Boy, what a year it’s been! As 2017 approaches, we can’t help but have a glance back at all of the brand new technologies that have grown their own legs and anticipate all of the headway they’ll be making going forward. It’s been a year of improvement on almost every front in the tech industry, but most notably we’ve seen the growth of Linux as a force to be reckoned with and VR’s rise to prominence, boasting integration with an ever greater number of platforms. Given all of these leaps forward, we must ask ourselves what is in store for us in the year to come!
The Rise (And Niche-ness) of Virtual Reality
Since 2012, the creators at Oculus have been tinkering to create a truly stereoscopic environment that can be worn as a headset. Their work has resulted in the first version of the Oculus Rift released for the general public on 28th March 2016.
Since then, many platforms and games (even SCS Software’s Euro Truck Simulator 2) have begun to support virtual reality in hopes of attracting people who are as equally interested in immersion as they are in gameplay. Earlier in the year I had a few more sobering words to say about the purchasing worthiness of this technology.
2017 will likely see virtual reality take more steps toward maturity, with more manufacturers releasing their own headsets (such as Sony’s PlayStation accessory and HTC’s Vive) and software developers capitalizing on this trend. Although it’s entirely possible that VR headsets may see mainstream use if manufacturers make some economic improvements (e.g. reducing the hardware requirements to run these beasts), we may see these devices achieve a marginally higher level of success than smartwatches.
It’s likely that the worst case scenario will be VR remaining largely a niche market, one which will be composed of very loyal customers.
The Continued Rise of Business Intelligence and Data Mining
You may have noticed it: Targeted ads seem to display an uncanny knowledge about our personal preferences. That’s all due to an increased level of sophistication in data mining, multi-platform federation, and business intelligence platforms in recent years.
Modern software is now able to sift through enormous amounts of data, spotting unlikely trends so that human beings can interpret them in their decision making processes. Software like Sisense makes use of a proprietary in-chip technology to analyze data without having to prepare it in advance by fetching it from the disk every time it’s queried.
Innovations like these help make decision-making faster and allow businesses to depend less on their IT departments. “While data is becoming more complex to understand, organizations are demanding broader use of it in an increasing amount of business scenarios,” Saar Bitner, Sisense’s VP marketing, explained to Business.com earlier this year. “Once the data is available, senior management rightfully looks to actually put it to use by promoting a more data-driven corporate culture.”
For businesses that are just starting to get their feet wet in data mining and analytics, Talend provides an open-source alternative, albeit with some rather significant handicaps.
The fact that data mining and analysis is starting to become simpler and more affordable tells us that 2017 will be a year in which consumer-facing businesses will begin catering much more to their own niches. We may even see more innovative publicity campaigns initiated by companies reaching out to people outside their niches (kind of like how IKEA made an augmented reality catalogue app for tech-savvy customers) due to more consolidated data analysis and mining techniques.
Linux Will Grab Serious Market Share
In contrast to its success in the corporate world, Linux hasn’t been much of a hit in the consumer market, despite its low cost of $0.00. Windows 10, on the other hand, has had a lackluster performance in 2016, most likely because people using the OS have had a generally negative attitude about the upgrade, sometimes even receiving it without their permission.
This inevitably will create a vacuum where people who can’t put up with having Windows on their computers anymore will choose the path of least resistance. Migration to Apple’s macOS may be a choice for more affluent users, but among the vast majority of people, eyes will point towards alternatives that don’t require them to purchase new hardware.
The choice du jour for those wanting to replace their PC operating system is usually Linux (and occasionally something UNIX-based like OpenSolaris or FreeBSD), which offers a variety of different distributions and desktop environments of every flavor. Towards the end of 2016, Linux Mint developers have released version 18 of their software, which included their new, modernized and minimalist Cinnamon desktop. Newer Linux versions show a push for more consumer-friendly environments that can compete with the best that Microsoft has to offer.
According to the graph below taken from Wikimedia Commons, which compiles ComputerBase.de’s statistics about desktop OS market share, Linux (in red) has been creeping up since 2002, growing from a 0.5 percent share of all desktop computers to a solid 3 percent in 2016.
The uptick towards the middle of the year can be attributed to frustrated Windows 10 users who finally took the plunge and installed it on their systems. We will likely see more of this throughout 2017, especially with a stronger push towards more user-friendliness in major distributions.
IoT: New Possibilities with New Problems
The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the form of intelligent connected devices around the home will play a pivotal role in the evolution of new consumer-oriented products throughout 2017.
The era of “connected/smart homes” and Bluetooth devices galore presents an unprecedented level of flexibility with a price tag that’s constantly dropping (Amazon Echo’s price as of the publishing of this piece is around US$140).
Two can play at this game, though. Hackers are already gearing up to exploit these devices since they present the perfect targets for building up enormous botnets like the one that took down a massive DNS service provider towards the end of October 2016. Another enormous attack took place earlier in the year against Brian Krabs, raking up a bitcount of 620 gigabits per second.
Next year we can expect more of these attacks to happen if firmware developers do not take the steps necessary to ensure that their devices aren’t used for malicious purposes.
2017 is going to be a year full of expectation, excitement, and some level of concern. While there is absolutely no clear winner here, we can expect to see 2016’s most successful innovators doubling down and building upon their previous glory, shaping the world as we know it – for better or worse.
We’ll continue to observe the battle between convenience and security as it spills over into IoT. Niche markets this year could become something more consolidated and mainstream as we approach the end of the next one. If one thing is certain, it’s that 2016 has planted the seeds for several game-changing events.