Top 10 tech trends to watch out for in 2013

RAJAT AGRAWAL | Updated on December 27, 2012

If there is one word I’d choose to describe the technology space in 2012, it would be transition. It was the buzzword for most CFOs and CEOs to explain the poor performance of their companies. It was convenient to tell investors that they were “in for a transition” and the company would come out stronger when they are done transitioning. For some companies it meant transitioning from one operating system to make up for being complacent a few years ago while for others it meant showing investors a positive cash flow by cutting down on expenses (read laying off employees). Others still pretended to be transitioning even when everyone knew they were going nowhere but down.

On the other extreme, companies that did exceedingly well (“going gangbusters” if you ask Google’s Larry Page), they spent the year doubling down on everything. Companies doubled down on mobiles, tablets, ultrabooks, servers, data centres... You name it, someone probably doubled down on it. But the benefits of all the doubling down won’t be visible till the next 12-18 months so I will stick with transition for my buzzword of 2012.

If 2012 was anything to go by, I believe the buzzword for 2013 would be chaos. Let me rephrase that, I’m doubling down that 2013 would be a chaotic year in personal technology. Companies that once dominated their industry would cease to exist, operating system wars will enter an intense stage of rivalry while hardware prices will go down by unprecedented levels. Here’s my list of the top trends to watch out for in personal technology for 2013.

OS Wars: This year would probably be the one that would settle the OS war for good, for the rest of the decade. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8, RIM’s BlackBerry 10, Mozilla’s Firefox OS will try their luck once more to become the third platform of choice but neither of these are likely to make any headway. Google will cement its lead with over two-thirds of all smartphones running on Android or a forked version of Android without Google’s services. Apple’s iOS will mop up the rest, leaving nothing but crumbs for the rest. While Google could have a monopoly of sorts, Apple would still end up getting the majority of profits. This would turn out to be similar to the PC wars of late 1990’s between Apple and Microsoft. This time, however, Apple would be better positioned financially and has a bigger consumer following.

M&A: This could also turn out to be a heart-breaking year as some of the companies that defined their industry could cease to exist or end up being acquired by others. Google started with the acquisition of Motorola but others like Nokia and RIM could end up in a similar position if the bets they made a couple of years ago don’t pay off.

Content and Services: Despite having similar hardware, the platform that has most content and services to offer to consumers will end up winning the most market share. While Android doesn’t have much content, Google’s suite of services, cheap hardware and lack of competition in the low-end segment would ensure Android emerges as the winner. Apple would enjoy the benefits of its content story, its apps ecosystem and sheer dominance of the high-end consumers that Google and others would be forced to make their services available for a competing platform.

Google Vs Microsoft: If the rivalry between Apple and Google was what made headlines in the last couple of years, this year is going to be between Google and Microsoft. The Android-iOS battle has almost been settled as far as the two companies are concerned and Google now has its eyes set on one of Microsoft’s cash cow - Office. With the acquisition of QuickOffice last year, Google is targeting Microsoft’s Office by offering its own suite for free to enterprises. Even Windows on tablets and smartphones could be a threat to Google and it is not going to make apps for either Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8. This battle is going to be far more intensely fought than the Apple-Samsung court case of 2012. Keep your bags of popcorn ready!

Mobile First: We have been hearing about how millions of people will have their first experience of Internet on a mobile device. This will turn out to be the norm in 2013. I expect many “usable” tablets to be available for as low as Rs 5,000 with inbuilt 3G connectivity. Yes, there are tablets at that price point even today but most of them are unusable due to poor hardware. Smartphones with decent hardware will be available below Rs 3,000. I also expect carriers to offer cheap 3G access for as low as Rs 5 per day to go along with the cheap hardware.

PC slowdown: The evolution of tablets into highly functional and affordable devices would ensure that PC sales in India would be lower than tablets in India. Most of these tablets would be running Android in the entry-level space while Apple’s iPad would continue to dominate the high-end space. Microsoft’s Windows RT is unlikely to get any significant traction even though Windows 8 will dominate the PC space.

Connected Screens: This will also be a year when every screen would be connected to the Internet (or have the ability to connect). Be it as big a display as your HDTV or as tiny as your watch, it will be connected. I also expect most displays to have a touchscreen as users get accustomed to tablets and smartphones. The trend has already started with most Ultrabooks now coming with a touchscreen and it will get almost impossible by the end of the year to get a laptop without a touchscreen. Ditto for PC displays.

Voice Recognition: We will end up talking to our gadgets a lot more in 2013. A quick check on Google’s voice search is enough to convince me that voice recognition is finally good enough to understand our natural voice accents. This year we should probably see Google launch voice recognition for some Indian languages that would make voice commands even more efficient.

Paradise Lost: As online services get more personal, the concept of privacy will become alien. This will become more relevant as more Indians shop online, search online and essentially hand over the keys to their private as well as professional lives with services such as Google Now. Matured economies have been through these motions years ago and now it is our turn.

Cyber Attacks: Not a single online service was spared in 2012 from cyber attacks. While some companies were exposed to embarrassing ones where their users’ data was leaked others were simply taken down. Essential services went out for hours. This is only going to get worse in 2013. Another form of cyber-attack, those sponsored by the state, will also increase and general users are also likely to bear the brunt.

(The writer is Executive Editor

Published on December 27, 2012

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