It was certainly a year of ups and downs for Apple, which took steps to shore up many of its products outside the core iOS portable offerings. The Apple Watch got a new user interface, but the smartwatch category drags. Apple TV got a new content navigation app (but not an integrated Apple television service). The redesigned MacBook, of course, got a wee strip of touchy goodness. Even the EarPods evolved into a game-changing wireless successor. But while Apple delivered on its annual iPhone update, there wasn't much beyond a revised Home button with an odd click feel and dual cameras that have been cropping up elsewhere.

While nagging accusations of innovation slowdown have the company defending its pursuit of artificial intelligence and continuing to investigate "interesting areas" such as self-driving cars and augmented reality, here are some simple wins based largely on its competitive environment today.

Revitalize the iPhone. Apple is more than an iPhone company. But when it comes to revenue contribution, no other product it offers even comes close. As we approach its 10th anniversary and smartphone penetration grows, competitive challenges to the iPhone have never been greater. Google itself is attacking from the high-end and midrange phones released from Chinese manufacturers look increasingly impressive.

Rumors have swirled that the next-generation iPhone may have more efficient processors, have an even larger display (bucking mainstream screen downsizing) or used curved glass or plastic but, without further details, those would appear to just be following other companies' leads. However, after the apparent USB-C stopgap that was the Lightning connector, it would be nice to see Apple push wireless charging further mainstream.

Expand Siri integration. In 2016, Apple took steps to turn some of its key apps into platforms of their own. iMessage was one natural choice for this given the year's focus on chatbots. But the one that likely has even greater potential is Siri, Apple's voice agent that in many ways started the AI obsession tsunami circling the company like its new campus.

Today, only a handful of apps types can integrate into Siri, As with the iPhone hardware, though, Apple can expect growing competition here as Google steps up efforts with Google Assistant and Samsung begins to roll out its own agent based on its acquisition of Viv technology designed by Siri's creators.

Unveil a home voice agent approach. I once joked that Apple's answer to Alexa and Google Home could consist of little more than a cannister placed over an iPhone. Beyond the addition of far-field microphones and less reliance on a screen, more thought would surely go into such a product.

With Amazon announcing that it sold nine times as many Echo units as it did last holiday, the business case for a voice-driven home agent is being proven out even as questions remain about their utility. Even Google, which processes billions of voice commands every day via Android phones, sees the value of capturing different kinds of requests and commands within the home; there must be some value there for Apple as pumps up Siri and other AI efforts.

Author : Ross Rubin

Source : http://www.zdnet.com/article/three-new-years-resolutions-for-apple/

Categorized in Others


Slower than expected sales may have Apple reducing iPhone production.

Traditionally, new iPhones sell pretty well in their first few months -- often outperforming the previous model's sales during the same quarter. That might not be the case with Apple's latest handset: according to Nikkei, sluggish sales are forcing the company to cut back production of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus devices. Based on data received from suppliers, Nikkei expects Apple to slow stock production by about 10 percent.

Apple saw an early sign of this reported slowdown in March, when its Q2 earnings showed that while iPhone 6S upgrades were outpacing the previous year, they still weren't up to snuff with sales from users who upgraded to the iPhone 6 is 2014. It's too early to say if the iPhone 7's slower sales are enough to make it the company's first device not to outsell the previous model, but we'll know soon enough: Apple's next quarterly earnings are set to drop sometime at the end of next month.

Author: Sean Buckley
Source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/30/the-iphone-7-may-not-be-selling-as-well-as-apple-hoped

Categorized in Science & Tech

Apple is planning to release a new 5-inch iPhone with dual cameras in a vertical orientation next year, according to a Macotakara report. Additionally, the company allegedly plans to release new 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 7s models.

The basic specification is the same with the iPhone 7s・iPhone 7s Plus, and the iSight Duo cameras are installed vertically instead of horizontally, and various specifications are still under consideration. Furthermore, the officials are saying that the final specifications will be finalized at the second quarter of Apple's 2017 fiscal year.

We've been hearing reports for some time that the 10th anniversary iPhone will be a major update. It will purportedly have a front glass cover and chassis, joined by a metal bezel and an edge-to-edge display that has no bezels on the top and bottom. Additionally, the front camera, Touch ID, speaker, and other sensors will apparently be embedded into the display. Another report claims that the device would be a clear piece of glass with a next-generation OLED screen. More recently, Apple is said to have be equipping the phone with wireless charging and a 3D camera.


Author: iClarified
Source: http://www.iclarified.com/58464/apple-to-release-new-5inch-iphone-with-dual-vertical-cameras

Categorized in Science & Tech

Apple's list of the 10 most downloaded free apps of 2016 is a great place to start if you just got a new iPhone or iPad, and want to make sure you've got the apps all your friends probably already have.

One note — Apple published its list in early December, so the smash hit Super Mario Run wasn't included in Apple's list.

Facebook and Google dominate Apple's own list of the most downloaded apps of 2016. If not for Snapchat and Pokémon Go, Facebook would have the three most downloaded iPhone apps. 





Free. Download from iTunes here. 

Facebook Messenge

Facebook MessengeriTunes

Free. Download from iTunes here

Pokémon GO


Pokémon GOiTunes

Free with in-app purchases. Download from iTunes here



Free. Download from iTunes here




Free. Download from iTunes here



Free. Download from iTunes here

Google Maps


Google MapsiTunes

Free. Download from iTunes here



Free with in-app purchases. Download from iTunes here. 



Free, but requires a subscription. Download from iTunes here

Spotify Music

Spotify MusiciTunes

Free, with in-app purchases. Download from iTunes here

Author : Kif Leswing

Source : http://www.businessinsider.com/top-free-apps-of-2016-according-to-apple-2016-12/#snapchat-1

Categorized in Science & Tech

A growing number of iPhone users who have been experiencing serious problems with their batteries were anxiously anticipating the release of iOS 10.2. For those unaware, Apple has acknowledged a problem with some iPhone 6s units and older iPhone models where the phones shut down once the remaining charge reaches 30%, as if they had run out of power. The hope, of course, was that Apple’s new iOS update would include a fix for the aggravating issue. Sadly for some users, however, the battery problems plaguing many older iPhone models have only gotten worse for some users.

After acknowledging a problem that was seemingly impacting only a small number of iPhone 6s devices, Apple admitted earlier this month that the problem was more widespread than it initially thought.

“Outside the affected batch, a small number of customers reported an unexpected shutdown,” Apple said in a statement on its website, aimed specifically at the Chinese market. “Some of these shutdowns may be normal because the iPhone will shut down to protect its electronic components. To gather more information, we will add an additional diagnostic feature to the iOS software update that is released next week. This feature collects a variety of information in the coming weeks that may help us improve algorithms for managing battery performance and shut down operations. If such improvements can be achieved, we will deliver them through further software updates.”

Apple has launched a battery replacement program for people impacted by the issue, but it is only available to users with an iPhone 6s manufactured in September or October of 2015. That’s upsetting news to begin with, but it because even more upsetting for some people who found that the problems have gotten even worse since iOS 10.2 was released.

A Forbes contributor wrote about the issue in a recent blog post, and we’ve heard from several readers who say that their iPhones are affected. Impacted models range from the iPhone 6s all the way back to the iPhone 5, and the newly exacerbated issue presents itself in a few different ways. Phones are still shutting down when they reach 30%, but now users are also reporting that battery readings are getting stuck at a higher percentage. One user said his iPhone 6 sometimes sticks at around 50%, and then suddenly dives to 30% and shuts down.

Unfortunately, there’s currently no indication as to when Apple might finally fix the problem or expand its battery replacement program to include all impacted iPhone models.

Author : Zach Epstein

Source : https://www.yahoo.com/tech/saying-apple-ios-10-2-made-iphone-battery-182544004.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

CALIFORNIA – After launching a new update to the Photos web app on the iCloud beta website earlier this month, Apple has now rolled out the update to all users (via Mac Generation).

The overhaul to the app on iCloud.com introduces a macOS-like Photos experience with a sidebar that can be toggled on and off, and a scrollable thumbnail view of every photo in an album at the bottom of the site when looking at individual pictures.

Also of note is a new horizontal scrubber to scroll between pictures taken before and after the current photo you’re viewing. Like some of the other new interface elements, this change makes the new app line up more closely with the experience in the current native Mac Photos app.

Author : Mahmood Idrees

Source : https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/technology/apple-launches-redesigned-icloud-photos-app/

Categorized in Science & Tech

Sticking to your guns is often seen as a good thing, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. Especially when it means persisting with a mundane process in full knowledge that it will cause new problems…

In short: today Apple AAPL -0.70% stopped signing iOS 10.1 and iOS 10.1.1. What this means is Apple servers will not recognise either update as legitimate anymore so iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users can no longer downgrade to them from iOS 10.2, which Apple released last week. Apple typically stops signing old versions of iOS within a week or two of launching a new version.

And yet persisting with this seemingly simple housekeeping exercise makes no sense whatsoever given the problems iOS 10.2 is exacerbating with the so-called ‘30% battery bug’.

Apple iOS 10.2. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Apple iOS 10.2. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

First reported by me last month, the 30% bug can affect every iOS 10 compatible iPhone with the exception of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and it causes the phone to die suddenly when the battery is around the 30% mark. To date Apple has acknowledged the problem initially with a small batch of iPhone 6S models (a batch size it then increased), but says it has found no evidence of this happening to any other model.

This stance has been maintained despite a 62 page long thread in Apple’s official Support Communities forum, frustrated tweets from iPhone 6S Plus owner Tony ‘Father of the iPod’ Fadell and a stern warning from the Chinese Government which argues the numerous reports it has received of the problem across multiple models mean Apple is failing to “meet basic consumer needs for normal wireless communication.”

The Big Signing Problem

So where does the issue arrive from Apple’s decision to stop signing iOS 10.1 and iOS 10.1.1, especially since many peg these updates are responsible for the 30% bug’s creation in the first place? It’s quite simple: it is because iOS 10.2 is consistently reported as making the problem even worse.

“Same here, iOS 10.2 actually made the problem worse,” says Apple Support Communities poster ricardo jb in response this growing theme on thread. “The battery percentage seems to get stuck at some level for a while, even with battery draining apps such as pokemon go running, then it drops different percentages at different moments, it's really random.”

Since I first pointed this out I have also been contacted numerous times over email and social media by users empathising with this situation:

Complaints on Twitter mirror the same frustration expressed by users on Apple Support Communities. Image credit: Twitter

Complaints on Twitter mirror the same frustration expressed by users on Apple Support Communities. Image credit: Twitter

Furthermore iOS 10.2 is actually introducing the 30% bug to previously unaffected iPhones which is why some had found downgrading to iOS 10.1.1 or iOS 10.1 to be a good temporary fix. Forum poster IHIP699 spells out this situation and perfectly sums up the subsequent frustration at Apple’s decision to prematurely stop signing these releases:

iOS 10.1 and iOS 10.1.1 were seen as a safe haven for many troubled iOS 10.2 users - but not anymore. Image credit: Apple

iOS 10.1 and iOS 10.1.1 were seen as a safe haven for many troubled iOS 10.2 users - but not anymore. Image credit: Apple

Hope On The Horizon?

So with Apple’s bizarre decision to maroon users on iOS 10.2 should we all be picking up our lanterns and pitchforks and descending on Apple HQ? Not yet. Because there are two pieces of potentially good news.

Firstly, while holding out on admitting to the wider battery problem, Apple did introduce a battery diagnostics tool in iOS 10.2 which it declined to list in the release notes. Apple also declined to tell me how the tool works, what it collects or where the data is sent but it is at least an attempt by the company to try and investigate what is going on.

Further to this we have iOS 10.2.1 which Apple currently has in beta testing right now. Again Apple has declined to list any features of iOS 10.2.1 to beta testers, but some have noticed significant improvements to the 30% bug while trying it:

Some Apple Support Communities users have seen improvements with iOS 10.2.1. Image credit: Apple

Some Apple Support Communities users have seen improvements with iOS 10.2.1. Image credit: Apple

Yes, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it offers hope - especially with more iOS 10.2.1 betas likely to come before release. It is also worth pointing out that (as large, powerful and self confident as Apple is) the growing pressure from users coupled with the frustration of a vocal Chinese government surely must mean the company is moving quickly behind the scenes.

I know cynics will call this hokey optimism, but I think the combination of the diagnostics tool and early iOS 10.2.1 reports gives us enough reason to be hopeful. Even if Apple, in stubbornly sticking to process and cutting off the downgrade path from iOS 10.2, has affected users banging their heads against the wall right now…

Author : Gordon Kelly

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2016/12/21/apple-ios-10-2-iphone-battery-problems/?utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=yahootix&partner=yahootix&yptr=yahoo#295b51c24f2c

Categorized in Social

2016 was a rough year for those of us who love Apple’s desktops. For the past year (and in some cases much longer), Apple’s iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro have remained largely untouched. The Pro and mini especially have seen some serious neglect, with the current mini being over two years old and the now ancient Mac Pro just having passed the three year mark. In a recent internal memo to Apple employees, Tim Cook sought to offer reassurance that Apple was committed to desktops, but it’s had the opposite effect.

Cook’s memo addressed a number of different topics, but the top of the list was Apple’s perceived lack of interest in desktops. His comments are as follows, via TechCrunch:

We had a big MacBook Pro launch in October and a powerful upgrade to the MacBook back in the spring. Are Mac desktops strategic for us?The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop — the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world. Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

It sounds like a good pick-me-up for desktop doubters, but Cook’s words are seemingly falling on deaf ears. The major issue with Cook’s comments seems to be that when it comes to desktops, the iMac is the golden child, and the rest are just kind of there. Developer and former CTO of Tumblr, Marco Arment, is even going so far as to predict that the Mac Pro is essentially dead in the water.

Reading between the lines: the Mac Pro is very likely dead. To Tim Cook, the iMac is the desktop, period. https://t.co/yaVj0aPvrn pic.twitter.com/gWNDlY2tgL— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) December 20, 2016

The same, of course, could be said of the Mac mini, which has been left out of the update cycle nearly as long as the Pro. Could Apple kill off one or even both of its not-iMac desktops?

Well, it’s difficult to imagine Apple sending both computers out to pasture at the same time, especially since that would mean there would be literally no option for buying any Mac without already screen attached, but Apple’s treatment (or lack thereof) of the Pro and mini are certainly cause for concern.

Like most companies, Apple doesn’t make a big show out of ending the life of any of its products. When Apple decides a device has reached the end of its life, it simply moves on eventually that product disappears from Apple’s online store.

However, the length of time the Pro in particular has remained on Apple’s shelves without an update may actually be an encouraging sign that the company isn’t ready to do away with it. Whatever the case, both the Pro and mini are far overdue for updates, and it’s about time Apple either breathes some much needed new life into them or sends them packing.

Author:  Mike Wehner

Source:  https://www.yahoo.com/tech/people-worried-apple-going-quietly-kill-off-mac-202155944.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

Google (or Alphabet, if you prefer) has long been plagued with a problem with its advertising business: while the number of ads people are clicking on has been growing, the value of those ads has been constantly dropping. Google has always excelled at showing the best ads against a search result, but that business may not last forever as the way people interact with technology starts to change rapidly.

That’s all fine as long as Google can keep those clicks growing and coming along, but as we’ve seen in the case of Apple’s smartphone market share topping out, there are only so many eyeballs to get ads in front of people. And for now, it might be able to keep its stock price in a good place. Google has to keep padding those impressions, or get creative around the way it advertises to its users. Wall Street, as usual, is looking for growth — especially in the largest companies in the world. Apple has more or less been punished (or at least, not rewarded) for its slowing smartphone sales and so far lack of dramatic new growth engines.

And that’s just what the company has been doing. This year, Google unveiled two major new hardware products: the Pixel smartphone and the voice-driven living room assistant Google Home (in addition to a few smaller launches like Google Wifi and an updated Chromecast dongle). These more or less fit into the vision of getting people to engage with Google’s search engine in some active way with the hope that if Google figures out how to get it right, it’ll be able to monetize it down the line.

Whether that will convince Wall Street that Google is able to get beyond the search engine by diversifying its touch points — whether that’s voice, phone, VR or any other new interactive medium — is still yet to be seen. Google’s core competency has always been advertising, and while it might be able to build a business on cloud services (as we’ve seen with Amazon is becoming very successful) or new hardware, Google still has so much data that if it can figure out next-generation advertising products on new mediums it might have a new fantastic growth story for Wall Street.

It needed to at least show that intent to Wall Street. A healthy stock price — and also a story about innovation and looking forward — is important to keep attracting the best talent. Google’s problems are some of the hardest in tech, and it needs to be able to tell a story to not only investors but prospective employees that they can work on those hard problems and also be well-compensated for doing so.

Google is trying to flex the power of its machine learning algorithms, which given the data it has may arguably be the most powerful in the world. That helps Google understand complex queries from products like the Google Assistant — and get people to stick to Google’s voice interface versus Apple’s. Amazon exposed latent demand for a voice-driven interface with the Amazon Echo, and Google is essentially hoping to perfect the experience.

As such, while Google has shown that its advertising business isn’t so challenged, it’s showing that it’s already looking toward the future. And that’s been largely reflected in the company’s share price from Wall Street. Despite some bumps in the road, Google at the very least looks on track to hold steady or end the year up a bit from where it was around a year ago today:

All of Google’s efforts to figure out what the next-generation “search” interface will be will have to eventually play out. The way it works is this: Google’s paid clicks are going up, but the cost-per-click — which is the key metric Wall Street is looking at when it’s looking at the health of Google’s business — is still on the decline. That’s because mobile ads are generally less valuable than the company’s desktop search ads.

Here’s a look at the decline, from the company’s last earnings report:

google cpc

And meanwhile, the paid clicks, also from the last earnings report:

google paid clicks

So, if Google’s core business is eventually at risk of a slowdown, or decline, where does it go from here?

Google has shown clear signs that it’s trying to diversify its revenue. Perhaps the largest indicator was the hiring of Diane Green and the ramping up of its cloud services tools in an attempt to challenge Amazon, whose AWS business is rapidly becoming a huge growth engine for Amazon without the excessive costly fiscal baggage of its retail business. Amazon unveiled a huge number of updates to its AWS service earlier this year — including literally driving a truck to your office to put your info into the cloud — and Google is going to be playing catch-up for a while. But, clearly, it’s trying to show Wall Street that it’s more than a search engine.

There’s also its increasing number of updates to its online productivity — which also puts it in competition with Microsoft. It’s also competing with Microsoft through both its cloud services and productivity tools, which Microsoft will never let you forget. And Apple is rapidly trying to ramp up its own services, regularly pointing to the success of things like Apple Music, in order to show Wall Street that it isn’t just a hardware company and can level the playing ground against companies looking to be a combo of hardware and software like Microsoft or google.

And that’s also why there’s a whole section devoted to Google’s “other bets” in its earnings reports, though they haven’t shown themselves to be dramatically successful yet. Google’s core growth engine has been its search ads, but it’s also been known for its “Google X” labs, where it experiments on anything from network fiber to balloons and self-driving cars.

Alphabet — through its CFO Ruth Porat — has been clear that it wants to be more judicious about the way it invests in these other bets. It’s all fine to invest in experimental projects like Fiber and self-driving cars, but if there isn’t a clear path to revenue, the company is going to have to figure out whether or not to move on to the next project and where to devote its resources. Alphabet may be one of the most valuable companies in the world, but even then it still only has so much runway and faces the constant threat from other companies emerging with experimental projects that could be runaway successes (the most obvious threat being the Amazon Echo).

If you wanted any evidence as to how absolutely tiny Google’s bets are for now, here’s a chart for you:

Google saw the demand that Alexa tapped, and it is now looking to essentially smash Alexa — and Siri — with its own assistant powered by machine learning. And there’s a good bet it’ll work. Google has collected data for years and years on how people use the Internet, what kinds of questions they ask a search engine, and where they travel around after those questions have been asked. Google at a very fundamental level has a pretty good understanding of how we tick, and every time you use its services, it gets smarter and smarter. That’s why Google is constantly trying to bury its own interfaces within everything it does.

Sure, Google has a large portfolio of services that it can still throw ads up against. And that, at least for now, is something that can add a lot of value for its investors and keep the ship steady for a while. It has Gmail, with more than a billion users. It has one of the largest browsers in Chrome. In fact, it has a wide portfolio of services with a billion users or more. But those are not Google’s key revenue drivers, and Google has to show that it can keep growing revenue if it’s going to keep Wall Street off its back.

There’s a barrier that Google still has to overcome: while it is constantly learning, refining, improving and helping its users figure out what they are looking for, it also has to do so in a manner that doesn’t seem creepy. Google wants you to be constantly wired to the Internet — whether that’s through your phone, your voice or the way you move throughout the physical world. Google wants to tap your experience through everything from a screen to a virtual reality experience in the case of Daydream. And the company is aggressively spending in order to expand into all of those areas.

Apple still has an ace in the hole. It’s trying to roll out its own wireless earbuds that will give you Siri in your ear and, in theory, because of its proprietary technology it’ll be able to control the entire experience and make it uniquely Apple-y. Like Google, Apple is trying to figure out what kind of user experience looks like beyond the phone. Alexa and Google Home are in the living room, Google Assistant is talking to your phone, but the Airpods and Siri are a sort of wild card that we don’t know how it will play out yet.

In short, Google hasn’t cleared the way and gotten away from its existential crises. As long as those paid clicks keep going up, it’ll be able to keep the runway and hopefully figure out how to apply its strong machine learning capabilities to wherever users are drifting to next. And then once it gets people comfortable talking to, or clicking around, on their controlled user experience it can figure out how to monetize them the way it knows best — through advertisements.

Alphabet’s opportunity is very big. For a moment earlier this year, Alphabet was the most valuable company in the world. In the face of slumping hardware sales, Apple clearly showed the risk that comes with focusing on a business beyond simply hardware, and that for growth it’s important to have a revenue base that exists as a collection of software and hardware. That’s what Google is looking for, with the unifying component being whatever search looks like after people are no longer using a search bar. And it’s a new story for Wall Street that just might work.

Author : Matthew Lynley

Source : https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/21/alphabet-tried-to-convince-wall-street-its-not-just-a-search-engine-this-year/

Categorized in Search Engine

In his predictions for 2017, John Kennedy forecasts how blockchain will be about more than money, IT will move to the clouds and bots will become humanity’s new best friends.

Predicting the future in tech is never an easy business, mainly because tech companies are, by nature, secretive and like to have the last word. Any time I predict what Apple is up to, for example, I always end on the line: “But only Apple really knows.” Because that is simply the truth.

But no one could have foreseen the events of 2016. We witnessed the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the loss of so many stars who wrote the soundtracks to our lives, the tragic killings in Nice and the bloody endgame in Aleppo, which will always be a shame for the world to remember.

Predictions for 2017 build on a crazy 2016

In tech, it was business as usual with very few real surprises; except maybe for Apple killing off the headphone jack in its iPhones; fake news infecting Facebook and allegedly influencing the US elections; Putin’s government hacking America; exploding Samsung Galaxy Note7s; hacking getting out of control, especially with ransomware and leaks to Wikileaks; Apple taking on the FBI; no one wanting to buy Twitter; Vine dying on the leaf; and mega acquisitions, such as Facebook buying LinkedIn and Verizon buying Yahoo. It all sounds like a rousing verse from R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It…

On the home front in Ireland, the biggest news was the European Commission lobbying a €13bn tax levy against Apple to the chagrin of the latter and the Irish Government; Britain’s decision to Brexit the EU; the stalling and stalling of the National Broadband Plan; and of course, mega acquisitions such as Verizon’s decision to buy Fleetmatics for $2.4bn and Intel’s acquisition of Movidius for an alleged sum $300m.

So, dear reader, what will 2017 hold for us through the tech lens?

Blockchain will be about more than just payments

If there was one breakthrough technology of 2016, it had to be blockchain: the enabling smart ledger technology that was fundamental to the rise of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and a whole slew of new fintech start-ups and platforms.

But more and more experts are coming to the conclusion that blockchain technology could be very useful in ways that go beyond fintech or cryptocurrencies.

The ingenious automated technology could end up being an enabling force for a panoply of platforms and uses, such as network and systems management. The key is the digital trail of crumbs: blockchain technology – which underpins emerging digital, virtual or cryptocurrencies – consists of blocks that hold timestamped batches of recent valid transactions, which form a chain with each block reinforcing those preceding it.

Pay close attention to an interview I did with Seamus Cushley, PwC’s expert on blockchain who runs the company’s blockchain lab in Belfast. Cushley indicated that in the last nine months of 2016, some $1.4bn of investment went into blockchain start-ups.

According to Cushley, blockchain is being investigated not only as a way to enable the viable exchange of contracts for value in everything from FX trading to property acquisitions and more, it foretells the future structure of the internet as we know it.

The future of work

If, like me, you witnessed the onset of the internet being heralded as a revolution in how we work, leading to all kinds of newfangled ways of working, such as teleworking, e-working or nearshoring… you were had. Our lives were meant to get easier, there would be more quality time with loved ones, more time to be creative… wrong.

The digital world has created a noose that means people are working longer hours. Countries like France have even passed laws preventing employers from emailing workers after certain hours.

As skills shortages rise, stress levels soar and entrepreneurship becomes more appealing to talented young executives eager to break free of the rat race, employers will be forced to reassess how they conduct relationships with workers. How do they retain talent, get the best out of enthusiastic people and ensure health levels are optimal?

‘What is the future of work?’ is a question that employers and employees alike will obsess over in 2017 and beyond. Creative companies that value human capital will examine new ways of working, pilot intrapreneurship endeavours to help sate the entrepreneurial wanderings of top talent, vent creative frustrations and ultimately find the key to a quality work/life balance.

The old mantra that work should not just be a place to go, but somewhere you actually enjoy going to, might be dusted off and given a new shine.

Time will tell, however, if questions of the future of work will be a meaningful cause or just more management consulting navel-gazing.

Fintech goes mainstream

In parallel with the arrival in Ireland of mobile wallet services like Android Pay (recently) and Apple Pay (eventually), smartphone-toting consumers are going to embrace fintech apps as a cleverer way of managing their money.

Think of these apps as the Swiss Army knives of finance.

Companies like Dublin and London-based Circle – which enables users to instantaneously transfer funds to friends and family via the app or by text message on the iPhone, using blockchain as a core enabler and Barclays as a licensed service provider – are at the forefront of this trend.

Rather than displacing banks as some had feared, this signals a gradual move by banks to employ fintech apps on the front line as an easier and more cost-effective way to deal with consumers, while enabling them to focus on more productive, higher value work as branches become fewer.

Expect banks to employ programmes to franchise fintech apps or initiate outright acquisitions in 2017.

Machine learning becomes a discipline and no longer confused with AI

For too long, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have been lumped into the same conversation. That is going to change in 2017, as a broader understanding of what AI is all about pervades the tech industry.

Machine learning is remembering and AI is thinking, remembering, deciding and acting.

Quite simply, machine learning in apps and internet services is all about improving as time goes on, learning and assimilating users’ tastes and preferences – for example, for airline travel or hotels.

AI, on the other hand, powers the bots that have conversations with the users and employs machine learning as one powerful subset of a myriad of capabilities.

Start-ups and established tech players that use machine learning, which I have met on the trail from Amsterdam to Lisbon in the past year, are quite clear that it is not to be confused with full AI.

Beautiful Bots

Humankind’s friendship with bots – or automated artificial agents – will be cemented in 2017.

Facebook is currently leading the charge, creating experiences where already it is hard to decipher whether you are talking to a human or a machine.

This portends major changes for the future of customer relationship management, which no doubt Microsoft, Salesforce and fast-growing companies like Intercom are watching very closely.

Could bots be mankind’s next best friend?

Tech leaders will be the new business leaders

The digital economy is the economy. Across the world in 2016, thousands of traditional businesses went to sleep one night and awoke the next day as data businesses.

The trend will continue in 2017, as the internet, smartphone apps or other digital filters become the aperture through which consumers increasingly transact.

You are seeing this on retail floors of stores like River Island, where consumers can shop online and collect in-store, on flights with Ryanair where the digital experience continues long after you check in or check out, and the disruption that players like Airbnb and Uber are causing traditional industries like hospitality and transport, respectively.

This is signalling a major transformation in how companies deal with their customers and view their data. According to IDC, 50pc of the Global 2000 companies will be depending on digital products, services and experiences to connect with customers.

By 2021, it is forecast that a third of CEOs and COOs of Global 2000 companies will have spent at least five years in a tech leadership role.

Cloud will reign eternal

From being a mere concept in 2008 to today, where most consumers and executives rely on the cloud consistently – from Facebook and WhatsApp to Dropbox and Office 365 – cloud computing is increasingly becoming the nerve centre of IT infrastructure.

Ireland saw major data centre investments and acquisitions in 2016, from Apple building an €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, to Facebook building a massive data centre in Clonee, Co Meath. Combine this with Equinix buying Telecity and its raft of data centres in and around Dublin, and it’s clear that Ireland is in the eye of the data storm.

This isn’t just about social media or e-commerce; the reality is that more and more IT infrastructure, which used to exist on premises in companies, will have moved to the cloud.

IDC predicts that by 2020, 67pc of enterprise IT infrastructure and software will be in the cloud.

By 2018, 60pc of IT will be done off premises and not only that, but 43pc will be processed at the edge by 2019.

In a nutshell, cloud won’t be an Amazonian concept (sorry AWS) but rather, a fully fledged reality that is 100pc trusted by users.

The fourth platform

As cloud’s roots grow deeper, the idea of computing as a thing that sits on our desk or in our hands will dissipate. Even as more and more of the world’s population join the mobile revolution, the golden era of the smartphone is coming to a close. That doesn’t mean the smartphone is going away any time soon, but it will become the lynchpin of a slew of new computing experiences that will draw our eyes elsewhere.

Big data, internet of things, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), 3D printing, robotics, next-generation security, blockchain – all of these technologies will happen around us, with data being the fabric and the smartphone being the connecting device.

In other words, computing experiences will be occur without relying on a primary screen as the conduit. This is the fourth platform.

The mainstreaming of AR and VR

VR and AR have been slowly entering the fray. 2016 was a significant year that finally saw Microsoft take the wraps off HoloLens, as well as Oculus Rift arriving, along with a slew of competing devices from HTC, Samsung and Sony.

VR has been a kind of revolution and it hasn’t. The high-end experiences promised by Oculus and Microsoft are still hampered by computing power.

At the lower end, smartphone-based VR experiences from HTC and Samsung – and let’s not forget Google’s Cardboard and similar products which can be found in any supermarket or toy store – are still gimicky.

Keep your eyes and ears (no pun intended) open for what Google intends to do with its Daydream headset, which portends a merging of the VR and AR worlds, so the headset can also overlay virtual reality experiences onto the physical world before us. In a sense, this could be the future of the recently shelved Google Glass or the newly launched Snap Spectacles.

Expect the games and experiences to become more intelligent and textured. Keep an eye on what Irish firm Immersive VR Education – creators of Apollo and Titanic virtual experiences – has planned in the year ahead, as VR and AR move from novel to to natural.

Smart things and voice

Like I said, smartphones will occupy less of the stage and give way to smarter things. 2016 saw Amazon up its game with Echo, its voice-based e-commerce service, as well as its Dash buttons, which order consumables like washing powder or nappies in just one touch.

Google will be no slouch in 2017, having already revealed its Google Home speech-based product at I/O earlier this year.

This is Google’s fourth platform play and the company is closely shadowing, if not exceeding, rivals like Apple on the payments front.

2017 will see a kind of arms race, where players like Amazon and Google will endeavour to become the partner of choice for a whole range of internet of things (IoT) players who see e-commerce as a potent ingredient in their smart things.

Facebook acceleration, Oculus telepresence and Slack rivalry

Rather than being email killers (if only), most workers are up to their tonsils in additional tools and things to keep an eye on; like Slack, Trello, Wrike, and other digital platforms aimed at simplifying workflow.

Others giants like Microsoft (Teams) and Facebook (Workplace) added to the cacophony in 2016.

It is high time that someone decided to dominate this space for once and for all with tools that eradicate the need for all the others.

There is a golden opportunity for Microsoft to do more to bring Skype and Teams together, or for Facebook to finally reveal its telepresence vision for the future of work with Oculus and Workplace.

Keep an eye on other dark horses like Cork-based Teamwork or Salesforce (which almost bought Twitter). They may do something to finally get rid of the screen noise and clutter (sorry, Microsoft) that is the reality of the modern-day worker.

The iPhone hits 10, Apple revs up for its newest phase

It is hard to believe that it is nearly 10 years since Steve Jobs took to the stage at Apple World in 2006 and said “One more thing …”

That one more thing was the iPhone and, having gone through more than seven different phases of the device, Apple will no doubt do something to celebrate the iPhone at 10.

Considering the phone’s form factor has remained mostly the same for the last three generations, I expect Apple to reveal a wholly new design to the iPhone to signal its next phase. As I said, only Apple really knows what this form factor will look like, but expect the design to inform all future phone designs from rivals in the Android camp. I mean, why break with tradition?

Another next phase for Apple, however, may see the company finally break its silence on what it intends to do with cars.

Apple is revving up to be a big noise in the IoT and healthcare spaces, but the idea of an Apple car is still igniting people’s imaginations.

Will Apple build a car or just a car OS? Given that Apple has so far dashed expectations on television hardware, the car idea is one that just won’t disappear.

Codenamed Project Titan and spearheaded by some of Apple’s top talent and roughly 1,000 workers, Apple may choose the timing of the 10th anniversary of the iPhone to shed some light on the future of the company for the next decade.

Will that involve four wheels? Definitely. But will it be an Apple car or OS? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Solar revolution

Given that Elon Musk’s master plan goes beyond cars and includes trucks, buses and homes, the attractive economies of scale of solar panels are hard to ignore.

Musk recently revealed his solar roof concept that would use tiles made of glass, which look like ordinary roof tiles, to power up homes.

This might not sound as crazy or unfeasible as you would think, when you consider that Scientific American recently said the average cost of solar models per watt dropped from $22 in 1980 to under $3 today.

It suggests that soon, an average solar tile per watt will be $1.75.

That makes 2017 a lynchpin year for a whole new revolution in solar energy.

But time will tell.

Author:  John Kennedy

Source:  https://www.siliconrepublic.com/companies/tech-predictions-2017

Categorized in Internet Privacy

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