile devices and one third of all Americans get internet only through their phones.
Capacitive touch screens are becoming the norm on laptops and desktops, shifting the design of all user interfaces to be touch friendly. Apple has already moved the ‘walled garden’ iOS experience to Mac, while Microsoft is spending millions selling the idea that all your employees need are tablets with keyboards.
It won’t be long before the traditional, tower computer is something you can only find in audio-video, hobbyist, and gaming catalogues. By the end of this year, towers very likely will be all but completely gone from the physical retail sector. They’ll be replaced by a smattering of all in one desktops, but mainly by laptops and laptop/tablet hybrids.
Voice recognition becomes the norm
You might already be used to talking to your phone, but the next generation of game consoles are bringing voice commands into your living room. While the Playstation 4 has a full range of voice activated controls, it’s really the XBox One that shines here.
Every app on the new XBox, from Netflix to the integrated cable TV guide, can be controlled by voice, and it quickly gets addictive. Get one and you’ll soon find yourself frustrated that you need a remote to manage your other entertainment hardware.
It’s this kind of expected convenience from a popular device that pushes entire industries to a new user experience model. Look for everything from televisions to thermostats to start offering voice control.
A shift in social networking
During their November earnings announcement, Facebook admitted that they’ve seen a significant drop in daily use by teens. Although they went on to question the trend’s significance, teens do appear to be disenchanted with it. The youngest person in my family that still uses it regularly is twenty years old. The accepted reasons for this are the heavy use of Facebook by parents (and uncles) and what some perceive as egregious levels of invasive advertising.
Younger demographics are heavily adopting messaging services (Snapchat, WhatsApp) and more single-faceted, feed based networks (Instagram, Pinterest). One thing to note about these channels is that their simplified functionality allows the user complete control over what they share of themselves; they allow them, literally and figuratively, to filter their personal image. This is in stark contrast to Facebook, which works tirelessly to know every detail about you and share it with your contacts, as well as brands.
This year, twenty-and-thirty-somethings will join teens and start moving away from Facebook and go to the more popular a la carte services. Even if these services are acquired by larger social networks, younger users will hesitate to use any functionality that integrates the two.
The web 2.0 model becomes public debate
Facebook isn’t the only web company facing issues retaining the first generation to grow up with the internet. For this demographic, receiving services for free has become the status quo. Traditionally, this has been subsidized through advertising and selling of user information. As the popular saying goes, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
Unfortunately for many web 2.0 companies, turning users into a product wasn’t as successful as they had hoped for. It turns out you have to have a pretty massive user base to gain significant profits with that vertical. Some startups gravitated towards the freemium model, while others, like Twitter, gave up profits all together until they could build a large enough user base.
The problem with the latter plan is that people got so used to getting free services with absolutely no strings attached that, when the time came to implement advertising, users often revolted. Digg used to be the top social news site until they did a massive overhaul to increase revenue. Almost overnight, the majority of their users switched to Reddit. Digg has never been more than a semi-fringe website since then.
Pinterest has never generated revenue. Neither have Tumblr or Snapchat. Twitter has never gotten out of the red, nor have Reddit or Yelp.
Now that Twitter, with their enormous user base, has gone public, the flaws in the web 2.0 profit model are going to become common knowledge among investors. The biggest news in technology this year will be Twitter’s attempt at profitability and how it affects overall investment in the web industry.
Is Blake right or wrong? And what do you think will be this year’s tech trends?