Predicting the future, even the near future, carries a risk because the future has a way of making fools of us all. For proof, you don’t have to look any further than the parking spot for your flying car. All the same, there are some fairly safe bets for the advance of technology in 2014.
Some of these trends have been underway for a while, and are just waiting for the right combination of factors to really take off. Here are our four picks for 2014.
According to IHS, global installations of solar power systems are set to explode by 17%, from 35 gigawatts in 2013 to over 45 GW in 2014. With prices for solar panels dipping to near $1/watt, solar roof installations are expanding so fast that at least one electric utility has had to call a temporary halt to connecting new installations to the grid. On sunny days in Hawaii, there is so much power flowing from rooftops that it threatens to destabilize the grid, and the demand can rise and fall rapidly on partly cloudy days. There’s even a plan by one car company to use the batteries in electric cars to buffer the grid and store surplus solar power.
Despite growing pains in some areas, solar power installations will increase at their highest rate since 2011.
Netflix Will Dominate
In 2013, Netflix stock went from $50 a share to nearly $350. With the addition of smash original content like House of Cards and Arrested Development, the online streaming world is quickly becoming Netflix versus everyone else. Netflix and YouTube together account for as much as 50% of downstream Internet traffic at certain times of the day, and Netflix subscribers streamed a staggering 5 billion hours of content last quarter.
It becomes apparent how dominant Netflix really is, when you realize Hulu and Amazon were far behind with 1.29 and 1.61% of Internet traffic respectively. With plans to push aggressively into foreign markets, competitors are going to have to hope Netflix makes a major blunder, otherwise 2014 will see Netflix surge even farther ahead of the pack.
If you think smartphones are getting bigger all the time, that’s because they are — and in 2014 the biggest smartphones will start to rival tablets in terms of screen real estate. Almost every mobile phone maker rolled out a bigger model, or announced plans to do so this year, and that trend will continue into 2014. Samsung has already announced a model with a 6.3" screen, and the newest Galaxy Note sports a 5.7" screen.
The reason phones are getting bigger and more complex is that more people are using them as the primary organizer of their increasingly digital lives. Smartphones are the primary communication tool for an increasing number of people, as communication continues to transition away from voice and toward text and email. Phones are also running more of our lives as they take over monitoring calorie intake, levels of exercise, running the home security system, and serving as an on-the-go entertainment system. No one is buying a TV for the bedroom anymore — instead they’re streaming movies to their phone.
Cloud Services Will Continue To Clobber Big Names In IT
IBM is hardly alone, as tech giants such as Oracle, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard joined them, as more companies scrap their big data systems in favor of cloud services. When users access productivity tools like GoogleDocs and Gmail online, they no longer need powerful desktop computers, and more workers are bringing their personal phones and tablets to the office. Microsoft has so far managed to cling to gains, but as connected devices become more popular it will be increasingly difficult for the Redmond giant to stay in the game.
The trend away from big IT systems blindsided companies with a vested interest in old school IT iron. Look for additional online service offerings to explode in 2014.
When it comes to technology, look for 2014 to be a banner year — unless that technology is old-school IT services.