Brian Willis

Predictions for 2015

This glimpse into the future is an annual tradition. It usually consists of a list of things that I actually think will happen in the upcoming year, followed by a prediction that Half Life 3 will be released. So far Gabe Newell has been dragging down my batting average, but one of these years I’ll be right. Looking at my previous attempts, I have a less than 50% success rate of accurately predicting things, which still strikes me as better than random chance, though maybe that’s just my ego talking. If you’re feeling really enthusiastic, go read last year’s predictions and see how I did, otherwise let’s get started with the crystal ball gazing.

The Apple Watch will not sell particularly well. Even the small model is too big, and without native apps its functionality will be pretty limited. Don’t take this to mean that I think the watch will flop—it won’t, it’s just going to take a few years and a few iterations before it’s a must-have product for a big chunk of the population in the same way that the smartphone is. People forget that it took the iPod three or four years to become a household name, and its time at the top of the pile before being cannibalised by smartphones was about half that long. Apple’s done so much right with the watch, this is an excellent first cut, but the commentary that I’ve seen online misses the fact that there’s so much more to do.

Google’s dorky looking self driving cars will become a part of everyday life. We won’t see a fatal crash occur in 2015, but rest assured that day is coming. Public acceptance will grow slowly. I don’t think consumers will line up to buy a car that looks like an obese panda bear, but they’ll grow accustomed to driving along side them. It’ll be interesting to see how Detroit responds to self-driving cars. We’ve seen very little from them on this subject, but they do seem resistant to new ideas and new ways of doing business.

Last year I predicted that Microsoft would put a guy in the CEO’s chair who had an MBA and didn’t have an engineering background. Instead they appointed a guy who has an MBA and an engineering background. Well played Microsoft. In all seriousness I think Satya Nadella was an astute choice, but I have yet to see a compelling vision of Microsoft’s future from him. So far we can say he’s not Steve Ballmer, but that’s not enough. While open sourcing big chunks of .net and launching Office on iOS was nice and all, neither action made the company a meaningful amount of money. Outside of Azure, Microsoft is still coasting along on its cash cows and this needs to change before Nadella will be seen as a success.

In the tech startup scene, it’s going to be a cynical year. Competition between Uber and Lyft will get even more ruthless, with more ethical lines getting crossed1. Facebook and Twitter will continue to be more hostile towards third party developers, users, and each other. Like I said—cynical.

Social apps like Tiiny aren’t really finding an audience anymore. We’ve seen a land grab in the last half-decade with products like Facebook and Twitter whose solutions exist entirely in software. Most of the problems in that space are solved2 so the kind of startups we’ll now see will have a presence that stretches out into the real world. I’m talking about companies like FirstMile and TaskRabbit who have actual human employees who’ll show up at your bricks-and-mortar home to perform real services that exist on more than just a hard drive.

Finally, a personal prediction: I will write more. Seriously, last year I published three posts. That’s just abysmal. It’s difficult to identify the root cause, but part of it has been my inability to make time to write, and part has been a desire to keep the quality bar high and not publish stuff that I’ll regret later. Either way, expect more of my rambling in your feed reader.

  1. I’m waiting for the day when surge pricing is met with a DDoS attack. 

  2. Perhaps “claimed” would be a better word than “solved”.