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Ten predictions for 2017 (please don’t show us this in December when half of them are wrong…)

It’s that time of 2017, when people are only just coming back to work, when people are making all sorts of predictions and forecasts about what the year is going to bring. New Statesman Tech is not a publication that likes to be outdone so here are ten of ours, based on experience rather than formalised research and forecasting:

  • Offshoring/outsourcing will diminish in America – or at least it will be renamed and refocused. Under a president who is openly hostile to offshoring, there will need to be drivers other than cost to justify moving activities overseas.
  • Wearable technology will become more important as will all forms of mobility. However, sales to date of smart watches indicate that these wearables may not all be wrist-based as some of the manufacturers had hoped. Expect either a few killer apps that will make the case for smart watches indisputable or expect fewer smart watches. They will continue to be niche rather than mainstream in the enterprise if Apple’s increased focus on sport rather than business apps continues.
  • The cloud will become more important. This is no great revelation as the enterprise is already moving that way; expect more commercial offerings to make the transition easier as vendors decide they want everything under one infrastructure (yes of course they want what’s best for the customer but they also have an eye on their share price).
  • Security breaches aplenty either happened or were unveiled in 2016. There is no reason to expect them to diminish, sadly, and many of those that will be reported are probably happening right now.
  • This week, president-elect Trump is expected to have a briefing on the allegations that his win was influenced by Russian hackers. Expect him to play down the significance, expect his critics to play it up and expect not only those opposed to Brexit but anyone who has suffered a narrow loss in a poll to start blaming foreign powers.
  • The Internet of Things will grow in its importance but will be queried increasingly. This morning the news wires are full of an Internet hairbrush launched at CES in Las Vegas last night; an Internet hairbrush? Seriously? Expect a lot of new devices and a lot of questions about where usefulness stops and the gimmicks begin.
  • Safety will become all-important. Apple is now facing a lawsuit about Facetime and whether it should automatically shut itself off while people are driving, following a tragic accident. Whether the courts will apply responsibility to the driver or the manufacturer is almost beside the point; companies are bound to respond by building in extra safety functions into their products, if only to gain the moral upper hand.
  • Robots, whether software or hardware-based, will continue to dominate the headlines in terms of technical advances.
  • Blackberry’s first few third-party phones will emerge; this will become either a case of kill or cure for the traditional handset with a keyboard. Whether it succeeds or not, the company’s future is in returning to its roots as a provider of security infrastructure.
  • Longer term, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has said he plans to visit every US State during 2017 and there is already speculation that this is a preface to the launch of a political career. That’s not strictly a technology story but unless he’s just trying to drum up support for his social network, which isn’t strictly necessary as it’s already dominant, there’s something going on…
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