A new year is upon us and so will be the hype factory that kicks off with CES and never seems to end. We'll take a stab at the big technology themes in 2019 as well as a few that may make you vomit by this time next year.
Here's our list of technology storylines that'll resurface repeatedly in 2019.
We're at peak Apple now
When Apple stops disclosing device units and revenue you know the company has peaked in terms of cultural zeitgeist, but let's not get crazy. Apple still has quite a business and a cash cow few others can match. Apple's services approach is a money winning strategy, but it's unclear where the growth is going to come from.
Here's how this storyline about peak Apple may play out in 2019.
- Android devices makers will rally to 5G quickly as well as new designs to include foldable screens.
- Apple traditionally has waited and may not roll out 5G devices until 2020.
- Prices are likely to continue to be a drain on smartphone sales as upgrade cycles go longer.
- If you can't gauge Apple units, there's less buzz about the hardware.
- Apple will continue to make tons of cash and even improve profit margins with services. The catch is that software and services don't capture the imagination of the tech buyer.
- The Apple worries will occur at the same time that Samsung is making its play on multiple fronts and driving new designs as well as the rush to 5G.
The peak Apple storyline will peak yet the company will make more money, capture enterprise market share and keep the installed base.
AI, algorithm backlash builds
Suddenly businesses, consumers and everything in between will start wondering what's in algorithms, AI and machine learning as well as how these systems will be developed. On the consumer front, Pew Research highlighted how consumers are questioning algorithms and whether it's right for technologies to make decisions on humans.
On the enterprise side, companies will face algorithm and AI sprawl. The big question is whether efforts from IBM to add more transparency and bias detection to AI will pay off.
But until then, every vendor is going to affix AI to anything that has software and the tiniest dose of perceived intelligence with it. For such an example, look no further than chatbots with pre-programmed answers being flogged as smart assistants.
Here's the punchline: The AI genie is already out of the bottle and mainstream just as folks are getting wound up about it.
Primers: What is AI? Everything you need to know about Artificial Intelligence | Machine learning? | Deep learning? | Artificial general intelligence? | The AI, machine learning, and data science conundrum: Who will manage the algorithms?
5G the hype lands in 2019, but 2020 is the real roll out
There are two genuine new technologies coming to mobile in the near future: Foldable phones, and 5G.
Samsung has the lock on foldable OLEDs, so everyone else has to play the 5G card, and how they will endlessly play it. The first 5G services will roll out and carriers, and smartphone makers will market us to death.
What we don't know is the costs, battery life, standards, and a bevy of open ended issues. 2019 brings the 5G starter set, but the real impact on the Internet of things, consumption habits, and business and consumer implications will play out in the years ahead.
For the first time, a new generation of mobile communications is going to have negligible impact on how handsets are used -- streaming 8k Netflix is not that different from streaming SD Netflix.
The real benefits of 5G will be seen in standalone mode that doesn't rely on the existing 4G backbone, but until then telcos are going to do their best to convince people non-standalone is fine.
One thing is certain: 2019 will feature a lot of 5G overload. What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new wireless revolution
Hybrid infrastructure will move to hybrid applications strategies
Hybrid cloud has been reality for a while and now cloud and on-prem vendors agree. AWS spent much of its recent re:Invent conference talking about hybrid cloud and firming up its partnership with VMware.
TechRepublic ebooks: AWS re:Invent 2018: A guide for tech and business pros (free PDF) | Special report: A guide to data center automation (Free PDF)
Today, the conversation revolves round hybrid infrastructure, but hybrid applications that can run locally, in the cloud, edge devices and everywhere will become the story. The new hybrid world order will rhyme with that write once and then run everywhere dream. Growing pains will ensue.
Another reason hybrid cloud and infrastructure will give way to hybrid applications banter: Vendors will need some new hybrid theme to talk about.
Data centers: The future is software-defined
Blockchain: real or not?
For much of 2018 blockchain was a technology in search of an application beyond cryptocoins. That's not going to change much in 2019 but it won't be for want of trying.
There are still lots and lots of start-ups and larger organizations trying to figure out how to use blockchain in way that is more productive than just burning electricity and processors to create bitcoin. Blockchain may have some neat applications in situations where you need radical transparency and traceability of transactions. There are plenty of barriers to blockchain implementation from a technical point of view, and probably more from a business culture point of view. Many transactions need to be secure but also in many cases private; pure distributed blockchain doesn't help much with that.
Blockchain advocates still have yet to answer how placing fraudulent transactions on an immutable blockchain prevents fraud. If you are prepared lie to your bank, government, or suppliers, you can lie on a blockchain.
But expect to see lots of efforts to make blockchain a thing in 2019, especially in the supply-chain.
ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener
The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.
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