2016 Tech Predictions

Here are my predictions for 2016.

1. Swift everywhere

Swift 2 built on Swift’s popularity and it’s clear this language will fly far beyond the confines of iOS. It’s more open than anyone could have expected from Apple and unambiguously the future as they see it, it interops well with the giant legacy of Objective C components, and developers genuinely dig it without a whiff of reality distortion.

Swift is Apple’s answer to Node – app developers will use it to make their first move from client to server. More than that, it has the promise of a “write once, run many” framework. Sure, these frequently lead to mediocre apps, but a lot of developers already have mediocre apps on the web, Android, and (if they have an app at all) Windows. It’s not hard to see the attraction of a turnkey solution that will crank out half-decent apps for platforms that aren’t running in the CEO’s pocket.

2. Microsoft open sources Edge #MoarSatya

Microsoft recently open sourced Edge’s JavaScript Engine (“Chakra”). Edge is already free as in beer, as with its predecessor – MS Internet Explorer – and pretty much every other web browser, ever. Yet, Edge (and IE) is closed source, in much the same way as every other major browser has fully open-source engines and Firefox + Chrome are essentially all open source. I don’t need to go into a long monologue here about the pros and cons of open source; suffice to say, I believe open sourcing Edge will improve its quality and compliance with emerging web standards.

There is an additional reason to open source Edge: it will help to unlock what must be one of the major strategic goals for Edge – to run on platforms beyond Windows. MS has been busy buying and building apps compatible with iOS, Android, and OSX. Browsers are no longer dumb clients – they sync user settings and data across devices, and MS wants Edge users to remain Edge users when they move away from their PC. Furthermore, much of the web is developed on OSX, and MS will make it easier for developers to build first-class Edge experiences if they can ensure Edge is running there without making developers jump through hoops.

3. Google helps users discover mobile web apps

Google has been pushing the progressive web app mantra for a couple of years now, and there’s a huge amount of problems that can now be solved using a web app. While the “install to home page” prompts are helpful if you’re already using an app, how do you discover the app in the first place? Serendipity only gets you so far. Maybe you can use Google Search? Hardly. You’ll see several native apps first (if searching on Android), followed by some crap web page which has top place because it’s been online since 2003 (before its developer had heard of JavaScript, and it shows). Meanwhile, you have Chrome Web Store exclusively for desktop and Play Store not showing web apps.

It’s clear Google cares about the web and making web apps thrive, and its search business depends on this. So how will it bring the app store experience to the mobile web? I won’t be so bold as to predict web apps in the Play store – the last thing Android team wants is millions of “glorified bookmarks” contaminating the listings. Chrome Store for mobile? Maybe. Better mobile web app search? Very likely. However it happens, I believe it will be a lot easier to find the best “timezone web app”, “calculator web app” etc for your phone by the end of 2016.

4. Netflix produces daily news/entertainment show

Netflix will create a new daily show in the mould of The Daily Show and The Late Show. This would be a big departure from their typical evergreen model, which has certainly been vital in building a diverse catalogue under their full control. But there is good reason to expand in this way – ongoing shows mean users can always log in and expect to see something fresh and topical. No more frustrating moments hunting around for something decent when you’ve finished a multi-season binge. Additionally, they benefit from viral clips circulating with that Netflix watermark. (Also, the distinction between evergreen and topical shows is not entirely cleancut; old talk show interviews can still generate giant numbers on YouTube, while series such as House Of Cards will look aged before long.)

The 2016 election is sure to be a perfect backdrop to launch this onto their captive audience, probably with a companion podcast.

5. Podcasting as an art form

Just as TV has become something of an art form in recent years, we will see podcasting viewed in the same light, and as something with distinct properties from radio. Needless to say, the bingeworthy nature of Serial is a big part of this, but it’s also a result of business serials like Startup and fiction like Night Vale, Limetown, and The Message using the medium to its fullest.

6. All-You-Can-Eat video streaming from Google

Google already has all-you-can-eat music streaming subscriptions and also released YouTube Red as an ad-free version of YouTube with offline capability. A natural next step for Google Play would be all-you-can-eat video. It would be similar to Amazon, which still has premium videos for purchase or rental, but has all-you-can-eat on Prime. Indeed, Amazon is part of the reason Google should be doing this – thus far, they have made it all but impossible to consume Prime videos on Android (it requires sideloading Amazon’s marketplace app, and even then, a lot of videos aren’t compatible). This leaves just Netflix as the only viable all-you-can-eat platform in most markets, and Google therefore stands to bolster Android itself as well as generating revenues from such a service.

[Updated – Bit about browsers being open-source. Stuart pointed out Safari, which certainly qualifies here, isn’t.]

One thought on “2016 Tech Predictions

  1. Pingback: Google to embrace Swift?!!

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