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:

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.

3 Responses to “Predictions for 2014”

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