Last year I did a series of predictions for 2016. A mash of ideas based on my exposure to various technology areas I work in, mostly games, but health, edtech, etc. I wanted to do it again this year, but also wanted the 2.0 version to be better. I had three goals:
3. Make better predictions (hah!)
The overall goal for me is to better think about what’s going on in the near term and hope it offers some guidance. At the very least it forces me to read a bit more.
Given all that here’s what I got…Please put your predictions in the responses…
1. VR / AR continues to fail at scale, but the split to casual VR is the story for 2017.
I’m a big skeptic of AR/VR overall. I just don’t see it working at scale in terms of these big efforts like Vive and Oculus that everyone who talks about VR focuses on. It’s an argument of degree, but significant.
VR is a business for sure but it’s so far ahead of itself in the hype cycle. I think what’s happening in the near term of 2017 is the rise of casual VR. Short, low-cost, mobile driven moments in VR driven by kits more like Google’s DayDream. I think it’s why Oculus split in two. The PC division is like the race-car teams for Honda, and the mobile division is where they will make the Civic. Casual, mobile VR experiences I do think have a lot of value and it’s where the focus will shift.
How this drives adoption and, most importantly, developer revenues I’m not sure. High-end VR will continue to exist, and grow a bit, but it’s not enough to generate the economics everyone is depending on. Casual VR really rests with the growth of mobile headsets, especially DayDream. Apple not getting into this space is hurting it, or giving Google opportunity. The question, is whether widespread availability of a decent quality low-cost VR solution creates salable software opportunities. It may be that what happens is VR is monetized more like YouTube is, via producers working through aggregators and various studios learning to match input costs with probable, not outsized, returns.
A/R is even more b.s. than VR for now. I agree it’s going to be bigger as a baseline technology, and eventually VR/AR will all be the same platform, but aside from some fun, LBE experiences, which eventually fade, A/R is not a mainstream consumer tech for a while. 2020 at best.
2. Prototyping and easy development tool chains for HTML5/mobile applications start to become major competitive force.
I spent the end of 2016 playing a bit with Origami from Facebook, FramerJSg, Google Form, and others. All of these prototyping environments are really similar. They’re all chasing the ghosts of HyperCard, and VisualBasic 3. There does seem, however, to be some sort of emerging value if the right company can put together a true rapid building environment for mobile-social-Web products that go beyond what these system do. Something that maybe combines King’s awesome Defold game engine, with these more app-centric prototyping environments like Origami. If someone can do that, and create a top-most user layer that can be used by the masses, and then tie it to a cloud-based services platform they’re going to clean up.
I think as that becomes more apparent in 2017, we’re going to see this emerge not just as a product, but as a key area of competition between companies like Adobe, Microsoft, Amazon, and hopefully Apple.
Honestly this is as much a wish as a prediction.
3. Apple cleans up lots of loose ends.
If you look at Apple’s product line it’s getting messy and disparate. I think we see some effort around cleaning it up and evening up different platforms.
Apple is a gigantic mess. But don’t let the Apple haters fool you. Their idea of a mess is that Apple isn’t innovating. My version of Apple’s mess is that it’s now got six major platforms, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, Safari/iCloud, and AppleTV and they’ve each gotten bits and pieces of Apple’s leading edge innovation. For example, the Taptic Engine was in the Apple Watch before migrating to the iPhone 7, and the Mac, but not yet the iPad. There’s just a lot of moving pieces at Apple and in my mind, Apple would do well to try and even it all up a bit, get everything moving together a bit tighter than it has the last three years. This article made a good point of the mess I’m talking about. I think we’ll see some good progress on this in 2017 from Apple. Not only progress but outward discussion by Apple executives of the work they’re doing to clean up some of the loose ends that has accumulated over the past few years.
The downside of this is that it may actually look like Apple’s not innovating, when in-fact I would argue it’s just tidying up the workshop, and getting ready for a big 2018.
I think one major thing that will happen this year is Apple will release technology that finally makes multi-user iPads possible. What effect this has on sales I don’t know, but the ability to have an iPad that is truly multiuser across a household, and done well, will be great.
3. Nintendo Switch 3rd-party support will not thrive
I like the Switch concept, I wish it were out a year or more ago. I like Nintendo’s efforts the past year, but as Ian Bogost wrote, and as I tweeted, despite such progress it still feels like Nintendo is dealing with a lot of regression. I think Switch will get some third-party, but I don’t see the Switch by itself reversing the current status of third-party titles for their platforms.
I’m not sure how Nintendo fixes this problem, but more importantly does it have to? Nintendo should just go private, and be what they are, a great company at developing unique franchise games and products that do well under specific controlled circumstances. They could partner more, and embrace mobile a bit more than they are, but in general Nintendo is no longer a growth company.
As for the Switch, I think it’ll initially do well, and some 3rd parties will try to grab some first-mover sales, but overall I don’t see it doing really well unless some sort of virality creeps in involving in-person multiplayer games.
4. Adobe makes a big move
Adobe has done a good job of moving its userbase to lower-cost wider-audience service delivery of its leading applications. However, the death of Flash leaves it a big gap in terms of the app economy. It’s cash position has been growing is now tops over $4B. It’s Market cap is >$50B and its stock is very high. Seems like a good time for them to pull the trigger on something bigger.
This is why I keep wondering if it goes after Unity at some point… It helps them fill some gaps as Flash drops in reach, and sets them up nicely in VR. Most of my reasoning is that Adobe is getting huge growth out of it’s digital marketing cloud products and services. If they applied this to the various activities Unity has done here and then used Unity’s products to reach game, media, and VR developers and bring them together with their pipelines to major brands and agencies using their marketing tools I think they can rationalize a good offer price for Unity.
Adobe could also help Unity with its HTML5 push, and maybe even morph together some of its own emerging HTML5 app prototyping technology with Unity’s HTML5 tools to truly try to dominate HTML5 based app development.
At the end of the day it’s hard to predict acquisitions and mergers, so in the most abstract sense, I think Adobe makes a bigger-than-normal move with its stock+cash position this year and I believe it will be on the development/developer side of the house.
5. Apple’s ambition in consumer health & healthcare becomes much more apparent…
As if it shouldn’t be already, I still feel like Apple’s ambition for revenues in health & healthcare are not appreciated as much as they should be. They’re going to be VERY big, and I feel like toward the end of 2017, be it from product releases (3rd generation Apple Watch?) SDK announcements, acquisitions, or a good Mark Gurman article on Bloomberg, we’re going to see more people realize how big Apple’s plans are for generating significant revenues tied closely to health & healthcare are.
6. Voice-Based Games will become a thing…
While most of the game industry is focused on AR/VR platforms, the rise of Alexa as a mass-market consumer device, let alone the likely entrance of Apple, and others into this space means voice-only gaming could be a possible thing in 2017. There are already such games, but it’s possible we’ll see some sort of game in 2017 that could become a “hit” as a voice-only game for Alexa or otherwise
7. Rise Micro-Service Businesses
One trend I’m looking to make sense of in 2017 is the rise of micro-service businesses. As defined here, micro-services are “An approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API.”
I think with the rise of AWS and Azure we’re already seeing the rise of various services. More specifically though, I think we’ll start to see more and more independent developers building very specific microservice offerings that they then charge for as you integrate them into your own large needs. For example, I worked with developer Zach Gage, and developer LFG Studios to build an AWS based service that handles a very useful and specific form of daily high score leaderboards. It took a year to build, iterating slowly, as a part time project and then debuting first in his game Really Bad Chess. It’s a service focused only on that specific need, and nothing else. It’s delivered via HTTPS and it works very nicely.
As more and more of these services get developed we should begin to see them made available to developers by other developers. Standard pricing will evolve, and I can even see a point where Amazon and Microsoft start acquiring the best ones to integrate into their systems, or some sort of “micro-service app store”. Already Amazon offers access to specific open-source datasets they’ve assembled, why not microservices too.
The point is that these would be small businesses, built by independent developers, that then make them available and benefit financially from their use. The best ones will last, and provide annual income and overtime become integrated into leading Web services platforms to ensure greater reliability.
8. Niche Hardware is a Big Business
Really, this is already true, but 2017 will see this trend emerge even more so. The entire Shenzhen and maker scene has distorted our sense of hardware as the new software. By that I mean we’ve at times over-subscribed the impact of hardware. Many ideas have failed (e.g. many KickStarter hardware items) but if you peel things back a bit, and start to look at some of the less noticeable hardware businesses out there you begin to find some that are very interesting. I think in 2017 we’ll start to see smarter investments in new hardware businesses, especially from bigger companies, and the results will be the development of many more $1B product lines than we realized.
9. YouTube Red Shuts down
It probably won’t, but isn’t it already more or less a failure? I asked my kids if they wanted it, they watch so much YouTube it’s scary. Neither has asked for it, neither wanted it when I offered it (my N of 2 research method). Google tends to shut down things — sometimes when they shouldn’t. Is YouTube Red something they should otherwise keep open? What strategic value is it offering for YouTube. Do people actually leave YouTube if they can’t subscribe to it? At first I thought it had big potential, but given my kids input, I think it’s DOA.
10. Food Tech gets even more interesting
Honestly I don’t have a lot to say to buttress this claim, I’m just finding the total reinvention of food from farm-to-table really interesting. Things like this device from Farmers Friend, LLC, and companies like this Agrilyst and shopping for food online, and how it relates to improving possible nutrition and social outcomes increasingly interests me.
So my prediction is it will become even more interesting and widely appreciated in 2017 — at least in my household.