I can tell the future: tech predictions for 2015

Will Twitter be sold? Will Uber get a new CEO? Will 3D printing finally become a thing?

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 31, 2014
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So not all of our predictions came true for 2014. So what if Glass flopped, Snapchat didn't sell and bitcoin never hit $2,000? Do you think that is going to stop anyone from making wild predictions about 2015?

I didn't think so!

Here is what the tech world believes holds in store for the next 12 months. Remember to take all of this with one giant grain of sale.

1. Windows 10 will be so successful that it will revitalize the PC market

My girlfriend just got a new laptop. It has Windows 8. This is the first time I've ever used it. I did not like it.

It seems not many others do either, and thankfully Microsoft seems aware of this, since the news recently has been regarding is new operating system: Windows 8. (If you're wondering what happened to Windows 9, then I say to you: who cares?)

And at least one person thinks the new OS will be a huge success.

"The Microsoft haters may not like it, but the company still holds a powerful sway with both consumers and businesses and many have been eagerly awaiting how they would pull themselves out of the hole they put themselves into with Windows 8," wrote Bob O'Donnell, the president, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research.

"Early signs and early reports are all very encouraging and I believe Windows 10 will end up being a bit hit for the company. More importantly, Windows 10 will keep Microsoft as a relevant point of conversation when it comes major platforms for smart connected devices."

Most importantly, he believes that Windows 10 will "likely lead to intriguing new designs from major PC vendors and give them a renewed sense of vigor."

Even without the release of Window 10, the PC market was already expected to actually go up next year. A new and better Windows OS will only help.

2.  The Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger will go through,  and your cable will get even worse

In February it was announced that Comcast had agreed to buy Time Warner for $45 billion. The deal was immediately decried by anyone fearful of a monopoly; after all if the deal goes through, it will bring together the first and second largest cable providers in the country, and give it 33 million subscribers altogether.

The regulatory review of the deal was recently halted due to delays in getting documents from Time Warner Cable, and the merger is said to be on thin ice. I'm sure it doesn't help that these are the two most disliked companies in the country.

Steve Tobak of Fox Business believes that the deal will, in fact, go through.

After clearing all regulatory hurdles and closing, the new cable giant will sign with Apple, which will reveal its first fully integrated Web – TV solution, including Apple interface and DVR functionality, in the fall," he wrote.

He also thinks that the $48.5 billion deal for DirectTV to buy AT&T will go through as well. So get ready for even less competition when it comes to choosing a cable company, I guess!

3. The year that we start to actually care about 3D printing

So, 3D printing. It's totally a thing that people talk about. It seems like it would be cool, but I don't really know all that much about it. At least not enough to make me as excited as people want me to be. 

But, hey, that might change soon, since at least two prognosticators are telling us that 3D printing will become much cheaper and accessible in 2015.

"We’ll begin to see large-scale use of 3D printing across a number of industries, from health care (artificial body parts) to oil field services (a lot easier to get replacement parts from a printer on an offshore rig than to wait for a delivery)," Michael Hickins are Forbes wrote.

Gartner is saying that prices of 3D printers will fall 98% in 2015.

"We’re still not sure if it’s something we really need – the idea of 3D-printing replacement bits for vacuum cleaners and the odd toy is nice enough, but it’s hardly a must-have – but 3D printing’s price will continue to plummet in 2015," said Gary Marshall at Metro.

So this really could be the year that you finally get to start printing stuff!

4. We will finally start taking privacy seriously

This is one that I really hope actually comes true: that people will finally, FINALLY, understand that what they do online is not secure and will have consequences. 

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe believes that 2015 will "be the year that message encryption (and deletion!) goes mainstream."

"Thanks to an unshakable fear that their own gossip-laden e-mails (not to mention business strategies and classified documents) will be leaked to the world, the people of 2015 will finally decide that it may not be a good idea to have a copy of every message sent stored forever online," he wrote. "A new e-mail tagline will be popularized, stating: “In order to conserve our collective personal and professional reputations, we recommend you permanently delete this e-mail upon reading. Seriously.”

If all of  the hackings, data breaches and nude photo scandals of 2014 couldn't get people to care, then I really have no idea  what ever could.

5. Uber will have a new CEO by the end of the year

Uber had a really, really weird 2014. It was the best of times (the company raised over $2 billion in venture capital in six months!) and the worst of times (rape allegations against drivers and the whole "let's threaten the press!" fiasco blown out of proportion by the media sadly). And it makes it hard to see which way things will go in 2015, but one thing that should, and probably will, happen to ensure a better outcome: a change in leadership, or a really, really good PR team.

With the latest funding round, Uber is now valued at $40 billion. That is some serious dough. And I predict that investors will get very tired of the self inflicted wounds of Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick very quickly with so much money on the line.

Stuff like saying the company should be renamed "Boober" because its success was getting him laid so often? He needs to cut it out real quick get a handle on his company culture very soon.

Tech evangelist Robert Scoble has already called for Kalanick to step down, writing in a Facebook post in November, "When I first started work at Microsoft an exec pulled me aside and told me how I could get fired. Pissing off journalists and analysts were very high on the list."

Uber, he said, "has deeply wounded itself," and called for investor to "insist that Travis go."

"This wound is a lot deeper than I thought and IS changing consumer behavior," he said. "Travis, if I were you I would resign and help your company heal."

6. The Apple Smartwatch will flop

Here is what I wrote about the smartwatch last year: "I predict that the so-called iWatch will in fact come out, and that Apple and Google will once again go head to head in the battle for technology supremacy.

But the smartphone wars these will not be. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that smartwatches will crash and burn. Sure, 20% of responders said they would buy an iWatch, sight unseen, earlier this year, but both will be quickly be overshadowed, when it comes to wearable tech."

I was wrong (the iWatch did not come out in 2014) but Iremain unconvinced that anyone will wear one of these things, and others agree with me: people do not want to walk around talking into their wrists like they are Dick Tracy.

"I predict the Apple Watch will be the biggest selling smartwatch by the end of 2015. Even so, I don't think the buying public will find wearables to be any more desirable next year than they have this year. I don't think the Apple Watch will reach the high level of sales that the company is hoping to hit," said James Kendrick of ZDNet

7. Twitter will be sold

Since this is all about making predictions, and no actual hard news, we can throw literally anything out there. I'm all for making wild, bold claims that will, in all likelihood never come true.

Like this one from Chris Ciaccia of the Street: that Twitter will be sold. The reasons: many people want Dick Costolo gone. CFO Anthony Noto made a dumb mistake last month when he accidentally leaked a message about acquiring another company. And the fact that Twitter is still not profitable.

But, he notes there's another, more looming issue.

"The company's biggest problem isn't that it can't generate money, as third quarter revenue rose 114% year over year to $361 million, and it now expects 2014 adjusted EBITDA to be between $260 million and $265 million, up from a prior outlook. It's that it doesn't appeal to a broad enough audience," Ciaccia wrote.  

So who could be interested? Maybe Google, a company that Twitter has a prior relationship with.

I have to say that, personally, this is not one I see coming true. Sure, 2014 was a rough year for Twitter, as the newly public company saw its user growth plateau, causing it to miss estimates in multiple quarters, and putting into doubt the company's long-term viability. 

As a result, the company's stock has taken a beating as well. The company started out the year trading at $65 a share. As of Tuesday, it's stock is down to $35.85. At no point since February has it traded above $50 a share, and has not been able to rise above $40 in the last month. 

But it would really have to be hard pressed to just completely throw in the towel.  Or maybe it would. I've been wrong before!

8. Unlike Uber, Yahoo will have the same CEO at the end of next year

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has gotten a lot of flack recently from company shareholders regarding her leadership, with many going after the company's spending spree, in which it bought up a slew of startups, including 27 last year alone.

Many seemed to be giving Mayer the benefit of the doubt, especially given how much the company's stock has risen under her leadership... until the company had five quarters in a row of mounting losses, making it hard to justify the amount of spending it had to have taken to buy all of those companies. The company finally put a stop to that bleeding last month, but that may just be a temporary fix.

Investors are still not convinced that her turnaround plan will work, and at least two major shareholders are now actively courting AOL CEO Tim Armstrong to merge with Yahoo so that he can take over.

This is not the first time such a merger has been openly discussed. In September, Starboard Value LP sent a letter to Mayer, urging her to purchase AOL.

Shareholders, including Starboard, feel that Yahoo's core business is currently undervalued, and think that a merger between Yahoo and AOL, some believe, would make their combined company a major competitor to companies like Google and Facebook in the areas of video programming and the purchase of digital advertising.

There's even a new book out that is openly critical of Mayer's leadership, questioning she deals with employees and the culture she has created at the company.

That's a lot for any CEO to handle, but I predict that Mayer will be able to hang on. After all, the company's stock price has more than tripled since she took over, going from $15 when she started to $51 as of Tuesday, and 2015 could be the year that her efforts in video finally pay off with the premiere of the new season of Community.

If things don't start paying off soon, though, 2016 is a foregone conclusion.

9. Google Glass will court business instead of consumers

report from BI Intelligence even predicted that over 800,000 Google Glass units would be sold this year. Sadly, the actual number, which Google has not released, is more likely in the 250,000 range. I thought that people would embrace the device. Apparently I was wrong.

So what does Google do now? Pivot, predicts Heather Somerville of The Mercury News, and start marketing the device for businesses instead.

"Google has recognized the brightest spots for Glass are in the business world, and earlier this year launched Glass at Work, a program to certify companies to make business apps for Glass," she wrote. "The program now has a handful of partners that are making software, with more expected in 2015, as Google tries to resurrect the Glass in the business world."

A number of different industries and fields could benefit from the device, including police, professional athletes, doctors, even oil refineries. 

At least in a professional capacity people might be less likely to take offensive over someone wearing it.

10. The VOD success of The Interview will have far reaching implications

The incredible saga of The Interview, from controversy to cancellation to revitalization to video on demand success is not going to go unnoticed by Hollywood.

I believe that it actually speeds up what already seemed like an inevitable development, with more mainstream movies getting on demand releases to go along with limited theatrical releases.

This is a release strategy that studios have undertaken mostly with low-budget, independent films. The Interview was the highest budgeted film to be released this way, and if looked at through that lens it was a pretty big failure. By most estimates the film cost $75 million to both make and market. So far, Sony has recouped less than a quarter of that.

Given that no other movie released this way will have even a 10th of the buzz that the Interview had, and it still made less than it likely would have in a major theatrical release, it seems more likely that only movies with a more limited budget to recoup will get the same treatment. But it will happen more and more, as The Interview has helped to turn it into a more viable option.

One thing that stands in the way of such a release: piracy. Within the first day of its release online, The Interview was downloaded 750,000 times in less than a day, and over 1.5 million times in around two days, according to TorrentFreak

This is partially the fault of either Sony or its distributors; whoever decided that the film would only be available for download in the United States.

So, if Hollywood can refine the strategy, VOD could be a great way for smaller budgeted, independent movies to find a way to success without having to compete with the latest blockbuster. It's a win for everyone.

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