Hello, seeker of knowledge! It is I, Omarstadamus, the great seer, soothsayer and, uh... soothseer, returned to share with you the secrets of what will be in the year ahead.
“But Omarstadamus,” you might say, “we’re deep into January already and much has been revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show. Shouldn’t you have been on this, like, back in December?”
How dare you! Do not question the mysterious path a mystic must walk to collect and return with the sacred wisdom he is about to impart. At least hold your questions until the end, at which time you may post a scathing comment along the lines of, “Slow news day?” How did I know you were planning to do that?
I’M OMARSTADAMUS, THAT’S HOW!
Now then... Here are five 2017 predictions for the technology realm gleaned while in a deep trance, staring deeply into my crystal ball, which these days looks a lot like an Amazon Echo speaker encrusted with rhinestones.
Prediction the first: the wheels start to fall off at Twitter
Twitter did not have a great 2016, beginning the year with an exodus of executives and ending it with controversy over why the president-elect was spending more time Tweeting in the middle of the night than, say, sleeping or reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” For the first time since Twitter caught my eye in 2007, I’m beginning to doubt whether the service will survive in the long run before it is acquired and absorbed into an even greater acquisition-hungry entity (Google? AT&T?) that will turn into something other than a news blaster and refuge for Internet trolls. Most troubling: posts from high-profile Twitter users either quitting, taking a break from the platform or scaling back their participation on it greatly as a New Year’s resolution for 2017.
Prediction the second: “Alexa, prepare for a backlash.”
Amazon’s voice-activated Echo device and the technology of it that’s spread to other devices in its hardware family was the belle of the ball at CES this year as the increasingly popular platform spreads to other brands and gadgets. Alexa, the name most users employ to engage with the artificial intelligence, is becoming the new Siri, spreading through pop culture, which will only increase after a boom holiday shopping season. But Alexa, watch your back: You’re due for the backlash of people who either find the tech lacking or who end up using Skills (basically, apps built for the platform) or third-party devices that don’t have the same quality control as Amazon has put into its tech. This became clear recently when I tried out with food writer Addie Broyles the Allrecipes Skill to try to do some cooking with my Amazon Echo. Boy, did that go badly! If Amazon wants to avoid a backlash in 2017, it’ll have to be tough on quality control as expectations grow and competition increases.
Prediction the third: Apple’s woes will get worse before things get better
How do you make money hand over fist with products that continue to sell at high volumes, yet still have what many consider a bad year? Ask Apple, which in 2016 was questioned mightily for some of its self-described courageous design decisions, which appeared to put aesthetics ahead of the practical, daily needs of its many customers. There’s always doom and gloom about Apple’s prospects; that’s expected when you’re the top tech company in the world. But the number of naysayers has been growing as Apple has missed product deadlines and gotten “sloppy” as one Silicon Valley put it in a scathing blog post. I predict the Apple Watch will continue to remain a niche product, that Apple’s Mac sales will take a hit due to bad publicity over its new MacBook Pro lineup and its iPhone business will take hits on increased competition and price cuts from Google and Samsung, who’ll have a big 2017 with their Pixel and Galaxy 8 devices.
Prediction the fourth: Uber and Lyft back in Austin by summer
The ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, who spent a lot of money to lose an election last year and left town in a huff, will be back on Austin roads after some negotiating with city leaders and before any statewide law might solve the problem for them. It’ll only happen when the companies can prove they have a better background-check solution than fingerprinting drivers. Then things will get interesting when the collection of startups that have filled the gap on the roads must compete with the companies they sought to replace. It may not happen by South by Southwest in March, but it will happen before the summer is over.
Prediction the fifth: AMD acquisition rumors revived
As AMD launches a new generation of graphics hardware in competition with Nvidia, it will once again become the target of acquisition talk. Over the last few years, there’ve been rumors that Dell and Microsoft might have interest in the company for its expertise in graphics, its move into servers and now, its push into virtual reality-friendly silicon. (Note, the Dell rumors preceded its purchase of EMC and move to go private and become Dell Technologies.) That would line up nicely with Microsoft’s plans for its HoloLens and Xbox franchise, or with Dell’s gaming PC business and server hardware. Or maybe a company such as Google, which is increasingly getting into home Internet and VR hardware, would make an offer.
Now, let us quickly take a look at 2016’s predictions and how well your mystic seer did:
1. The Internet of Things will become a punchline. Omarstadamus fail! While frustration continues and there are problems with many such devices, Google Home and Amazon Echo proved there’s a market for AI in the home and now these fledgling devices are incorporating them and the market appears to be ramping up again.
2. Boom times in automated cars. Yes! Everyone from Google to Apple to Tesla to traditional auto companies raced toward a self-driving future in 2016. This will continue in 2017.
3. Netflix scores an Oscar. Wrong! Its original movie “Beasts of No Nation” did not score at the Oscars, but Netflix did have some TV hits including “Stranger Things” and “Luke Cage,” and it earned 54 Emmy nominations, behind only FX and HBO.
4. Apple Music becomes Apple Entertainment. While Apple Music did venture into original TV production, it did not get the massive reorganization and revamp Omarstadamus was expecting. Boo, Apple.
5. A City Council candidate will be a former Uber/Lyft driver. Nope! But the Prop 1 ride-hailing debate did create a stir in city politics and helped mobile the tech industry to get more involved.
It was a bad 2016 for Omarstadamus, but the soothsayer hears that’s not exactly an uncommon phenomenon.
Until next year, knowledge seekers!