Technology trends in 2017: A bluffer's guide

If bluffers have become used to calling on our old composite friend SoCloMo to remind themselves that social, cloud and mobile have been the uber trends of the last few years then it might be time for a new coinage. RoboMoboFlextastic or similar, perhaps, to highlight the increasing influence of robotics, software bots, ultra-mobile devices and adaptive platforms that enable IT departments to deal with the vagaries of frightening geopolitics and economic uncertainty perhaps. Or maybe, like the art movement that followed the avant garde 100 years ago, 2017 will see a Return to Order where the flashy, up and coming trends slow down.

So if it’s not too downbeat, let’s look at some trends that might stall this year.

Driverless cars. Everybody’s obsessing over them but it’s likely (to me at least) that this is a market that will go niche and B2B before it goes on the road for most of us. Convoys on private routes such as military roads would make sense as might roads with very predictable traffic loads in certain countries with modern infrastructure – Singapore could well lead. But for most developed cities with their legacy issues it will take a long time before risks are ironed out and regulations are reset.

Drones. This is another overheated segment where hype has sprinted past reality thanks to over-zealous marketing by the likes of Amazon and Facebook. Drones have a clear appeal for B2C hobbyists and in some niches such as logistics but as B2B delivery infrastructure? No way: too dangerous, too unreliable, too little regulation.

Mobile devices. Harbingers of doom refer to dramatic slowdowns in smartphones and tablets but really that’s thanks to the fact that makers have done such a fine job in building desirable, affordable products that they have saturated the market. Laptops offer tremendous value and are more reliable than ever while the old cycle of ‘forced march’ upgrades, thanks to new versions of Windows or Intel’s latest chips, is broken. New(ish) wearable categories such as smart watches do not have sufficient mainstream appeal, at least for now.

OK, enough of the negativity. What can we expect to see more of in 2017?

Lots of M&A. Large growth markets are already seeing winners and losers being clearly demarcated. In cloud platforms for example, AWS, Microsoft, Google and IBM already have a scale advantage over others (although Alibaba and Tencent remain worth watching for a non-western approach). In an environment where buy-side organisations might well elect to double-down on large suppliers there should be plenty of scope for giants to pick off rivals for their customer bases, geographic presences, technology IP, or people. The biggest tech companies have lots of cash and will want to place large bets this year; many of these deals will be transnational with, for example, more Chinese takeovers of US and European tech companies - unless blockades kick in at the behest of incoming political leaders...

Personal assistants. The popularity of Amazon’s Alexa points to demand for voice-controlled help. If part-baked products like the Echo can do so well, imagine what will happen when one of the ecosystem leaders (probably from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google) cracks the code on a reliable, holistic service that knows enough about us to anticipate our needs.

Messaging services. Messaging is increasingly the gift that keeps on giving to internet giants and Snapchat’s pending IPO might give the market fresh impetus, driving more freebie features and services from WhatsApp, WeChat and the rest in a battle for market share.

Online to offline. Just as 20 years ago bricks-and-mortar companies hurried to reinvent themselves online, there’s a strong chance we’ll see a significant trend whereby web-native brands amplify awareness and supplement logistics by opening stores. Expect more brands to join Amazon, Warby Parker, Zalando, Drop Dead and have their own retail outlets, pop-ups or franchised stands and kiosks in department stores.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. With hardware availability, a burgeoning ISV community and the success of Pokémon Go, the dawn chorus for VR and AR will soon deafen. A strong pent-up demand will surely see vast B2C uptake and create a market in its wake for B2B applications such as real estate home walkthroughs.

Flying cars. It’s possible that all of the excitement over driverless cars will be overtaken by flying cars. Silicon Valley VCs and other powerbrokers already report a flurry of proposals and it’s quite possible that the regulatory and infrastructure hassles that await driverless will be more easily evaded in flight, especially in areas where traffic is light.

Telepresence. High-end videoconferencing has spent far too long in the queue to be mainstream but everything from the cost of real estate to our traffic-choked roads point to it finally being more widely adopted. Shame on the industry for not already having hit the price points and created the packages that would make this a no-brainer.


Also read:
Technology trends in 2016: A bluffer’s guide


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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