I’ve always had a soft spot for year end predictions. Especially from people foolish enough to grade their previous year’s “claim chowder“. Which I did last week (7 out of 10). And fun, falsifiable and interesting beats vague and boring. So I’ll avoid predicting that, you know, this whole mobile tech thing could get kinda big due to the internet of things that keep getting stuck in the cloud. Let’s get to it.
My 10 Praxtime Predictions for 2014:
- The iPhone 5c will be aggressively priced at $399 in December 2014. People thought the iPhone 5c would be aggressively priced on release, since the 5c shows Apple is now segmenting the market. Plus it shows Apple considers the iPhone 5 was a “good enough” phone for certain segments. But the 5c is a long term play, whose true impact won’t be felt until 2014 or even 2015. Currently the 5c is $549 for 16GB, so a $150 drop would (I believe) be Apple’s largest year-over-year price change to date. This price would also allow Apple to kill off the obsolete iPhone 4 and 4s form factor. And in 2015 the price of this “good enough” phone will drop even more. Perhaps even $275. Matt Drance made clear on a recent Vector podcast how Apple thinks. First make the best product you can, add a premium margin, sell it. Simple. Nearly all other companies do it the other way round. They start with the marketing sales play and price, then build the product to spec. The point here is the 5c was built as a great product whose manufacturing costs can be rapidly scaled down, allowing Apple to retain their premium margins at a far lower price point. That’s innovation directly out of the iPod playbook. Of a kind especially suited to the Tim Cook era. This is why Apple is so proud of it, and advertising it so heavily. To me, next year’s 5c price is more strategically interesting than next year’s big screen iPhone (definitely want one, but yawn).
- Cord Cutters take IP Spoofing mainstream to get blacked out sporting events. Cable companies furious, broadcasters secretly delighted. My 2013 prediction was cord cutting (getting TV shows over the internet instead of cable) would roll out slowly due to channel conflict with the cable companies. I still think this may take another decade to play out. To incorrectly quote Hemingway, cord cutting will be like going broke. It will happen slowly, then all at once. And sports will be where it happens. But like in the Napster era, piracy and rule breaking will be the drivers of progress. In this case, services like unblock-us, which allow viewing blacked out sporting events, will go mainstream. These services spoof your IP address and location, allowing you to view sporting events which are normally blacked out in your location. First crack in the ice.
- Apple TV will gain an app store. This may be more likely to happen in 2015, but it’s such a big deal let’s go for it in 2014. After all, Forbes predicted it for 2013. So no surprise. Strategically, as discussed in this post, I think the market for TV set top boxes will follow the market for smartphones. Apple TV is premium. Android will have most of the rest. Like phones, Android will come in many flavors and will get a full app store once Apple validates the market. The Apple TV/Android devices will combine app store, gaming, DVR, cable TV via apps, internet video, music, photo display, etc., into a single box usable by normal human beings. Which today’s clunky receiver + TV + cable box combination definitely is not. Many households only have a single person who even knows how to power their TV on. It’s a scandal. As these new TV devices with app stores take off, we’ll see Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Roku, TiVo and Comcast/Time Warner cable boxes go into a painfully slow death spiral. The tempo of which will be tied to cord cutting’s glacial (then all at once) uptake, mentioned in #2 above.
- Apple will release a 4k monitor with embedded mics for Siri, video camera and perhaps even Kinect style motion sensors. John Gruber recently complained that “I’m disappointed and a little baffled that Apple doesn’t yet have a 4K display. It’s un-Apple-like to leave money on the table.” My take is Apple wants to create a new category of 4k monitor. Apple will claim it’s not even a TV at all since it will lack the previously obligatory but currently useless built-in TV tuner. It will be a super premium monitor. Use cases naturally include Apple TV display and Mac monitor. But also a display for Windows PCs or a regular TV display. Plus when connected to Apple TV, you get everything mentioned in #3 above: photo slideshows, music, videos, video conferencing, TV shows via apps, big time iOS gaming. Apple is unlikely to make a game controller themselves, but will certainly sell third party ones in their stores. Plus it will be the most awesome Siri voice/iPhone touch controlled TV experience ever. Or at least that will be the marketing. To be clear, I don’t think you’ll need this super premium monitor to make Apple TV itself work. It will just enable a much better experience. Of course for this to happen Siri has to get a ton better. Plus they need some time to do what Microsoft already did with Xbox Kinect, but make it work for non-techies. This may be another 2015 prediction done early, but it’s in the right direction so putting it on the list.
- Kenyans, Ethiopians and Eritreans will run the 70 fastest marathon times in 2014. In 2013 the fastest non-Kenyan/non-Ethiopian/non-Eritrean marathon time was 2:07:55, run by Mustapha El Aziz from Morocco. He had the 59th fastest time of the year. And Kazuhiro Maeda from Japan had the 62nd fastest time with a 2:08:00. List of times here. So next year I’m saying the bar will be raised enough that those times won’t make the top 70. As someone who still (slowly) runs marathons, it’s amazing how 5 million Kalenjin people globally dominate distance running. I didn’t get to The Sports Gene in 2013, so this prediction is a reminder to read and review that book in 2014.
- Microsoft accepts reality and goes freemium on consumer versions of Microsoft Office and Windows (for both RT/Phone and Windows 8). By consumer freemium I mean Microsoft will create free versions of Windows and Office for consumers including free upgrades. Though consumers will have to pay to get full features. In contrast businesses will still have to pay no matter what. As I write this in December 2013, there are already rumors to this effect. But this is not a mainstream view by business analysts. After all, it would utterly destroy the foundations of Microsoft’s 30 year old business model. We don’t even know Steve Ballmer’s replacement yet.
- The DNA from a third hominin that interbred with modern humans (beyond Neanderthals and Denisovans) will be sequenced. As John Hawks mentioned recently: It is notable that we now have evidence for interbreeding among every kind of hominin we have DNA from, and some we don’t. I think the sequencing of ancient hominin DNA, and discovering how many related species of hominins were walking the planet 30k years ago, and that those hominins were doing some nasty interspecies “DNA exchange” is one of the most incredible findings in science right now. I have no real basis for this particular prediction except it would be totally awesome and in keeping with the way this science is going. Read Carl Zimmer (in usual excellent form) for more.
- Xiaomi successfully expands into Singapore and Malaysia. What makes Xiaomi interesting is they use the Amazon model of selling hardware at cost to lock people into their ecosystem. But with phones instead of Kindle tablets. Potentially massively disruptive, but definitely unclear how successful this model will be outside of mainland China. Xiaomi announced their expansion in Dec 2013, so we’ll see what happens by Dec 2014. Like many, I think this model has some legs, hence the prediction.
- Cincinnati Bengals make NFL playoffs for fourth straight year. I know this one is bringing the crazy, but have to go with my old hometown team.
- I’ll keep the same weekly Monday blog post schedule, but mix in more short posts to get higher average quality. Sorry for the selfie prediction. I had a few long and meandering posts this year, most recently The Reproducibility Crisis in Science. Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love nukes with a side of bacon. Good ideas. Incoherently executed. Released before fully baked. To be completely unfair and snarky, a Microsoft product. Anyway, when work/family commitments don’t allow time for getting a tight focus on a long post, I’ll do a short one instead. Most likely John Gruber style, quoting and then making a short comment on someone else’s thoughts. If I publish another rambling post in 2014, consider this a failed prediction.
Reviewing the list, I doubt I’ll hit 50% correct this year. For example, a $499 or $449 price point for the 5c is more likely than $399. But what’s the fun of that? Predictions are a fools game. But taken with the right spirit they can be fun and educational. Especially if the prediction touches on something strategically important, worth revisiting and learning from in a year. Time will tell.
Scorecard Update (notes to myself):
- These are notes to myself on how to score predictions above when I come back to this in Dec 2014.
- Feb 1, 2014: Regarding prediction #10, unfortunately already failed this year. Long meandering selfish gene post from Jan 20. But found incredibly helpful writing advice from the awesome science writer Carl Zimmer. He gets to the core of what’s going on around my writing troubles. Can’t help but quote:
It took me a long time to learn that all that research is indeed necessary, but only to enable you to figure out the story you want to tell. That story will be a shadow of reality—a low-dimensional representation of it. But it will make sense in the format of a story. It’s hard to take this step, largely because you look at the heap of information you’ve gathered and absorbed, and you can’t bear to abandon any of it. But that’s not being a good writer. That’s being selfish. I wish someone had told me to just let go.