Tech Trend Predictions This Year and Last: What’s New and What’s Not

A look at how 2013 tech trend predictions from Mashable, Gartner, IEEE and ReadWrite played out and what they're saying about 2014.

It’s that time of the year again: everybody and their brother are making lists of trends to watch in 2014. The tech industry is no exception (just take a look at this Hacker News thread). But instead of putting out our own list of predictions, we thought we’d take a look at what others are expecting in the year ahead – and compare that with their 2013 forecasts to see how they did.

Mashable Does a 180 on Privacy

Mashable highlighted 11 trends for 2013, among them the rise of big data, the death of desktops and what it called “crowdfunding mania.” Browsing the list, many of its predictions were right, though much of what it pointed to for 2013 is still in process now. Yes, big data has arrived, but we haven’t exactly figured out how to use it. As for flexible devices and 3D printing, they’re certainly in the works, but they’re nowhere near a done deal.

Perhaps most interesting comparing the 2013 list with that of 2014 is the issue of privacy. For 2013, Mashable predicted the end of privacy, Lance Ulanoff writing, “Constant data collection, ever-growing number of services that ask you to share something about yourself and a generation of users who don’t care about privacy will change how many of us think, feel and act about our own personal, digital space.

This, of course, predates the emergence of Edward Snowden and the exposure of a number of government surveillance programs and strategies that transformed perspectives on privacy and data all around the globe.

For its 2014 list, Mashable changed its tune on privacy, this time around signaling a backlash (one that’s already been in motion for several months). As the NSA’s reach and rights to pry are defined, the story will surely change as we look ahead to 2015 and beyond.

ReadWrite and Mobile

For both 2013 and 2014, ReadWrite’s Dan Rowinski has attacked the mobile realm, this year making an especially bold prediction: the mobile Web will die. He writes:

The mobile Web will die because the companies that make the engines it ran upon are killing their mobile browsers and replacing them with fully functional versions that run on any device. In 2014, these browsers will be updated to put the final nail in its coffin.

His forecasts are largely heavy on devices and brands, in 2013 missing the mark with the prediction of BlackBerry’s success but hitting the nail on the head with respect to still flailing location-based apps.

So what should we expect this year beyond the downfall of mobile web? Some neat new devices on the shelves, such as Google Glass and an iWatch from Apple.

IEEE Amps Up

The IEEE Computer Society has laid out a set of 2014 predictions that are largely amplified and expanded versions of its 2013 list.

From the Internet of Things, we’ll go to the Web of Things, which “takes advantage of mobile devices’ and sensors’ ability to observe and monitor their environments, increasing the coordination between things in the real world and their counterparts on the Web.  And from big data, we’ll move to extreme data, an area that “requires new paradigms and practices in data management and analytics.”

This year, the IEEE Computer Society has gone more industry specific as well, calling attention to technological innovation in areas like education and government. Still on the list is 3D printing, which remains a work in progress.

Gartner Goes for Strategy

Gartner’s annual list goes the strategic route, defining strategic technology as “as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.And given the three-year trajectory of its forecasts, it comes as no surprise that its 2014 list isn’t exactly an enormous departure from what it put out for 2013.

The emergence of the Personal Cloud appears as both lists, and approaches for enterprises to tackle information sharing, apps and the BYOD trend thread throughout as well. Notably absent from Gartner’s 2014 list is big data, which has been replaced by smart machines, a category it calls “the most disruptive in the history of IT.”

Three days into the New Year, it’s impossible to tell who’s right, who’s wrong, or how any of these predictions will pan out. And as fast as technology is changing, some things take a whole lot more than a year to completely transform, succeed or flop.