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It’s no doubt we’re in a big new era where everyone is carrying a smartphone, most of us are using tablets at home and our laptops are mostly gathering dust in the closet.

As we move more and more into this mobile lifestyle what we are not doing is as important as what we are doing.  We are NOT using browsers on our mobile devices.  The average user launches the browser on their smartphone once per day while launching apps at least 15 time more often.  What does this decline in browser usage mean?

There is a one-for-one trade-off between the decline of the browser and the rise of apps.  We are now using the Facebook app, the Twitter app, Google Maps app, Gmail app, Angry Birds app, Instagram app, WhatsApp app, YouTube app, appcetera, appcetera, appcetera.

The upside of the browser, as originally envisioned by the Mosaic browser in 1993, was an open platform to view all web content.  You would use one tool to see everything, everywhere.

Apps are the opposite extreme.  Apps are single-purpose engines for focused niches of data.  You need many apps where before you only needed one browser.

The browser took advantage of the HyperText Transport Protocol invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 which defined an open standard for everyone to publish their data.  Apps are by nature native creatures, tied and locked down to the platforms they run on.

Right now there are three app platforms that seem to be winning: Android of course, way out in front of all others, iOS much father back after inventing the app category and Windows Phone which is stubbornly carving out a small niche.  The more “open” app platform is HTML5, a descendant in some ways of Tim Berners-Lee’s work, but HTML5 has failed to get market traction.  HTML5 apps are few and far between.  As of now you can run Android apps, iPhone and iPad apps and Windows Phone apps on hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of devices.  HTML5 has been relegated to a mere handful of sub-million units of devices.

What’s striking to me is how proprietary apps are and what a new tech world we are in.  The WorldWide Web was open and more standard.  Browsers differed on features and competed, but also supported open international standards for publishing data.  Native apps have torn this all asunder.

Are we losing the openness of the Internet?  Are we in danger of becoming a series of big three walled garden networks?

Right now, it’s looking this way.  The only way to prevent such an app-tastrophe is for apps to be mere clients, thin shells of functionality, with all their data in the cloud.

The cloud is the ultimate in the proprietary lock-down of data.  We’re losing the open fields of the web to the closed space of the cloud.

So smartphones are being reduced to the dumbest of clients.  The Internet is being divided into three walled gardens (Android, iOS and Windows).  You will have to pay to access this new clouded network through the vendor you select be it Google, Apple or Microsoft.

We have lost the commons, the public space.


Brendan Eich is a middle-aged technologist who worked his way up at Silicon Graphics, Netscape and Mozilla along the way helping create the JavaScript language.  No one knows why he was selected to be CEO of Mozilla last month, but he was.  Brendan was CTO of Mozilla since 2005 so perhaps in a time of challenges, where browsers are losing out to apps for user’s eyeballs on mobile devices, the organization decided to turn to a technologist for a new direction.

Very shortly after his appointment it was disclosed that Eich made a $1,000 contribution in 2008 to the campaign for California Proposition 8 which was a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Well things went south from there extremely quickly.  Two days ago OKCupid.com, a dating website, put code in their home page to detect Firefox browsers which redirected them to a page saying Mozilla’s new CEO is against equal rights for gay couples, so please use another browser to visit the site.

Naturally this got written up by the BBC and others.  Rarebit withdrew their app from Mozilla’s app store.  Today Rarebit called this “A Sad Victory”.

What do we make of this fast and furious reaction, both by the web community and by Mozilla?

First I think Americans generally believe in the freedom of expression.  There’s no denying Brendan Eich has the right to be politically active and I think no disagreement there.

Second I think Americans as consumers want full disclosure.  It’s hard to imagine keeping secrets in today’s pretty open world, but we did want to know whether a CEO believed in gay marriage or not.  We did not consider this an irrelevant detail.

Third I think Americans want to be free to choose, as Milton Friedman put it.  Free to choose whom to associate with and who to associate our dollars to.  That freedom can also extend to boycotting products of organizations that have leaders we disagree with.  This has been an organizing principle for civil rights activists for years.

In the end Eich had to step down.  The controversy about his views was becoming a controversy for Mozilla.  Does this mean we’ll only support corporate leaders who (1) aren’t politically active or (2) aren’t outed for being politically active in some cause?  I think the unfortunate answer is yes.  The late great Johnny Carson knew this and kept his politics out of the Tonight Show.  He believed if he put them into it he would alienate half his audience.

What impressed me the most about this was not that Eich had to resign, I suspected eventually he would have to.  It’s the speed with which it happened.  In a funny way it reminds me of John Thompson’s resignation as CEO of Yahoo in 2012 just four months after taking the job.  Thompson had lied on his resume about having a degree from a school.  This was uncovered and he was out.

Eich made no ethical lapse, none whatsoever.  However the judgement, by the board or by him or both, that the difficulty of defending himself would just be too much distraction.  Everything in the information age is faster, but although I think it’s a better thing for Mozilla that Eich goes, I also think it was a digital lynch flash mob that got him.

There’s a big trend brewing, no surprise but larger that I realized until I thought about it.

1. Nokia just put out their Nokia X line of Android phones.
While these will not be marketed in the United States — YET — there’s something very significant this product line shows us.  The Nokia X line uses Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, HERE Maps and Bing search.  So the Microsoft cloud was pushed onto an Android device with a Windows Tile look and feel.  In fact what you can do on a Windows Phone Lumia device you can now do on a Nokia X ANDROID device.  What’s the difference?

2. What we see with these new Nokia X devices is that the client hardware is not so important.
Your data, your preferences, your content, heck even your identity is stored in the cloud.  Devices merely surface what’s stored in the cloud.  Yes devices also push data up to the cloud, but you’re no longer dependent on one specific type of device or operating system of device.  The cloud is what’s common and devices can and will vary in your usage.

3. Three cloud silos have emerged as the dominant players: Google, Apple and Microsoft.
These players staked out their territory on mobile devices, started by the Apple iPhone, now dominated by Android with Microsoft arriving late to the party.

Increasingly users are being siloed into one of these Big 3 cloud providers.

4. Amazon also its own cloud for its quite lovely and popular Kindle devices, BUT…
BUT their maps solution has lagged Android new map features and there is no contact database per se.  Amazon has its own Silk browser and app store to help you find content, but Amazon is clearly behind the Big 3 in number of users.

5. Yahoo has email, maps (from Mapquest), contacts in email, search obviously, but NO client devices.
The lack of owning a mobile experience has put the whole Yahoo franchise in question.  As our mobile devices now drive us to a specific cloud, one of the Big 3 generally, where does Yahoo fit?  Yahoo needs a total client experience badly or users will lock into other cloud silos and that is what is happening today.

6. As more of your data is siloed, it is harder to switch cloud services.
Google put its apps on iPhone to pull users into their cloud, but once you buy apps or content,  you can’t take it with you.

7. Siloed clouds can frustrate users with apps and content.
I want iTunes music, Google email, Amazon books, Yahoo search and Microsoft maps.  I’m screwed.  Apps are pretty much the domain of the Big 3 and to a lesser extent Amazon, though I doubt most Kindle owners use their wonder tablets for apps.  I certainly use mine as an excellent e-reader.

8. Cloud lock-in makes for sticky customers.
Now that I’m siloed in to a particular mobile provider I’m very reticent to move.  Would my email be accessible?  Would I get a notification when a new email arrives like I do now?  Would I have to really learn how to use a new maps app?

9. Smartphone market maturity means users will switch less.
Most people have a smartphone now and the smartphone featureset is not improving much.  There are marginal speed improvements, waterproofing, varying lifespans of battery, an assortment of screen sizes, but no new killer feature.  Technically we’re done.  That means we’re less likely to upgrade our smartphones and thus even less likely to switch clouds.

10. This is bad news for Microsoft who is late to mobile market.
As the mobile-come-lately and smallest marketshare player of the Big 3, Microsoft needs unsettled users who will consider switching.  While there is some loyalty to Apple and Samsung devices, most users will switch devices without much consideration, but most users won’t switch clouds without knowing there is unnecessary pain.  Pain where you can’t access all of your past data or bring all your apps with you or having to learn new user interfaces.

11. Facebook is cross-cutting and will grow to eclipse small cloud players.
Some app makers are big enough to provide a common experience across cloud platforms and Facebook is one of those Big Kahunas.

12. Yahoo needs a client experience badly or users will lock into other cloud silos.
Without a mobile device user interface to own and direct that user to their cloud, Yahoo still relies on manual app installation by users, which can drag some of their existing users along, but won’t get them any newbies.  Without the preference that comes by being the Default on a device, Yahoo is hurtling towards oblivion and while CEO Marissa Mayer has made all the right acquisitions and moves, the lack of presence on mobile devices still dooms her company.

13. Amazon has unique content and opportunity to be everyone’s second device.
Although the Kindle was reported to be the number two tablet used at work by employees, no doubt this is not a corporate device, but users bringing their home devices to work.  The Kindle as an e-reader and perhaps movie viewer isn’t going away, but it’s not the app platform most of us will be using.

14. Amazon rising will hurt rival eBay by limiting eBay’s growth.
Amazon is a player in the cloud and mobile and the King of Content Providers.  eBay has done well in transitioning to mobile, but it’s still a distant second fiddle.  There’s no eBay mobile devices and there won’t be.

15. Here comes the Internet of Things.
It’s getting harder to switch among clouds.  So the mature tech industry will move to more consumer products like Nest (smart thermostats), smart TVs, and automotive tie-ins.  Each of these will be their own silo of data, but out of necessity exportable to the Big 3 clouds to integrate with your smartphone apps.

16. The Internet of Things implies the all-knowing cloud.
As the Big 3 clouds collect all this data users will more and more locked-in.  The sensor-nature of most smart devices will store their output into the cloud.  If you switch among the Big 3 do you really want to lose all your data history and start over?  Do you want your house to relearn when you’re there and how to adjust the thermostat?  Do you want your car to relearn the routes you travel and not suggest alternatives to traffic until it’s too late?  Do you want to rebuy all the content you bought with one cloud provider?

It’s already too late.  We’re locked into the cloud and into one cloud provider.  You’ve made your choice.  Either erase and go forward or stay locked-in and enjoy the data you have.

The big news in not just the tech industry, but all of business was Facebook’s intention to buy the startup WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and (mostly) stock.  Much of the press noted that given WhatsApp has only 55 employees, that the buyout totalled $345 million per employee.

It’s a very large sum and a very high price.  What is Facebook getting?  Well there are the 450 million users of WhatsApp and that’s no small number of users.  It is certainly credible to say that WhatsApp is on the way to a billion users, but is that enough?

WhatsApp has gotten popular by disintermediating text message operators, who are the mobile network operators.  It’s been estimated that users of WhatsApp have saved $33 billion on text messages, or to put it another way the mobile network operators have lost $33 billion of text message business to WhatsApp.

Of course users would not have sent so many text messages if WhatsApp hadn’t effectively made them free, still the mobile operators are now losing text message revenue and WhatsApp just made a bundle through a buyout.  What is the sustaining business proposition?  Ads with the text messages?  Maybe.

Facebook is trying to stay one step ahead of the next hot thing by co-opting when they can and buying it out when they must.  Growth through acquisition is the usual path for the market leader, so this is not unusual — think Microsoft buying Hotmail.  Facebook tried their own Messenger functionality, but did not achieve the market traction that WhatsApp got.

So Facebook is showing chutzpah, an aggressiveness to make sure it’s the most important business in the mobile application market.  Instagram was acquired for a now seemingly paltry $1 billion in 2012.  Facebook wrote a check 19 times bigger, but really only spending $4 billion of cash and the rest in stock.  Can this big fish eating little fish attitude work?  Certainly it will work until it doesn’t.  When it stops working is when there is a new paradigm shift.  No one will be outcompeting Facebook with an imitation, only by coming up with something completely different is there a chance of beating Facebook.

Last November Facebook offered $3 billion for Snapchat, but was turned down.  Snapchat represents the kind of threat Facebook is on the prowl for.  A service different than Facebook’s offerings, but also very popular.  There is kind of a circling of vultures around the death of expensive mobile operator-based text messaging right now.  Social networks like Twitter and Facebook address some of that same market, but many users want a more private conversation hence the popularity Snapchat and WhatsApp.

It’s doubtful that a single app or service will dominate all of text messaging and frankly if one did, then mobile operators would start to push back against that single point of revenue theft from their business.  With cellphones really becoming handheld computers with Internet ability, almost any application could become a text messenger today using XMPP standard for interoperability.  So if a mobile operator tries to stick a finger in one popular app, another one will spring up, like holes in a leaking dam and the mobile operators won’t have enough fingers to plug all the apps.

App stores aren’t even controlled by the mobile operators anymore, but by Google, Apple and Microsoft.  The decline of the carriers to dumb bit pipes was ensured by the iPhone in 2007 when Apple got unprecedented control over the mobile device and software.  That market explosion has lead to the rise of the power of mobile device software providers, think iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

That yanking of power from the mobile operators meant that apps will now circumvent all premium services the mobile operators provide, except basic connectivity.  So the carriers will continue to be commoditized and apps will continue to proliferate and the big fish like Facebook will continue to get bigger.

Bottom line: spending $19 billion for a company with 55 people and 450 million users was a good move.

Where is Microsoft going?

Microsoft just selected a new CEO to replace Steve Ballmer who was employee 30.  The new CEO is Satya Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft and head of cloud services.  Since the old guard is moving into the background, both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer will remain on Microsoft’s board of directors, this is a good time to examine what Microsoft’s options are going forward and where they’re likely to go.

(1) I predict a grand divergence of the Windows and Windows Phone operating systems.  A handheld device has too many constraints (less memory, slower processor) and too many differences (sensors for location, device orientation, motion, position, temperature, even illumination) for there to be a good technical refactoring into one code base.  iOS and Mac OS X have remained different despite each influencing the other.  On the whole this has been a GOOD thing.

(2) Both mobile and desktop devices connect to the network to pull and post information to servers.  The need  to connect to the cloud for data is perhaps more acute on mobile devices, but who can do their job at a desk without the Internet?  Despite twin code bases for mobile and desktop, I predict Microsoft will integrate Azure cloud services on mobile and desktop OS platforms.  The need is there for both.  You register your Android devices by logging into your Gmail account, why not register your Windows device — phone or laptop — by logging into an Azure account?

(3) Samsung and Google have been feuding in the press over how much customization Samsung can do to Android.  Samsung has definitely pushed the Android envelope coming out with more devices and more form factors faster than any other manufacturer.  Google has let them make changes here and there, but is trying to also keep a uniform Android experience.

Samsung rode Android to first place in the smartphone market and would like to have some leverage renegotiating a better deal with Google.  The only way Samsung can get a better deal is to threaten to use different software.  Right now that is not a credible threat, however if Samsung does come out with some Windows Phone models and they get market traction, then Samsung has negotiating leverage with Google.

So I look for Microsoft to continue to push Windows Phone to OEMs despite buying Nokia’s phone division.  I also expect Microsoft to get some OEM wins as the manufacturers continue to search for other options than Android to differentiate themselves.

(4) Office has been morphed to every iteration of Windows with annoying (to me) user interface changes.  Where can it go?  For mobile devices, the human voice is the natural interface for a constrained screen size, so I see a release of Microsoft Office with a voice-and-speech-only user interface.

(5) In 2008 Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo, but then CEO Jerry Yang kept upping the price and really didn’t seem like he wanted to relinquish being CEO no matter what price Microsoft offered.  Well Yang did go and not long after that botched merger.  Still Microsoft is awash in cash and not producing returns fast enough to even keep up with the S&P 500.  Why not buy Yahoo?

Yahoo has the Internet portal brand and their new CEO Marissa Mayer has pushed them into mobile directions that are application-oriented, somewhere Microsoft is not, but needs to be.  So look for Microsoft to start courting Yahoo — again!

(6) Now that Microsoft has Nokia’s phone division, they need to manage it and that means orient it solely to the future.  So I expect Microsoft to sell off the low-end Asha line of phones, which is really the dying Symbian platform, to some Asian manufacturer.  This would be a deal that would be smaller, but not unlike Google selling off Motorola.

(7) Chromebooks with Google’s Chrome OS have shown that thin-client laptops have some place in the market.  In fact even if they are a loss leader, Chromebooks hook users on the cloud and in the case of the Chromebook, Google’s cloud.

This will not be lost on a CEO who was head of Microsoft cloud services and I expect a push for a “light” version of Windows realized by some kind of Windows ultrabook.  It’s copycat, but it makes sense.

(8) After selling off the Asha business, I expect Nokia ex-CEO, now Microsoft VP Stephan Elop to resign.  Elop shepherded the Microsoft takeover of Nokia from start to finish, in fact you could argue that was his mission when he accepted being head of Nokia.  Could Nokia have survived as another Android smartphone maker?  We’ll never know.

(9) Games and gaming has gone way mobile in recent years.  Microsoft has been slow to get on this bandwagon because of their overall difficulty with mobile and solid Xbox sales disguising the longer term trend.  My kids use tablets for gaming and many other parents push this direction too which means the current generation is used to using flat screens, not game controllers, to play games.

So Microsoft has to start integrating Xbox games with Windows Phone games.  Look for it.

(10) The push in data centers is to lower power consumption by using ARM-based servers.  Even Intel is trying to power reduce its x86 line.  What about Windows Server?  We know Windows RT ran on ARM, but it was sluggish and eventually Microsoft withdrew RT tablets as they were too underpowered to run the Windows Desktop (but not Metro).

So I see Windows Server under the gun to run on reduced power servers.  ARM is the natural architecture to support and there is the Windows RT code to leverage, so I expect that offering to be offered.  I also think this architecture rethink will cause Microsoft to consider the Power ISA architecture (formerly known as PowerPC).  Power ISA is pushed by IBM and Windows Server is a more natural sale into an IBM shop, so the sales synergy will trickle down into engineering requirements.  Consideration of Power ISA is also a nod to the weakness of x86 going forward and recognition that one day x86 may just up and disappear from the planet in a big reorg at Intel.  AMD has essentially dropped x86 for servers already.

So there are 10 problems and opportunities for the new CEO of Microsoft to shift and grow the technology and in the process of doing so, remake the company.  Microsoft in 2020 will be a completely different technology company or just an investment bank.

 

Mobile Tech Report 2014 now available for Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and Google Play Android devices.  Apple would NOT publish the Mobile Tech Report and said:

“Links or references throughout the book promote a competing website.”

Well there are links to many websites.  The whole idea of the Mobile Tech Report was to comment on news as reported by different technology websites.  This news is also broken out into categories for the specific technology manufacturer, including competitors of Apple.  Apparently reporting news and giving opinions on it, is now prohibited in iBooks by Apple.

So if you have an Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook or any Android device, you can read the Mobile Tech Report 2014 that was censored by Apple.  There’s plenty of insight about Apple inside it, not to mention all the other tech companies.

We’re still living through the paradigm shift of desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones, but that is a device-level shift.  Is there any sub-device level evolution going on?

In my previous article I argued that effective processor speed has plateaued.  Other than reduced form factors, are we seeing any shift in device technology?  Certainly power consumption is now the new holy grail instead of raw performance, but other than power considerations is any innovation going on with processors?

Well yes.  We’re all carrying these mobile devices and they’re equipped with sensors.  Sensors meaning cameras, microphones, GPS radios and the like.  Ordinary computing processors can poll sensors, but the use of sensors invites a new paradigm, a new way of computing.  That new way is neural networks or neural network processing.

Neural networks are computational models that mimic how our central nervous system operates.  Data from a sensor arrives and is processed by a network of processors.  The idea is that data is compared to an array of “weights” and is recognized or not.  Does the luminance level of a certain color match this pixel or not?  The new data can be recognized or not, or if in learning mode it can affect the weights used to recognize the next data.

In this manner a pre-trained neural network can recognize data.  The key to using neural network processors is whether you have sensor data as input or not.  Since we’re now carrying sensors and will soon be wearing them with wearables, there will be a stream of data coming in.  How will we interpret this data stream?

That is the opportunity for neural processors.  The new sensor stream of data invites a departure from von Neumann architectures.  Qualcomm recently announced their own neural network processor or NPU.   NPUs can be used to recognize data from an incoming sensor stream.  This will be the new computing element to arise and augment, though not quite replace, the traditional von Neumann processor.

So this is good news to both Qualcomm and Intel.  New processors are needed for our mobile devices, but not traditional CPUs, new NPUs — neural processing units.

The semiconductor industry is fond of quoting Moore’s Law, really Moore’s observation, that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years.  In the past this has lead to faster and faster computers, but are we really getting faster computers today?

Think about it.  If you have a very fine mesh of transistors that you are going to push data into, then pull data out of after some algorithmic operation, the real performance of the system is based on (i) how much data you can push in and (ii) how fast you can clock it out.

Right now processors are hitting an I/O bottleneck that is limiting how much data can be pushed into and pulled out of your pile of transistors.  While the number of transistors on a chip continues to grow, data buses with 128 bit, 256 or more bits, even with multiplexing are unable to keep those transistors fed, meaning lit up with data.

Why have clock speeds plateaued at several gigahertz?  Clock speeds broke through megahertz level after level, but now face a thermal barrier.  The faster you clock, the more power you pump into the silicon and since you’re not increasing the area of the chip, then you’re putting more power into the same area and voila it gets hot.  If you increase the chip size to disperse the power, then fabrication yields drop.  Yes you can attempt some supercooling techniques, but that isn’t a viable economic answer to the question of computer performance.

The answer that the industry doesn’t want you to know is that we are at the end of significant performance improvements.  We are at the end of computer’s teenage years.  Computers have grown up.  The end of the performance renaissance is at hand.  You won’t know it for a few years because of industry marketing and our shift to smaller (smartphone and tablet) devices, but computers are not getting any faster.  Also the migration to the cloud which uses racks of computers operating in parallel will give the illusion of faster speed for a time.

The computer renaissance is over.  Answers will now only be solved by parallel processing techniques.  CPU speeds will not increase.  We are at the end of the trail and have reached the plateau.  For generations to come, this is as good as it will get.  The abacus computed for thousands of years without getting any faster, so too will its silicon descendants from here out.

You can now read the Mobile Tech Report: 2014 on your Amazon Kindle e-reader.  Find out where the mobile technology industry went in 2013 and is going in 2014.  Check it out here.

I’m at it again.  Here’s what my crystal ball reveals for 2014.

(1) Blackberry spins off QNX.
Lost in the discussion of Blackberry 10 OS, which was actually delivered and worked, was remembering that RIM bought QNX for its real-time OS which became Blackberry 10.  QNX was the number two player in real time operating systems behind Wind River, which Intel bought in 2009 for $884 million.  RIM bought QNX for $200 million in 2010.  Now that QNX did its job by powering Blackberry 10, there’s no reason for Blackberry to keep them in-house and look for Blackberry to spin QNX back off to raise cash.  With Wind River consumed by Intel, there is a market need for embedded systems operating system vendors like QNX.

(2) Chinese tech firm buys wreckage of Blackberry.
Lenovo is most talked about, but network infrastructure-oriented Huawei seems more likely to me.  There will be other private equity offers that won’t be as large or accepted.  Both the Canadian and American government have their doubts about Blackberry being bought by a Chinese firm, but ultimately they won’t stand in the way.

(3a) You’ll see an Android tablet at the supermarket checkout.
Like USB thumb drives, prices are getting low enough for an Android tablet to be an impulse buy as you wait in a store checkout line.  This means the price has to be sub-$50 to be there, probably sub-$40.  Surely not the bleeding edge, but it would have been two years ago.

(3b) Emerging cheap single purpose screens show up in stores.
Imagine a tablet that is actually a subscription to a TV channel or a show.  You might get House of Cards on an Android tablet instead of a DVD pack, for the SAME PRICE.

To be cheap the device has to be low on memory which means streaming video from the cloud which means a WiFi connection you provide.  Look for tablets that are the delivery for a subscription to shows at Target.

(4) WiFi-only phones emerge.
Speaking of WiFi, WiFi phones come back, perhaps with an Ubuntu Linux phone.  WiFi coverage is getting good enough that cheap WiFi only phones are starting to make sense.  I don’t see these coming from the larger tech manufacturers, but smaller players who look to make a quick buck by filling a market niche.  So lose the 3G, lose the 4G, just a WiFi only model for an ultra-cheap feature phone.  Maybe you’ll even throw it away after making a few calls. (See prediction 12).

(5) nVidia exits mobile CPU market.
nVidia will stop making mobile CPUs like the Tegra chip because it’s just not profitable.  Recall that Texas Instruments exited its OMAP line in 2012 citing cost competition in the mobile CPU market.  Mobile consolidation continues.  It’s too brutally cost competitive for nVidia to stay in both graphics acceleration chips and CPUs.  nVidia can only survive playing to its core competence speeding up graphics.

(6) Intel beefing up on LTE will hurt Qualcomm.
Last year I predicted Intel would buy Broadcom.  They didn’t, but I was correct that Intel was looking to acquire LTE technology.  One of new CEO Brian Krzanich’s moves was to approve acquisition of Fujitsu Semiconductor Wireless Products for their LTE transceivers.  LTE was missing in Intel mobile solutions, but now Intel has the whole hardware enchilada for mobile.  Manufacturers that want a one-stop solution for Android need not ARM themselves.

More on this acquisition is at:
http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/intel-buys-fujitsu-rf-unit-beef-lte-expertise/2013-08-13

I still think Broadcom would have been a better, though much more expensive, acquisition.  Broadcom has been aggressive in asserting its intellectual property in wireless and in quite creative ways, like buying a company that possessed a patent just to sue Qualcomm with.  Broadcom bought the company, got the patent, sued Qualcomm and won.

Intel just doesn’t have that mindset to go for the jugular, but now it has all it needs in mobile to give Qualcomm a real headache.  Both Intel and Qualcomm will be duking it out for the high end of the mobile market, meaning the higher performance and cost CPUs and modems.  Since Intel has practically zilch today, any wins by Intel will be coming at Qualcomm’s expense and I do expect Intel to get some market wins in 2014.

(7) Wearables will be worn by early adopters but shunned by consumers.
No one, not even Google with Glass, will be bragging about adoption numbers on wearables in 2014.  The industry is looking past smartphones to wearables as the next small thing that will be the next big thing.  It will be, but it won’t be in 2014.  Next year will be all about product introductions, consumer adoption will lag and disappoint Wall Street.  The real trend on wearables will emerge in 2015.

(8) Personal life-logging will start a new trend.
Imagine Runkeeper on steroids, not just tracking your exercise, but everything you do.  Snap a photo of what you eat, who you talk with, what you say or do you speak more than this person or not.  The logical use of wearable tech will be to log all of your life.  Yes you’ll get some information out of your Google Glass or Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch, but the enduring use of wearables will be to record everything related to us.  The new Memoto life logging camera, now called the Narrative Clip, points way to this trend, it is a small pendant or lapel clip that takes a photo every five minutes and uploads it to the cloud.  Memoto started as a Kickstarter-funded project, but will wind up a Kickbutter product.

All of this new data gathered about us, by us, will then mean we’ll need analytics to tell us about ourselves too, but not in 2014.

(9) States will start designating texting areas on roads (a la New York).
Frustrated with being unable to stop or discourage driving-while-texting, New York is trying a bold experiment.  Add special Texting Zones to the highway where you can pull over, text, then drive off undistracted.  It’s a great idea, a bold experiment and I don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth a try.  In fact it’s a great idea by instead of saying what you can’t do, enabling what you want to do.

I see other states following New York’s lead, but no definite decision on how effective Texting Zones are in 2014.  And eventually, though not in 2014, those Texting Zones will have free WiFi hotspots.

(10) Smartphones evolve towards always-on, always-recording (voice, photos, location).
Where do these thin flat panels of glass go from here?  Actually the Moto X was pointing the way, not in its highly customizable exterior, but in using voice recognition almost all the time as an interface.  Voice is a natural interface for a small device with a cloud connection, so we’re done.  It’s happened.  The rest of the smartphone evolution has to do with acquiring other data besides your voice.

Look for smartphones to start taking photos at regular intervals, or recording audio too.  Why not track your location perpetually as GeoLoqi (acquired by Esri) was implementing.  The only factor holding back continuous data acquisition is battery life.  Every improvement in battery life will be eaten by increasing data acquisition on the smartphone.  It’s the Runkeeper app paradigm that points the way for smartphone evolution, so I look for the next crop of features to be automatically recording your movements, your speech, heck even who and what you see.  It’s Little Brother in your pocket blabbing to Big Brother in the cloud.

(11) HTC put on life support by market and Taiwanese government.
Microsoft doesn’t need them anymore after buying Nokia, really even after Stephen Elop chose Windows Phone.
HTC has been losing to Samsung and LG is rising in smartphones now as well.  Smartphones and also the now-required tablets are too tough a road for HTC and while they won’t die quickly they will (continue to) fade significantly.  Notice the lack of HTC recent Nexus devices.  Microsoft is also beating them up on patents, wanting an install Windows Phone option on their devices.  HTC profits will evaporate as the company treads water, but they are in real trouble.

(12) Debut of disposable feature phones introduces disposable tech that is coming.
Make a few calls and throw the phone into a recycle bin.  This will be like the cameras you bought that had film developed by returning the camera, maybe your voice message is delivered when you turn in the phone?
While most disposable tech won’t be seen until 2015, we’ll see the start of this trend in 2014 with low end feature phones.
What about grabbing a tablet as you board a plane from an airport vendor, then discard it as you disembark?  How about a smart watch you throw out when the battery dies?

(13) Samsung does not have the top selling smartphone in 2014.
They did in 2012 and again in 2013, but the Galaxy S run will stop short of the gold in 2014.

 

So there you have it, actually 14 predictions because (3a) and (3b) were so related I had to group them under one number.  I’m seeing 2014 as another start of an innovation cycle with ever-cheaper screens heralding disposable computing.  I’m also seeing the trend of logging ever more data about ourselves.  I don’t think privacy issues will stand in the way, they haven’t yet really for any tech of significance.  I see more about us in the cloud than ever and actually a step function rise to a new level starting.

We’ll see how well these look in twelve or so months.

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