With 2016 drawing to a close, here is a look at some of the things — tech, as well as a number of industry metrics — that you should be keeping an eye on over the coming year.
Before I begin, I want to mention the first big tech shindig of 2017, which will be CES. I pay very little attention to CES these days, not because there isn’t some interesting stuff demonstrated there, but because it’s a pretty poor indicator of what’s going to be important throughout the year.
Also, a lot of stuff is unveiled at CES that never seems to see light of day, so it’s easy to get distracted by stuff that you’ll never see again.
With that out of the way, here’s what I think you should be paying attention to over the coming year.
iPhone 8 (or whatever it will end up being called)
The iPhone 8 will be Apple’s tenth-anniversary smartphone, and it’s expected to offer a big sales hurrah before sales start going weak again. How Apple approaches and handles this launch — and whether it can create a situation where supply meets demand, especially during the first few weeks — will be critical.
Will there be a rebound in sales occur as the long-awaited upgrade cycle kicks in, or has the rot set in to such a point that the recovery is never going to happen? Can new form factors shift the needle in any meaningful way?
Intel vs. AMD
AMD has, for perhaps the first time in a couple of decades, some interesting silicon that could give the company an edge over Intel. But it remains to be seen whether AMD’s Ryzen has what it takes in the real world to gain the edge over Intel’s Kaby Lake.
Will there be an iPhone SE 2?
Will Apple update the low-cost 4-inch iPhone during 2017, or will it allow it to mature for another year or so in the hopes of preventing it from cannibalizing sales of higher-priced iPhones? This will be an interesting test of Apple’s courage.
What about a “Made in the US” iPhone?
President-elect Donald Trump pledged that he would “get Apple to start making their computers and their iPhones on our land, not in China,” and now he’s put this to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Problem is, not only would it be hugely complex to move the manufacturing operating to the US, but could add significantly to the cost.
Will the iPad Air and iPad mini lineup get a refresh, or is the iPad Pro the way forward now? Also, can Apple do anything to make sales pull up from their decline or is iPad headed for irrelevance? iPad sales are already at their lowest since 2011, so things aren’t looking good.
iMac and Mac Pro
Will they get a long-overdue refresh, or is Apple going to allow them to wither on the vine? Apple’s high-performance Mac Pro is now three years old, which in tech terms is eons. Are these just low-selling distractions from the iPhone?
This was a big, bold, innovative move from Microsoft, so it will be interesting to see whether we get any real sales data, and whether there will be a refresh towards the end of the year. Can Microsoft bring more innovation to the table?
Can Microsoft get back into the smartphone game, and this time make it work, or is it too late to enter the fray given the size of Android and iOS?
Hardware hits such as the Surface Studio and Surface Book show Microsoft can innovate, and “Windows 10 on Qualcomm” makes it clear that Redmond sees unification of desktop, tablet, and smartphone operating systems is the way forward. But the market is a fickle one, and Apple and the Android gang currently have the sales channels pretty much to themselves.
Can Samsung put the Galaxy Note 7 behind them?
The Galaxy Note 7 fires were a huge blow for Samsung. It might be the Android maker that’s pulling in the most dollars, but in an attempt to make the Note 7 as thin as possible, the company pushed the envelope of what was possible to do safely.
Can Apple make a success of smartglasses when Google failed? The failure — at least consumer failure — of Google’s Glass project will no doubt be at the forefront of Apple’s mind if it’s planning to venture into this area.
Will all the Android players survive?
There’s almost no money in making Android handsets. While low prices and razor-thin margins are good for consumers, it’s bad for the hardware makers. 2017 could see players — especially the ones that are losing money — exit the game.
So long, 3.5mm headphone jack
Now that Apple has dropped the headphone jack from the iPhone, expect others to follow suit in 2017.