I’m at it again.  Some of these are problems that need to be solved, so I’m offering up solutions.  Here’s what my crystal ball reveals for 2015.

(1) Text messaging bubble pops with Facebook as winner.

Facebook Messenger has 500 million users.  Whatsapp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion, also has 500 million users.  Can you say one billion?  It’s over.  Facebook has won and is the de facto text messaging service worldwide.  Carriers are disintermediated on a lucrative part of their business.

Another loser, aside from the carriers, is Snapchat.  Snapchat turned down buyout offers from both Facebook and Google for $4 billion near the end of 2013.  On its own now and with only 100 million users can Snapchat survive with Facebook as a competitor?  I think Snapchat will survive, but not thrive as it introduces ads to its users — users who can easily switch to Messenger or Whatsapp.  Of course Facebook with throw ads in too, but management will tread lightly as not to lose users.  That means fewer ads, less revenue and a harder path to an IPO for Snapchat (see my anti-predictions).

With big boy Facebook cornering the messaging market, don’t expect a thousand messaging apps to bloom, just like there’s not real Facebook social network imitators springing up either (sorry Ello).  The wave of text messaging apps is over and Facebook has won.

(2) 3D printers appear in kitchen to bake and make food.

You can buy a 3D printer in a Frye’s Electronics, but that is a store catering to nerds.  Most consumers will see 3D printers arrive in their kitchen to cook up new and cute concoctions.  Look for Japan, inventor of the bread machine, to bring out 3D food printing.

(3) Intel gets a smartphone win in the United States.

Forget the Asus Padfone.  That was a hybrid device (phone and tablet) with a tiny Asian audience.  Intel has been plowing big bucks into shoehorning x86 architecture into a lower power footprint.  Their Atom chip is now good enough to compete with ARM on power usage and computational horsepower (that was never in doubt).  So the technical achievement is there, what Intel now needs is a marketing breakthrough to get a top tier phonemaker (Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, somebody!) to come out with an Android with Atom brains.  That alone will ensure entry into the US market and I see Intel picking up that win by manufacturers desperate to differentiate themselves and their Android clone phones.

(4) Portable smartphone printers popup.

As more and more of our workflow has devolved down to smartphones and perhaps tablets, why isn’t there a better way to print?  I need something small and portable that can use some simple ink jets to spray out my quick notes, drawing or itemized receipt.  Thermal printers with eco-hostile paper aren’t the way to go.  Give me if not a pocketable printer, one I can slide into a tablet-sized Timbuk2 case.  We need this, especially as much of the work force is doing their jobs in coffee shops now.

(5) Time lapse image recognition is the next big thing.

Cameras, cameras everywhere and no meaning in sight.  With ubiquitous cameras we need a way to understand what they’re seeing.  Cameras capture so much data the only way to understand it is to compress it.  Compress the time for the images and voila you have time lapse videos.  Those videos needs to be mined to determine peak traffic times (and how much traffic at those times), duration of ambient lighting, average length of stay and so on.  We’re collecting so much data, we need Big Analysis to go with this Big Data.  Expect software startups that can parse and process for profit.

(6) Personal cloud and commercial cloud synchronization happens.

Many of us with cable or fiber optic modems have them hooked up to wireless routers so we can plunk on our laptop in the front room via a WiFi connection.  Many of us also have hooked up disk drives to those wireless routers to give us a “personal cloud”, a datastore that is accessible by any computer connecting to our wireless network.

Often those personal cloud disk drives are backing up what’s on your laptop(s).  What happens if that personal cloud drive dies?  You lose your backups.  That’s a good case to synchronize your personal cloud with the real cloud where you can save your data in case your house burns down.  Of course on the road you are also updating to and from the commercial cloud and you’d like to have that reflected on your personal cloud as well.  There is a need for greater synchronization services between your personal cloud, which can serve as a kind of persistent cache, and the commercial cloud which can be your off-site backup.  I expect to see activity in cloud-to-cloud synchronization services in 2015.

(7) Cloud players own the data center, non-players don’t and one cloud evaporates.

All the cloud players have their own data centers, in fact you’re nobody if you don’t have a data center.  It just means you’re using someone else’s data center.

So the question is whether there will be any mergers between cloud players?  Another way to put it is whether any data centers will combine?

The list of the big cloud players I see: Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM.

One of these cloud players will go away in 2015 although they won’t admit it.  The method of their vanishing will be to lose their data center and migrate to SOMEONE ELSE’S cloud.

(8) Amazon Echo defines a new must-have product.

The Amazon Echo now in beta resembles a cylindrical bluetooth speaker.  It has a speaker and a microphone as well.  You’ll talk to it in the same way you speak with Siri on Apple, Google search on Google and Cortana on Windows Phone.

Look for the Amazon Echo to be your own Star Trek computer for your home and Google to make its own version.  Microsoft, then Apple will follow Amazon’s lead here.  Not only will you get answers to questions, but the future of the Echo is to unify the functionality of your home entertainment systems.  With a device in your home you talk to, soon you will just tell it to change the channel, bring up the movie you want on your TV or play the latest album by name-your-rock-group.  A voice-activated interface is natural for home entertainment and the Echo will point the way in that direction, but in 2015 it will simply show it is a must-have tech product for your home.

(9) Smartphone with interchangeable camera lenses from major player.

By major I mean Apple, Samsung or Microsoft (from the division formerly known as Nokia).  Is it a pocket camera?  Is it a phone?  It’s both, but with better glass.  Yes the Lumia 1020 has a high pixel count sensor and better optics, but it’s really just an opening shot in making a smartphone with an outstanding camera.  I see more enthusiast photography features coming to smartphones and that requires better optics, not just better sensors.

The Sony DSC-QX100 which is just a lens+sensor+WiFi and is controlled by an app on your phone is one attempt in this area, but I think it’s just a bit too odd for consumers.  A lens that’s not physically connected to your phone, but your phone controls it?  Very interesting product, but I think consumers will demand the high quality lens physically connected to the phone.

(10) A social network for sensors is born.

For some time users have hooked up an Arduino device to some sensor and have it tweet every so often on Twitter.  I know someone who has a thermometer in his freezer hooked up to an Arduino and it tweets the freezer temperature every minute.

Why you might want this, or not want this, varies from person-to-person.  What this indicates though is a need to monitor sensors and I don’t sense it quite fits into traditional social networks.  With the Internet-of-Things coming we will all soon be collecting massive amounts of data and there needs to be a place to monitor it in a log like fashion, like a Twitter feed, but also compress it and analyze it, kind of like a big data problem.

I see new social networks for just sensors, no humans please, arising to fill this niche.  Your device will have a profile, but no hobbies.

(11) A major cloud outage disrupts tens of millions of Americans.

InfoWorld has compiled a good list of major cloud outages here.

In 2014 Dropbox went down for two days, Gmail & Google went down for 30 to 60 minutes in January and three hours in March, Basecamp for two hours, Adobe for a day, Evernote for 10 hours, iCloud for hours, Microsoft Exchange for nine hours, among the outages.

It’s not quite bad enough for us to notice much yet, but if you were a web developer using Adobe InDesign in the cloud you lost a day on a project.  We’re all used to email outages, but as more and more of the tools we use migrate to the cloud, we’re going to be suffering increased burdens, or productivity losses, from the cloud going down.

I am not quite predicting the apocalypse, but an outage of a day or two of one of the most popular services, enough to make evening news headlines, will happen in 2015.

(12) Unfriend-ing leads to smaller personal social networks.

There is a concept called Dunbar’s Number which pertains to the maximum size of social relationships an individual can manage.  Of course most of us operate well below Dunbar’s Number and maintain social relationships at a number we find comfortable.

What about online?

According to a Pew Research poll the average Facebook adult user has 200 friends.  That’s too many friends, more than the normal Dunbar Number of 150 stable social relationships.

Where there is instability there will be unfriending.

I predict that the average Facebook user number of friends will decline.  Given that an average user is starting with 200 the only way that number can decline is if (a) a friend leaves Facebook or (b) a user unfriends someone.  I see (b) and a lot of it.  I see users having experimented trying out the social network, reaching at every recognized name, pulling back to a more common and familiar group.  Twitter has a model of looser association and may be immune to this new trend for awhile, but I predict Twitter too will start to see users cull who they’re following.

This will mark a retrenchment trend for social networks.  Unfriending means users are actually seeking more relevant content, especially important in an ad-polluted stream of status updates.  2015 will mark the year this starts and be the year of the unfriend.

So there you have it, a dozen things to look for in 2015.  I think 2015 marks a year where innovation blooms, kind of a pivot to new things after having milked what technology brought us before.  I see 2015 as a fresh start to begin to grow new things for tech.
Happy new year!

2 Responses to “Mobile Predictions for 2015”

  1. [...] happen in mobile technology for the year 2015?  Our friends at PDXmobile have figured out what will happen and won’t happen in 2015.  Don’t you want to know the future?  Posted by admin [...]

  2. [...] Before I get into my mobile technology predictions for 2016, because I’m a masochist let’s review the predictions I made for 2015 a year ago.  You can read my 2015 mobile technology predictions here. [...]

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