2013: My tech guesstimates for the year ahead

Will machine-to-machine connections be the next cloud and big data (at least in terms of tech marketing)? Will cloud finally kill server sales? And Windows 8 and RIM's fate remain the wild cards of 2013.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Predictions for the year ahead are always tricky---and often wrong---but worth the effort if only to frame your thinking.

Image via Amazon, Amlong Crystal.

My 2012 calls were a mixed bag. Sure, Workday, Salesforce and the SaaS gang became enterprise standard platforms in many respects. But RIM didn’t become a software company completely, Microsoft's Nokia partnership is still a work in progress and ultrabooks and Windows 8 aren't exactly big hits.

With those caveats, here's a look at what I'm thinking for 2013.

  • Machine-to-machine Internet connections become a key focus for tech vendors (but not necessarily customers). In 2012, tech vendors talked big data a lot. In 2011, the focus was all on cloud washing. In 2013, don't be surprised if the machine-to-machine (M2M) bandwagon starts rolling. Like most trends the talk will be ahead of the actual implementations in production. But rest assured, M2M will get some real-world traction because it sits in the middle of both the big data and cloud trends. 
  • Patent litigation is settled for the most part. Apple does a patent deal with HTC. Apple and Samsung are talking in between suing each other. Companies are teaming up to buy patents from the likes of Kodak. Overall, these patent deals will mean 2012's focus on high-profile lawsuits will wane a good bit. The mobile market, which features most of these patent legal wars, is maturing. As that maturation takes place, the game of mutually assured patent destruction will end.
  • Windows 8 gets traction---after every pundit officially calls it a failure. Microsoft's Windows 8---and lackluster PC sales---will take a beating in the first quarter of 2013. I expect many tech earnings conference calls to confirm lackluster sales. One issue is there isn't a winning hardware form factor for Windows 8. The Surface is unproven so far. And tech buyers are focused on tablets not PCs. After Windows 8 and Microsoft are taken out to the woodshed, a real form factor will emerge---Intel CEO Paul Otellini estimated it would take a year or so---and the operating system quietly gains steam. Windows 8 has its faults, but it isn't Vista. The ramp of Windows 8 will be slower than Microsoft would like. The dirty little Windows secret: Microsoft's enterprise business---Windows Server, Office, Dynamics etc.---is killing it and the software giant would rake in dough if Windows 8 completely fell off its own fiscal cliff. More: What's behind the slump in PC sales? Can the industry turn around? | With Windows 8, Microsoft's playing a scene from Groundhog Day
  • Chief marketing officers are treated like royalty, but CIOs still control a lot of the dollars. In 2013, tech vendors will spend a lot of time wooing non-CIOs. The CIO and CMO are partners in 2013, but as budget battles escalate these two roles will duel. CMOs will have more tech buying authority, but ultimately lack the expertise necessary to make implementations shine. The good news: CIOs won't always be the ones thrown under the IT failure bus for a change. Also: Gartner: 'Every budget is an IT budget'
  • Research in Motion becomes a player again. The BlackBerry 10 platform doesn't break the Apple-Android duopoly, but does well enough to become a viable 3a platform to Windows Phone 8's 3b role. RIM also uses its installed base to become a mobile device management player. In other words, RIM survives and may even thrive a smidge in 2013. RIM will never regain its previous status, but proves that it isn't Palm either.
  • Oracle grows its hardware business. Company executives say that the hardware business will grow again. Oracle will prove CEO Larry Ellison in 2013 only after sales unravel some more. Oracle's overall hardware sales have to hit bottom at some point. Right? Somehow, Oracle threads its cloud vs. hardware sales needle. After all, Oracle (and SAP's) core competency is really selling to the enterprise. Also: Oracle's budget flush comments cheer software sector
  • Workday and Salesforce.com merge. OK, this one is a bit of a stretch, but the two sides will go for world domination, combine forces and aim to really stick it to Oracle and SAP. It's a bit fuzzy what exec is the top dog of the new company, but these two partners give it a whirl. For good measure, the companies then turn around and buy Rimini Street. The reality is that the Workday and Salesforce may have to merge since Oracle and SAP will buy every other cloud company. 
  • Speaking of Rimini Street: The third party maintenance provider wins its legal battle with Oracle and spawns an entire industry. As a result, Oracle and SAP scramble to maintain their maintenance revenue. Enterprise software and maintenance pricing gets real interesting in a hurry.
  • Google's developer strategy vs. Apple works out nicely. Apple has nudged Google out of its core applications that are embedded in its OS. But that's OK since Google does well by developing iOS apps. Google Maps on iOS and YouTube are just the start. Google's developer success sparks a rethink by Apple.
  • Cloud and virtualization take server sales out to the woodshed. At the Amazon Web Services conference last year, CIOs made chores like configuring servers and storage gear sound passé. As more CIOs hop on the cloud train, hardware sales will start to take serious hits. Companies such as HP will tout ARM servers early in the year---Project Moonshot specifically---but the margins won't be there to keep the server gravy train rolling. Also: CIOs eye more outsourcing, less hardware in 2013
  • Big data goes production. Those pilots of 2012 become production systems. The returns on investment in these initial rounds look promising. Turns out companies have been thinking about what to do with their data for years so those first projects look great. The error period of big data projects begin in earnest in 2014. Also see: Big data: How the revolution may play out
  • Facebook faces a rebellion. The Instagram flap is only the start of many for Facebook. As a result, Facebook customers---which happen to be the product---start to question their usage, allegiance and involvement with the company. In other words, Facebook starts to look a bit like AOL back in the day. However, Google+ doesn't benefit either. In the U.S., social networking is questioned by a large swath of the population. Social connections are still huge, but a backlash begins. Enterprise companies, which have designed a good bit of their software based on Facebook, scramble.
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