I generally loathe predictions, so I won’t really refer to the following as “predictions” and instead refer to them as a “natural evolution for tech in 2013”… although “natural” may not be the best work either. However, these are some of the topics that I think will become more prominent in our lives in 2013:
Less Freedom Online
The Internet will become less open and more regulated by government agencies. Along with commerce on the Internet being taxed, governments will exert more control over what its citizens can access. The “foundational” period of an open Internet with no government intervention is dying. Proof is that just this month a majority of the 193 United Nations member countries approved a treaty giving governments new powers to close off access to the Internet in their countries. China and Russia led the treaty because they realize that to continue to control their citizens, they must control the Internet, unfettered. So the Internet becomes geographical, like the rest of the world, divided in two camps: the open Internet and the closed Internet. The UN treaty takes effect in 2015, but the process of closing it off begins now.
The Cloud becomes De Rigeur
The cloud has already moved past the state of buzzwordiness and into practical integration in our lives. The only thing holding back the complete immersion into the cloud is bandwidth speed and device fragmentation. But even my grandmother understands “The Cloud” as a term now. It’s achieved mainstream.
The “Platform Curtains” Begin to Fall
As the big three (Google, Apple and Microsoft) compete against each other with their hardware/software platforms, they are no longer “playing friendly” with each other by continuing to support their apps and services across different platforms. Each company, to varying degrees, is lowering their “platform curtains” and walling their consumers in. Google just recently announced it will not develop apps for Windows Phone, and will curtail access to its APIs. Apple tried to boot Google Maps off its platform, and if it wasn’t for the debacle of its own offering, would have succeeded. Microsoft is the short-term loser here since its App Store resembles a Soviet grocery store: lots of empty shelves to stock, but very little bread on them. Consumers will be faced with choosing devices not based on hardware alone, but based on platforms. In the spirit of building walls, it will mean that sharing and connecting to each other will eventually be more difficult since your friend with a Windows online blackjack for two players Phone may have to jump over a wall to share a photo with your iPhone. Let’s hope common sense prevails and we don’t have to go dark and live in our own East Berlins for 50 years.
Online Access Inches Toward Ubiquity
I’ve always said Wi-Fi access needs to be like electricity. I hope someday we have a network grid similar to our electric grid. And maybe it should be regulated by the government as well. With Google trying out fiber-optic connections in the heartland, and Comcast providing Wi-Fi access anytime/anywhere to its subscribers, there are more options to staying connected as we move around our communities. Frankly, I’m tired of buying mobile devices with cellular connections just so I can be assured that if I desperately need to answer an email while waiting for the train, or if I just MUST have that new Taylor Swift single while riding the bus, I can get online to whet my appetite for digital bling. Although we’re being extremely over-charged for cellular connections, there are glimmers of hope that the providers know they can’t keep charging us like the 80s when we bought $25 CDs in cardboard long-boxes… they feel the pressure to provide faster service with less hassle. Now, if only we can do something about those $4 lattes in Starbucks…
Your Computing Experience Transformation Continues
Unabated, your options are many, and as you quietly and quickly move away from a state of tetherness, you still demand multiple devices to do different things. The hope of one smart device that you can hold in your hand to get everything done is anything but realistic, and not really what you want. You like 10” tablets for your lean-back experience. You like your smartphone tucked safely in your pocket, just two fingers away from you at all times. You’ve even found yourself sleeping with or near it. You like the e-ink lightness of that latest Kindle/Nook when you get all literary and actually read, and you like your big-screen TV to take you on those harrowing blu-ray journeys to far away places… and, yes, now you’re thinking that little 7” tablet would be a great gaming device. You’re not a one-screen kinda gal, but what you want is a seamless experience moving between all your screens. It’s getting better everyday, and 2013 will make that experience just a bit better although you may have to make some hard decisions about your own loyalty to one of the Big Three.