Technological change: It's not pretty. Our recent past is littered with millions of abandoned PCs and other gadgets. And when it comes to tech, the pace of change is increasing, not decreasing. That's my number-one tech prediction of 2014. Do you think things are dizzy now? Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy year.
I see changes looming – and also a few products that, a year from now, we're going to be looking at in our rearview mirrors. Here's what I think is coming and going in 2014.
Drones, drones and more drones
Drones are here already, of course. We saw that Amazon is testing drone delivery – and there's a company in Sydney, Australia, that has already put action to words. New in 2014 will be more and growing real-world uses. There are far too many companies working on the technology; even some states, now, are vying to be drone-development pioneers. The potential problems are obvious, from the inevitable privacy invasions from tiny camera drones to possible accidents and crashes. Click here to see how Amazon's drone delivery system might work.
This year, we'll see more and more regular folks buying and using a fascinating product just a few businesses now use. Poke around online and you'll see downloadable plans for toys, novelties (like the clever promotional ploy of a key from the latest "Hobbit" movie), educational materials, tools and common household items. As the price of printers and materials come down, these products will become common. This will in turn turbo-charge an already dizzying new market of ever-more-wondrous plans and blueprints for things we never knew we needed. The implications for our economy are profound. On the science front, watch out for breaking news on organ printing, the frontier of a brave new world indeed.
Google Glass is a puzzle. The device – glasses with a built-in smart phone and a video camera to boot – is already a joke in some tech circles, and boy are they pricey. ($1,500!) I'm not sure I like the idea of folks wandering around filming everything they see. But don't be surprised if they catch on in the coming year. Many other wearable products look promising, from the new breed of smart watches to socks that track your pace and blood pressure.
More and more tablets
Look for cheaper more powerful ones, too. Forbes reports that growth in this realm is estimated at nearly 20 percent in 2014, a sizable figure for an already huge product. Apple is offering medium and small iPads and is rumored to be coming out with larger ones this year. Clearly, the rest of this decade will be the Age of the Tablet.
Crazy vivid 4K TV content; our homes becoming as smart as our TVs and phones with those intelligent new thermostats, smoke alarms, even refrigerators; a growing comfort with on-demand apps like the Uber ride service.
Panasonic has announced that this year's models will be the last for its respected line of plasma TVs. Their picture quality is the cat's meow in many tech circles, but the market has spoken, and plasmas are no more.
Just like hand-held cameras and standalone GPS units, these once-iconic devices have been preempted once by smartphones and now again by tablets. They will be available for a while longer, but their time has passed. Can ereaders survive? We'll see.
Smart TV boxes
These are great products, and for all those HDTVs that were bought over the last decade, they are a godsend. But if you want a smart TV today, you can buy one. Roku, maker of one of the leading boxes, is already bringing out its own branded big screens. And we'll see if Apple follows suit with a top-of-the-line HD TV that incorporates its popular Apple TV. The trend I see: In many homes these boxes – and elegant variations like the tiny and cheap Chromecast - will be relegated to accompany older TVs in dens and guest rooms. All of these products are still selling. I'm not predicting their eminent demise, just the beginning of the end.
Hard disk drives
Some geek definitions here: HDDs are the hard drives we all have on our desktops, laptops and bigger iPods, inside of which a tiny reader moves at impossibly high speeds to read gigabytes of data in milliseconds. The new solid state drives, or SSDs, do the same thing with no moving parts. They aren't even disks - they are really just giant thumb drives. Big, 500-gig SSDs in the swankier laptops are now common, and bang for your buck on these will rise exponentially. Smaller and much less susceptible to wear and tear, SSDs are the future.