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Hazy Predictions for the Coming Year in Technology

With a quick polish of the crystal ball (okay, it’s a snow globe) and a tip of the hat to Scott Hilburn, I do hereby make my official and semi-seriously considered prognostications for The Year in Technology, 2015 Edition. 

  • Tesla Motors will reject separate takeover offers from Daimler Benz, BMW, and Nissan/Renault. The battery-car manufacturer has been flying high lately, even becoming the #1 selling car – of any kind – in the country of Norway. That success has attracted interested suitors eager to learn about Tesla’s battery technology and/or to co-opt the brand’s shine. Tesla is nevertheless likely to spurn all outside offers, remaining steadfastly independent. You will be able to buy Tesla batteries for other devices/appliances before long, however.
  • AMD becomes mostly ARM-based. The world’s second-oldest x86 chip maker is on track to become the world’s eleventy-hundredth ARM vendor, as sales of ARM-based chips surpass those of the x86 ilk.
  • Intel gets a smartphone design win from a company you’ve heard of. Intel, like Microsoft, seems to get it right on the third version. The chip company’s mobile processors have been technically interesting but sales disappointments. Undaunted, Intel has revised and revamped its mobile offerings until they’re quite competitive with their ARM-based rivals. The software ecosystem for x86 in mobile isn’t quite there, however, hampering Intel’s efforts to push its alternative architecture.
  • Comcast doubles prices, halves bandwidth. At the rate the company is going, that day can’t be far off.
  • United States Congress fails to rationalize patent and copyright law. Patents and copyrights in this country are as old as the Constitution (“…to promote the progress of science and the useful arts…”), but the Law of Unintended Consequences is even older. First conceived as an incentive for inventors to invent, patents now serve precisely the opposite purpose: they’re legal weapons for discouraging research, development, or marketing of new products. Somebody, somewhere will be lurking in the bushes just waiting to shake down startups with a (probably bogus) patent-infringement lawsuit. The problems are obvious and well-documented. The solutions are highly contentious, and – of course – involve vested interests with large war chests.
  • Apple stock price plummets. I have no grounds for such a claim and no reason to believe this will happen, but I figure I’ll look like a genius if it does. That, and I love reading mail from fanatical Apple partisans. 
  • FAA starts regulating drones in airspace below 500 feet. Ah, our first-world problems. As more radio-controlled drones, toy helicopters, and aerial camera platforms pop into the skies, local regulatory bodies will have to step in to set ground rules (ahem) regarding their use. Is it okay to fly directly over someone’s house? How about buzzing their cat? Do you own the airspace above your property the same way you control the mineral rights beneath it? If so, to what altitude? What about flying over parks, lakes, and other public areas? Are limits based on size and weight of the aircraft? The skill of the operator? The destructive capacity of the drone? This will be a fun one to watch.
  • Twitter becomes a programming language. Actually, that’s already happened, sort of.
  • A good year for security and encryption vendors. As we know, security and cryptography are two different things, but both will become even more valuable in 2015. Almost every chip vendor will be adding or enhancing security features, and software companies will be rolling out new products for everything else. Encrypting data is a good start, but keeping systems secure is another matter entirely. 
  • Grade-school students stop learning cursive writing, start learning Java programming. It’s already happening. 
  • Hardware design languages (HDL) like SystemC, AHDL, Impulse C, JHDL, et al., are all replaced by Klingon. “It’s easier to understand,” said one developer, “and it’s actually readable.” 
  • Intel will make Apple’s processor chips. Hey, it could happen. I don’t mean that future iOS devices will use Intel’s x86 processors, but that Apple will contract with Intel to manufacture its in-house CPU designs using the latter’s leading-edge fabs. The combination of Apple’s software, ARM’s processor architecture, and Intel’s semiconductor technology could create a world-beating processor powerhouse. 
  • Google will acquire some little startup you’ve never heard of; company founders get rich. Nah, that would never happen, would it?
  • Electronic Engineering Journal has another record year. Because every list has to have at least one crazy prediction. 

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