Microsoft, Apple, OEMs Face Hard 2013

Next year, Silicon Valley could go worldwide.

It’s that time of year again, and I know what you’re thinking—we survived the Holidays, so what more could we possibly look forward to, aside from getting back to work while longing for spring? Fear not, good readers, it’s time for my predictions for the tech world in 2013. (And however excellent my powers of prognostication, remember that standard disclaimers apply—I reserve the right to be completely off base come December.)

Product Predictions

The top laptop seller on Amazon for the Holiday season wasn’t Windows 8 laptops or even Macs; it was Google’s Chromebook (the Samsung version). In light of that, I predict the early signs of true Web applications that can work either connected or disconnected from the actual Web. This means a new rash of development around HTML5 offline Web apps, along with the emergence of other similar technologies, development environments and tools.

And let’s take a look at Macs, which I predict will continue to chew away share of the PC space. As time goes on we see more and more enterprises buying Macs, since there is an ever-decreasing dependence on Windows (OS and tools) for startups and emerging cloud providers. Five out of the last five companies (startups and cloud service providers) we most recently visited use Macs in some capacity. Why did they choose Macs over Windows devices? Their first engineers (often young, hip and Mac fanboys) started the company with their own Macs—and kept on buying them (we can talk about the long lasting impact of this BYOD trend at another time).

At some point this year, Microsoft Office will likely become a first-class citizen on iOS. Speaking of Redmond…

Company and Market Predictions

Microsoft will make a significant change or acquisition that catalyzes new opportunities. The company finds itself increasingly against the wall, bleeding relevance, and needs to find the best way to reclaim its former glory. With a mass exodus of experienced talent (and hence an influx of fresh recruits) and constant internal reorganizations, Microsoft could accidentally empower a visionary, one who will place a bold bet to the benefit of themselves and the industry; it won’t involve phones or PCs/Tablets—it will be something in the cloud, data center or development tools space.

IPOs will stay cool, but acquisitions will ramp up. But with weaker IP in startups last year than there was the year before, there will be fewer companies to buy this year (at least in Q1). At the same time, there is still uneasiness around attempting an IPO (Zynga anyone?). Thus we will see more tuck-ins, IP acquisitions and aqua-hires (an acquisition performed solely to acquire new, talented headcount).

Apple itself will have a ho-hum year. As much as we all love Tim Cook and his friendly southern charm, he’s an operations guy at heart—and he will manage the Apple franchise like, well, an operations guy. The company’s innovation train is most likely on hiatus unless another visionary rises up, and the last thing someone like Cook really wants to confront is a Steve Jobs-style upstart. So we will continue to see sustained (i.e., smoothing and polishing) innovation from Apple, but not the disruptive innovation of the last few years. This opened up an even bigger opportunity for Google Android to claim still more share of the mobility market.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other mainstream hardware OEMs will blunder through some desperation moves as they see their PC stronghold eroding, while Microsoft for the most part ignores their throes. The added threat of new Taiwanese server manufacturers offering direct sales and reduced pricing will stimulate additional weirdness from these companies, which may begin spinning off divisions or making unusual acquisitions.

Startup is the New Enterprise

Those unemployed college graduates and newly minted MBAs have to go somewhere, and now there’s money available for investing—as well as a more level playing field to use it in. If the economy continues to grow (even if only at its recent snail’s pace), I predict that startups/new tech businesses will accelerate, and that can only be good.

Non-Silicon Valley startups will grow significantly. All that U.S. money currently in Europe (and elsewhere) needs to be used for something, and no CEO or CFO wants it back home due to uncertainty and the threat of additional taxes. Thus I see an acceleration of US departures as ideas and skills migrate overseas to find the funding, maintaining the virtuous cycle of invest and exit outside of Silicon Valley. Add in the maturing of the crowd-sourcing model and increasing acceptance of public cloud, and the end result is less friction for startups outside of Silicon Valley.

Finally, I predict that Larry Ellison will accidentally injure someone with a samurai sword while frenetically reenacting a scene from his favorite Kurosawa movie. Let’s face it; it was bound to happen eventually.

 

JD Marymee is the CEO and co-founder of Technology Innovations Group, an organization that drives disruptive innovation as a daily mission. As part of that mission, he advises clients such as Microsoft and Hitachi as well as numerous startups, facilitating connections with the investment community.

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