10 tech trends to watch for in 2013
30th Dec 2012 | 14:00
The computers, consoles, tablets and trends to watch out for next year
Some predictions are easy.
In 2013 Facebook will do annoying things, people will get into trouble for posting rude messages on Twitter and it won't be the year of desktop Linux.
But what about the more interesting issues?
Seismic shifts are happening in technology as we move to mobile, always-on devices that stream stuff instead of storing it - and that's causing massive disruption to some of tech's biggest players.
Here's what we see in our crystal ball.
1. Misery for Microsoft
Microsoft's business remains enormous, but it's under pressure: tablet and smartphone sales are booming as more and more computing is done on mobile devices, and the PC market is saturated.
Are self-driving cars really the future?
So far at least Microsoft's efforts in new sectors haven't been huge successes: Bing is costing a fortune and remains a distant second to Google in search, Windows Phone trails not just Android and iOS but even the ailing BlackBerry, Facebook doesn't think Windows RT is important enough to justify a dedicated Facebook app and if Microsoft was selling stacks of Surfaces, it would be shouting the numbers from the rooftops. It isn't.
2. Interesting times for Apple
Steve Jobs said that his greatest invention wasn't a product, but Apple itself - and in 2013 we'll see if his confidence was justified.
After a few wobbles in 2012, including the Maps debacle and the subsequent departure of iOS chief Scott Forstall, Apple has changed the way it does things.
Jonathan Ive has inherited Jobs' role as the man who says yes or no for both hardware and software, and all he needs to do in 2013 is ensure that iOS 7, OS X 10.9, the iPhone 6, iPad mini 2 and iPad 5, and possibly the new Apple TV, are the greatest products the universe has ever seen. So no pressure there, then.
3. The end of SMS
We've reached Peak Text: in many countries, the volume of SMS messages being sent is slowing or starting to decline.
These systems can use SMS to send messages but they aren't limited to it, so you can use them to communicate over broadband and Wi-Fi as well as traditional mobile connections.
Expect WhatsApp to be a very big deal next year.
4. Streaming, not shopping
At the time of writing, the first four seasons of Breaking Bad are £44.99 on DVD - or you could stream five seasons as part of a £5.99-per-month Netflix subscription. Netflix, Spotify, Xbox Music, LoveFilm Instant and many, many more offerings are cheaper and more convenient than discs, especially now that fast broadband is generally available indoors and out.
Why pay more for things that you then have to store?
5. RIM reborn - or ruined
It's make or break for the BlackBerry platform next year: market share is in freefall in both the consumer and the business sectors, and the platform's would-be saviour, the brand new BlackBerry 10 OS, didn't ship in 2012 as originally planned.
That won't be easy, and if it doesn't happen then RIM is toast.
6. 4G everywhere, not just Everything Everywhere
Forget Everything Everywhere's risibly named 4GEE and its comedy bandwidth allowances: in the UK, the real 4G action will take place in 2013, with all of the operators getting in on the speedy broadband act.
That means we'll see more devices, rapidly improving coverage, and, most importantly of all, competition between operators.
7. The battle for your front room
The Wii U's already out, and we should see both the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 in 2013 - and these days there's much more to consoles than gaming, as they want to be the devices you use to listen to music, watch videos and communicate on social networks.
Unfortunately for them, they face stiff competition from streaming-enabled smartphones and tablets, many of which are perfectly good games devices, and it's just a matter of time before Apple TV gets Angry Birds.
Could 2013 see the last generation of dedicated games consoles?
8. Firms that don't make hardware making hardware
In 2012 we saw the Nexus 7, 4 and 10, Amazon's Kindle Fires, Barnes & Noble's Nooks and Microsoft's Surface, and the trend will continue in 2013: Amazon is reportedly working on a smartphone and Facebook might be; Microsoft plans to make more Surfaces next year and possibly a phone too; and more Kindle Fires and Nooks are clearly coming too.
2013 will be all about the ecosystems, not just the hardware: firms will increasingly want to sell you everything from soup to nuts, and if that means getting into the hardware business then so be it.
9. Gadgets made in the USA
This could be a trend: firms such as GM and GE are 'insourcing', going back to hiring people in the US instead of subcontracting to overseas suppliers.
For many firms, outsourcing's benefits have disappeared amid record oil price rises (which massively increases shipping costs), rising Asian wages, increased Western productivity and lower energy bills due to the current natural gas boom.
According to The Atlantic, when GE insourced the manufacturing of expensive water heaters, it found that it could make them faster, to a higher standard and for less money than by outsourcing the work.
10. Everything connected to everything else
It's all coming together: as basic networking tech gets smaller and cheaper it becomes more widespread, and before you know it you've got everything from fitness trackers to thermostats, door locks and lightbulbs, connecting to a router or talking to your smartphone.
From cars to coffee machines, if it's possible to control it with an app, someone's going to find a way to do it.