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Our 2014 predictions for consumer and business technology

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Yes, it’s that time. You knew it as soon as you heard Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas at the grocery store. No, we’re not talking about Christmas…we’re talking about the time of the year for every yoyo with an opinion to predict what will happen in the coming year. We’re never short on opinions ourselves, and last year’s piece did very well, so it seems like a no-brainer to do it again. We realize, however, that most of these pieces read a little more like sci-fi than things you can actually get ready for. We’re instead predicting the trends that we truly believe will change the landscape in the next twelve calendar months.

Here goes with our version broken out by consumer and business predictions for 2014:

For consumers

PC’s will continue to waste away

idc-1q13-pc-shipments-chart02-456x325PC’s will continue their drop for two reasons, 1) there is so much hype in favor of tablets and smartphones and against PC’s that anyone considering buying one will pause, and, 2) PC’s cut against the grain of trends in computing as apps rise (replacing browsers). Cost is a simple part of this equation as well — the value of a PC at the same price as a good smartphone or tablet is much lower. Steve Jobs famously said, “PC’s are going to be like trucks. They are still going to be around. One out of x people will need them.” To get more detail, read the IDC report on this topic.

Wearables will accelerate their rise

Don’t think of just fitness bracelets, watches or funky glasses. Wearable computers include articles of clothing like sensor-embedded shirts and smart rings. Wearables don’t need to be something we look through or read — a wearable can also be any sensor that tests our own body or its environment to provide feedback, a stored history, or can adjust something (like music, temperature, medication or an ETA) accordingly. Wearables are simply one more component of the Internet of Things.

Everyone will be setting up a personal cloud 

apple-icloudWe’ve toyed with it at work with DropBox and Apple hits us hard with it through iCloud, but 2014 will be the first year that Average Joe or Jane finally gets it that their music collection, photos, filing cabinet and everything else that can be stored and used digitally should be kept in the cloud rather than gathering dust on a shelf or squirreled away on a hard drive. The implications of the world suddenly storing masses of personal information in the ether is profound. Just like Facebook figured out that giving us free places to connect with our world gives them rich marketing, cloud providers will figure out ways to offer steeply discounted cloud storage in exchange for marketing to (and selling to others) our personal preferences derived from what we store.

Mobile payments and new currencies will explode

Bitcoin is so interesting because it is a non-governmental currency that is fully digital. With the proliferation of smartphones and rising use of broadband in the developing world, new ways for money to move will cause mobile payments to grow rapidly. Take as an example Africa, where microbusiness is booming and the developing world may teach the rest of us a powerful lesson about the future. With mobile computing and payments, everyone is potential microbusiness, whether its to rent out our unused driveway or washing machine. The Uber model of connecting supply and demand on the fly applies broadly but to grow internationally, requires common currency and payments.

For business

IT will continue to give ground to the business

Business in today’s world of rapid digitization of work demands more than just data storage and application development, the traditional domains of IT. Business users today have demands for SaaS-based applications, mobility, self-service and simplicity that has never been the skill set of the CIO’s team. Business process, once baked into screens in an application, is very rapidly becoming a business-side function as the process and the intelligence (data and logic) that supports it require deep business savvy more than technology plumbing knowledge. As Forrester predicts, IT will need to be an “agile service broker” to survive.

Internet of Everything will create new markets

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 9.45.51 AMGartner coined the term Internet of Everything to describe how digitization will significantly change business. As the total number of connected devices  – both smartphones and sensor devices — mushrooms quickly, more efficient tracking of materials from suppliers, more fine-grained tracking of customers and their preferences and far better ways to understand what’s actually happening within the business is rapidly changing the way companies compete. Gartner predicts reinvention of business process (planned behaviors), business models (strategy) and business moments (execution with velocity and agility) as the only way a business can stay in front and we think they’re spot on.

Technology will feel these effects in 2014 with the rise of new apps to manage supply chain, new apps to manage customer experience and new apps that change productivity in the workplace. All three will rely on connectivity to people and sensors to gather information and make decisions.

Almost no one is ready for what’s coming

Staying in front will be very challenging. Few companies…very few…are ready for what’s coming, meaning that there will be a significant retooling necessary that will include changing the workforce, the approach and the technology that generates revenue. Organizations will need to create systems without limitations and architect for maximum throughput, efficiency and think about computing at the edge. They’ll need to pre-filter information and listen and watch data even if its purpose isn’t known yet.

There you go…2014 in a nutshell. We’d love to hear your opinions.

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