MediaFile

Three tech predictions for 2013

Sometimes the most important ideas in tech are hiding in plain sight. In that spirit, here are three predictions for 2013 that are just waiting to happen. No 3D TVs, wearable computer or jet packs for me — at least not this year.

The Kindle Offer You Can’t Refuse

Demand is rapidly shrinking for e-ink e-book readers. IHS iSuppli predicts that when the books close on 2012 some 15 million will have been sold — down 36 percent from 2011.

And why not? Tablets are getting cheaper. Sure, you can pick up an ad-supported Kindle for as little as $70. But why shell out even that when $200 gets you an e-reader, and a media player, and a gaming machine, and everything else?

Dedicated e-ink readers aren’t falling out of favor because the technology has been surpassed. They’re losing out because the value proposition has changed. There’s a simple solution. Make them inexpensive enough so that it becomes an offer you can’t refuse.

That will happen at $50. At that price, buying a niche item you might use only occasionally is a relatively easy decision. It would be a no-brainer for students. A stocking stuffer for pre-teens that might even tear them away from their gaming consoles. An afterthought.

Five 2011 tech earthquakes

By John C Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

Pick a year: It’s easy to look back and convince yourself That Was The Year That Was in tech, partly because the pace of change is so rapid and partly because we so readily embrace and then quickly depend on things that are completely different. Consider this: When the class of 2012 was applying to college, there was no iPhone. Until those students were just about at the end of their  junior years, there was no iPad. Both of these nascent devices now define the mobile Internet, which is where all the action is.

But 2011 had some pretty remarkable advances that seem to be the start of inexorable things to come, as well as some surprising and sad examples of demise, whose impact will surely be felt for years to come, in ways that are currently near-impossible to predict.

Some may argue that 2011 was the year of the tablet (redux), because of the spritely launch of Amazon’s Fire and Barnes & Noble’s reboot of the Nook color. I say, it was bound to happen, and that the only really interesting thing is that content companies are giving Apple a bit of competition, and not the hardware bigwigs.

Will Google fight Apple’s Siri with Alfred?

Apple has Siri, and now Google has Alfred.

On Tuesday Google said it had acquired the tech company that has developed Alfred, a smartphone app that acts as a “personal assistant” to make recommendations based on your interests and your “context,” such as location, time of day, intent and social information.

According to Clever Sense, the company that created Alfred and that is now part of Google, the app uses artificial intelligence technology to sift through the Web’s vast amount of data and to recommend restaurants, bars and other real-world places that you might like.

That sounds a lot like Siri, the personal assistant technology that comes built-in to Apple latest iPhone. Siri offers a much broader range of capabilities than those that appear to currently be available with Alfred, allowing users to speak into their phone to manage their calendars,  find nearby restaurants and even inquire about the weather.

More like a whisper than a bang

By John Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

(This column was written hours before the tragic news of Steve Jobs’ passing. For my thoughts on him, please see ‘We All Called Him Steve …‘ and for my reaction to his stepping down as Apple CEO in August, ‘A World Without Steve Jobs‘.)

There was lots of digerati (and shareholder) angst over the release of the iPhone 4S — so much I won’t even bother linking to any of it. It’s all over every social network, Twitter and the talk of suddenly all-knowing TV anchors.

Look: The iPhone is an experience delivery system. Hardware is perfect when it disappears, doesn’t get in the way, expedites. In and of itself a computer is a brick. The operating system and the apps — that’s where it’s at. That’s why the iPhone has such resonance, not because it looks cooler than anything else out there. It’s the same with tablets, which is the primary reason the iPad rules.