In many ways, 2013 was a year of re-alignment. Both Nokia and Blackberry finally succumbed to their new realities, and while Microsoft scooped up Nokia it remains to be seen what will become of Blackberry. Speaking of Microsoft, the “Start” menu was revitalized somewhat and is rumored to be part of yet another Windows 8 forthcoming release where the full Windows 7 style desktop will be resurrected.
Apple slowed down a little bit, and may have officially hit a speed bump with the advent of iPhone 5S/5C and the trash-can inspired Mac Pro. This kind of horizontal platform growth is reminiscent of what happened without Job’s leadership in the 1990′s.
What’s in store for 2014? Who knows, but like every year I’m going to take a stab at it.
- Tipping Point for Cable-Cutters. As anyone with an AppleTV may have noticed already, both ABC and PBS are offering a substantial amount of content available for real time streaming. While much of this is predicated on already having this content available from your cable service, if one additional major network is willing to broker a deal with Apple then it will be clear that this model has traction.
- Chromebooks dominate the low-end laptop market. This is a trend that has already started to happen, but Google is going to capture a significant percentage of low-end laptop sales (50% or more) in the new year. While a Chromebook is somewhat limited in functionality, it is capable of virtually everything a mobile device can do but it includes a laptop style keyboard and large screen for very little money.
- Emergence of the superphone. There are multiple avenues for this device to arrive, but it will be a phone that can dock to a large screen and run a full desktop operating system. If Apple is quick enough they can capture at least some of this market, and the 64-bit processor in the latest iPhone is likely a precursor to this, but the competition in the space will be fierce and first mover advantage will be crucial.
- Microsoft struggles to survive. The advent of a new CEO means that Microsoft will be under the leadership of someone who was not a founding member of the company. The fact that they are actively searching for someone outside of the current senior executive staff implies they don’t have a lot of confidence in what leadership they have currently. While Microsoft has been doing some good stuff as of late, we should expect this to fall apart once the new executive team is in place while the company attempts to arrive at a new roadmap.
- Crowdfunding disrupts traditional business models. This has already started to happen, if you spend a few minutes browsing KickStarter you can find nuggets of brilliance, and products like VacuVita are further evidence that a crowd-sourced funding model can be used to launch new devices. Watch for a major crowd-sourced project to disrupt an existing manufacturing base in the new year.
Honestly, the idea of a superphone is probably the most exciting platform evolution on the horizon today. There are a number of ecosystems capable of delivering this kind of device, this should provide consumers some choice but only if the platforms are ready when this happens.