By Mark Shaw
The year 2013 was by any tech standards a lackluster year. Two-thirds of the people polled stated that 2013 was best behind us. Apple and Samsung battled it out in the tech world with little to show but incremental improvements. Technology moved forward in baby steps with tablets, Windows 8.1, and Apple Maverik’s operating system, none were knocking anyone’s socks off.
In contrast, 2014 is set to be a blockbuster year for technology on all fronts. It will be inescapable. If the NSA story breaking in 2013 didn’t get enough press, watch as companies react in 2014. We have seen everything from new “encrypted e-mails” to organizations demanding data be held outside of the United States. Security will be a big deal on many fronts in the com.
Security will be taking the forefront starting with small and personal things we can all do. I heard a news report about how a child’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are now the hacker’s target of choice. Why would anyone care what a 15-year-old has to say in his or her tweets? Apparently a lot of people and more so when their parents are involved in business.
Let me set a scenario. You are the CEO of a major firm and you work with other similar companies. Over dinner you mention to your wife or husband that company XYZ is not going to make it and bankruptcy is inevitable. Now your child decides to make a post about it saying “Dad says XYZ is out of business, glad I don’t like their products.”
Imagine the implications for the company where dad works, the company XYZ and, of course, if it’s publicly traded, the shareholders. This is the face of security in 2014. No longer are they aiming solely for the big corporate networks for insider info. They are scouring the social media of our children. Something to consider in your common sense security planning. Your biggest issues may come from places no one would ever expect. Bitcoins are also grabbing headlines as 2013 comes to a close. Expect that 2014 will be the year that makes or breaks these crypto currencies. Bitcoins and their ilk are driving for a new way to do business online.
If you work in a company that sells online and to diverse audiences, many not inside the US, you may want to look into what is being done to make commerce globally easier, less costly and without government reliance.
Imagine being able to send “money” from your account to another instantly and with almost no fee? How would that change the global financial system? No need for big banks, or credit card transaction fees that eat up 2-4 percent of margin every time. It is something companies are watching closely and we small business owners should be watching what the big guys are watching. What they do today will impact us tomorrow.
Bitcoins are speculative at best right now, but some big names are tossing their weight behind the idea. Facebook founders, Virgin, and even Overstock.com are using them. Regardless of how this turns out, the idea has broken down a lot of the known standards about global monies and will be something to look at in 2014. This will be a defining year for what this type of “currency” or “commodity” will bring to the market and how it will impact businesses.
This year will be the year our phones go from our pockets to our wrists. Samsung gave its version 1.0 to the market in 2013, but as we all know, that was not a big hit and the limits in it functionality doomed it to be a “beta” among devices. Still, it showed everyone it could be done and that there is a market for it.
I, for one, am all in if it means I don’t have to dig in to my pocket every single time I want to do anything on my phone. From curved and flexible screens to circuit boards you can bend, the wearable technology is coming. The New Year is starting off primed with rumors of devices from all major manufactures that can be worn. Let`s see who delivers the best of breed to the market.
Finally, I want to talk about apps and what they mean in the world of business. In the old-school days, we would load an application from a CD or even floppy disks on to a hard drive to be used. Think Lotus123 or MS Word. I recall being in an airport in Vancouver, Canada, around the summer of 2012 and there was an interesting gentleman next to me about 20 years my senior. He said he didn’t understand all the techy stuff, but he knew one thing after buying his iPhone: The days of computer programs were over, it will all be apps. He said he saw no reason ever again to buy an application on media and install it. It’s all about instant on and apps.
That is the future, in his mind, of all development in the software world. I listened and thought about what an interesting concept it was. Everything I would ever need would come from an app store.
Well here we are in 2014 with some pretty powerful evidence he was right. You can use the Microsoft store for your Windows 8 apps, your iTunes and Apple app store for your iPad, iPhone, and all your Mac computers. Even your operating system can be upgraded this way. Google has the Google Play store, and Amazon has its own app, music and video ecosystem. If you are in any business that develops software, uses software, or ends up dealing with software licenses, the world is clearly moving to apps for everything. It is no longer about the software. It’s about the app.
It would not be unexpected to be installing all of your new computers’ software totally within an app store environment before the year’s end. No more CDs, media downloads, or any of the traditional software distribution methods. Apps are now the way of the world and all of us in business should start to consider how our products would be able to be sold, consumed, promoted or developed within this app world. How do you make your company app enabled?
There are some other amazing technology developments that could impact you and your business in the coming years, from Google purchasing robotics companies, to the “singularity” (where a machine can handle all the processing of a human brain), to the blurring of the line between man and machine. Technology in all its forms will be huge for 2014 and the foreseeable future. We are living in an amazing time where the advancements, that in previous generations took a lifetime to complete, happen during just one small trip of the planet around the sun.