Lunatic's Tech Predictions for 2012
I actually started working on my 2012 tech predictions just after the middle of 2011, at the end of August. The outcomes of so many of my 2011 predictions were so clear by then that it was already time to start thinking about 2012.
By my count I got about 75% of my 2011 tech predictions correct. Let's see how well I do this year!
- Apple TV-based games/system
Apple TV becomes a platform in 2012. The next generation Apple TV will support 1080p output—like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S do with Apple's HDMI adapter—for video and games... and maybe other apps. The games will be controlled wirelessly via another iOS device, or via a hardware game controller bundled with some units. Game controllers will also available separately for multiple players and for units that are initially purchased for just the current Apple TV's media player capabilities. Selected games developers will be given early access to the SDK so that there are several notable games available at launch. The remaining multitude of existing iOS games developers jump on board quickly. Many of the games for this system will be available in "universal" versions where the same app also runs on other iOS devices, including iPads, iPhones, and the iPod touch.
Non-game apps will be vetted even more stringently than apps for touchscreen iOS devices, since a TV's non-touch interface isn't as open to experimentation and exploration by the end user. It can become quickly frustrating when an interface has too many levels of menus to navigate with a basic four-way control, or it doesn't respond quickly enough. Of course, unlike the iPad being able to run iPhone apps in a small window or blown up to 2x, existing iOS apps for touchscreen devices will simply not be compatible with the new platform.
The name I would choose for this new Apple TV platform would be "Apple TV Play."
- Apple TV streaming video "channels" via app-like extensions
Content providers will be able to create "channels" for streaming video that a user can add to their Apple TV, similar to the support that Apple TV has right now for NHL GameCenter, MLB.TV, NBA.com, and The Wall Street Journal Live. These channels will be accessed on the Apple TV as video content, separate from any games or other apps. This would enable the ability to "channel flip" between live streaming content, rather than continually going out to the main menu and then back to a different channel.
- Attempts at voice controlled TV interfaces
With rumors of Apple entering the TV market with an integrated Siri-based voice control interface, companies will attempt to integrate voice control into their TVs as a preemptive move. Any non-Apple TV voice control won't be very good, though, just like most non-TiVo DVR set top boxes aren't as good as a real TiVo.
- Streaming video market (continued) fragmentation
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VoD, Google/YouTube, Dish Network/Blockbuster, Comcast, Time Warner, the BBC, and so on are at a similar stage with streaming video to where the music industry was in the early 2000's with legal music downloads fragmented between Real Networks, Microsoft PlaysForSure, Apple iTunes, etc. The content owners don't want to see another iTunes emerge victorious, though (ultimately resulting in DRM being dropped from music downloads), so they'll do everything they can to KEEP the streaming video market fragmented and prevent any one service from achieving dominance.
- No (iPhone called) "iPhone 5"
The next generation iPhone is going to be called something other than "iPhone 5." One of two options is that it will be named "iPhone 4G," potentially keeping the same case design as the iPhone 4 and 4S. AT&T has been so far unsuccessful in convincing Apple to let them market the iPhone 4S as a "4G" phone since it runs at the same speed as the other phones AT&T sells and brands as "4G" on their HSPA network. One reason Apple may be reluctant to allow this is because they want to use the name "iPhone 4G" for their 6th generation iPhone, like the way they used "iPhone 3G" for their 2nd generation iPhone. This started the whole "S" thing with the iPhone 3GS so that Apple could keep a "3" in the name for their actual 3rd generation iPhone. Now that they've used "4S" for their 5th generation iPhone I don't think they'd simply use a 5 for their 6th generation iPhone, and jumping right over to "iPhone 6" would leave "an unsightly gap."
Alternately, with a new case design and LTE compatibility the 6th generation iPhone could be named "iPhone LTE," ditching numerals from the name entirely.
There will (still) be no iPhone mini/nano/shuffle.
- iPhones become available on China Mobile, China's largest carrier
This will necessitate a model that supports the unique Chinese TD-SCDMA 3G technology, and possibly TD-LTE as well.
- Amazon branded smartphones
Amazon will develop smartphones based on their Kindle Fire fork of Android. Like the Kindle Fire, they'll replace Google's user software and services with their own Android Appstore, music, video, email client, etc. There might be rumors about Amazon looking to buy T-Mobile, as well, but they won't (in 2012).
- T-Mobile (U.S.) buyout/merger rumors abound
Sprint, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, FaceBook, Time Warner, and even Apple will be thrown around as some of the names of companies possibly looking to buy or merge with T-Mobile USA.
- iPad with a "Retina"-style display, LTE, CDMA/EVDO, HSPA+ and Siri
I prematurely predicted an iPad with LTE, CDMA/EVDO, and HSPA+ in a single model for 2011. It'll come in 2012, along with a 1536x2048 "Retina"-style display. It'll also have some form of Thunderbolt connectivity, though this may be just a Thunderbolt to 30-pin dock connector cable, for high speed data and fast charging; this would also work with (at least) new 2012 iPhones. The iPad will also gain support for Apple's Siri speech assistant.
- Larger Amazon Kindle Fire still has stripped down specs; still sells more than all other Android tablets (marketed based on "better specs than the iPad")
May be called "Kindle Fire DX." Still cheaper than iPad, still compared to the iPad by tech pundits, still slower, still has less onboard storage than any other major tablet, still lacking cameras, video chat, video output, a "Retina"-style display, speech recognition/assistance, SD card support, GPS, Google maps, YouTube, and Gmail. But hey, did I mention it'll still be cheaper than the iPad?
- iPad 2 remains available, at a lower price, after the next iPad is released
This will mirror the way that previous generation iPhones remain available after a new iPhone is released. It will similarly only be offered in a single storage size (16 GB; maybe even only 8 GB). This reduced price iPad will come to within $100 to $150 of the new larger Kindle Fire, though, so Amazon's price advantage won't be nearly as pronounced as it was between the original Kindle Fire and the 2011 iPad 2.
- Apple will not release an iPad with a 7" screen in 2012
Same as I said in 2011. (This is an "anti-prediction," to show up people who are predicting that it'll happen.) Luckily, Amazon's larger Kindle Fire will thankfully all but eliminate any claims that Apple "must" release a smaller iPad, "in order to remain competitive," and hopefully I won't need to bother repeating this again next year.
- Nokia announces a Windows 8 tablet
Picture the image of a faithful dog looking up at its human master. Look close. See its dog tag? Ah. "Nokia."
- Microsoft doesn't buy Nokia
"Why buy the cow..." (Or dog. Wait. Dog milk... eeew.)
- More tablet makers exit the market entirely after failing to find success
Punched from above by the iPad, punched from below by Amazon's Kindle Fire. There will be tablets with supposedly better hardware specs than the iPad, at similar prices, that still cannot match its value. There will be even more cut-rate tablets, pushed out too early, spurred on by demand for the discontinued HP TouchPad at its $99 fire sale price and by the low priced Amazon Kindle Fire that fail due to consumers for once recognizing that just a low price really doesn't make a product worth buying.
- Apple SDK to host web components/services of iOS & Mac apps on iCloud servers
Lots of apps currently depend on a web server to continuously poll other servers, store data, make calculations, and send notifications to apps. There will be an SDK allowing this kind of code to be written in Xcode, tightly integrated into iOS and Mac apps, and run on Apple's iCloud servers. On the Mac it may be limited to only work with apps available via the Mac App Store. A good name for this service would be "iCloud Code."
- iOS 6: Apple maps, iCloud Code, Apple TV/game platform SDK, 3rd party lock screen widgets and Siri SDK
iOS 6 will have Apple-provided maps and turn-by-turn directions with speech, plus what I termed "iCloud Code," above, for developers to host server code on Apple's iCloud, an SDK for integration with the Apple TV/game platform, 3rd party widgets on the lock screen, an API for 3rd party integration with the Siri voice assistant, multiple/guest account support (may be iPad-only), and a camera panorama mode.
- Google Android OS version fragmentation increases
By the time the next significant version of Android after 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" is released, only a small minority of Android devices will yet be running on version 4.0. The majority of Android devices will still be waiting for official 4.0 updates. Brand new devices will still be on sale running versions of Android prior to 4.0 at least until the 3rd quarter of the year, and/or past the time something like a 4.5 or 5.0 version of Android is released.
- More forks of Android
Beyond the fragmentation of official Android releases across devices, there will be even more forks of the Android codebase than there are now. There are already several notable forks: Chinese OPhone, Fusion Garage GridOS, Baidu Yi, and Amazon's Kindle Fire. All Android forks ditch and replace Google's user software, services, and branding, to Google's chagrin.
- Samsung and Google: BFF (Best Frienemies Forever)
With Google now owning Motorola Mobility, cracks begin to form in the relationship between Samsung and Google. Samsung feels threatened by Google potentially giving unfair advantage to Motorola in the form of early access to Android code, selection as the next "Nexus" device partner, etc. Google gets pressure from its Motorola division to give them some kind of advantage to compete with Samsung's growing juggernaut of consumer electronics. This doesn't quite escalate to the point where Samsung splits off its own fork of Android... at least not in 2012 (especially since they own their own mobile OS, Bada, and that would split their resources that much thinner). Google's not going to be especially proactive in leaping to Samsung's defense against Apple's lawsuits, though, like the way they slipped HTC some patents to try to help in HTC's legal battles with Apple. As the year goes on there will be discernable tension growing between them.
- Google forces Google+ onto other logins
Got Gmail? A YouTube account? Blogger? Picasa? They'll soon all be part of Google+—whether you like it or not. Prepare to share (more).
- AirPlay on Macs for sharing more content
As with iOS devices, Macs will gain increasing abilities to share content on their screens via AirPlay to Apple TVs (and any other AirPlay devices). Currently this is limited to videos via iTunes, but in updates to QuickTime Player and Safari in 2012 this capability will be added to any video, content or web page within those apps. Eventually, like the current iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, this will be expanded to full screen sharing, but this may have to wait until the next big release of Mac OS X for the API to be embedded deeply into the OS. Additionally Macs may be able to be used as screens for content shared from other devices over AirPlay. Doing this may require having QuickTime Player running, with a new video window showing up in that app for the content being shared over AirPlay.
- Macs with "Retina"-style 4X HiDPI displays and doubled UI elements
The major differentiating "Pro" feature on MacBook Pros will become that they are available with "Retina"-style 4X HiDPI displays, using doubled UI elements like iOS devices with "Retina" displays. Options will also enable this mode on 27" iMacs and on Macs connected to Apple 27" Thunderbolt Displays.
- MacBook Air gains 15" model, renamed to just MacBook, and keeps standard displays
The next major revision of the MacBook Air line, including a 15" model, will drop the "Air" part of the name. MacBooks that aren't "Pro" models will continue to have screen resolutions similar to the current ones.
- Mac OS support for iMessage, Reminders, iBooks, and (maybe) Siri
iMessage might be integrated into iChat, Reminders might be integrated into Mail.app, and iBooks will be a standalone app. Siri integration, like full screen sharing over AirPlay, may need to wait until the next major revision of Mac OS X. When Siri does come to the Mac, though, it will include access via the search box at the top of Safari windows (potentially being an option for a user's default "search engine"). Some of these may remain in beta form until the next major Mac OS release, like the way FaceTime for the Mac was initially released as a beta.
- A "quiet" year for HP
Pretexting. CEO Mark Hurd's expense-account controversy and forced resignation. Buying Palm. HP TouchPad launch and discontinuation 49 days later. CEO Leo Apotheker replaced with Meg Whitman by the board. Spinning off and then un-spinning off PC manufacturing... HP's going to try to avoid the limelight, this year. ("PCs, services, printers... PCs, services, printers... PCs, services, printers... Ohhmmmm...")
- webOS won't gain any significant traction as an open-source project
Don't expect any new or updated webOS phones or tablets in 2012. (Remember Symbian having success as an open-source project? Moblin? OpenMoko? No? There you go.)
- Research in Motion (RIM) doesn't manage to turn around its declining fortunes
The BlackBerry phone maker needs a bold new strategy and new leadership. They will still be sorely lacking in both.
- Microsoft doesn't even consider buying RIM
Danger! Danger! (Get it?? :)
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Content originally created and copyright 06 Jan 2012. Last updated: 09 Jan 2012.