2013 in tech: the Guardian’s Digital Development team’s predictions
With the first month of the year almost over, the Guardian’s Digital Development team offer their thoughts and predictions on what the year will bring us in technology, gadgets and business

With the new year in full swing, we thought it was time for the Guardian’s Digital Development department to offer up a few predictions and thoughts on what might happen in technology over the rest of 2013. We’ve pulled together some observations, expectations and opinionated rants, giving you a flavour of what our team thinks the next twelve months could offer us. We put it together through a rapid-fire exchange internally. So without further ado, here’s our thoughts for 2013.

Wearable technology and other gadgets

Wearable technology in action (photo by Aaron Parecki)
Several people mentioned Google Glass, the wondergadget of much speculation. QA Neal Madlani suggested that Glass, alongside other “wearable tech” items like Pebble (a customisable watch), could be big for 2013, a prediction backed up by Head of QA James Murphy and developers Andrew Mason, Nicholas Tollervey and Michael Brunton-Spall. Michael added “While it’s easy to pass off Google Glass as being merely a toy, I suspect that as we learn more about it, the developer interest in it is going to skyrocket”. Client-side developer Patrick Hamann was less convinced, though, putting “wearable computing” on his list of things he felt 2013 “will not be” the year of (along with Firefox OS and Ubuntu for phones).

Other gadgets abound: developer Justin Pinner suggested flexible screens and 3D printing as tech to watch out for this year. QA Troy Harris agreed on the printers, speculating that their rise could cause “overseas toy manufacturing industries to crumble” (with “object anti-piracy” quickly following – and failing – to prevent this).
Developer Andy Rome pointed out the closing stages of Galileo (European GPS), which should lead to more accurate geolocation, coinciding with the launch of “next-generation GPS satellites from the US”. Andy also went on to talk about “indoor geolocation”, leading to commerce-driven marketing: “where exactly can you pick up this product within 500 metres of your current position?”.

Patrick pointed to “NFC payments everywhere” (although Andy reminds us of the cynical “Not For Commerce” label ) and interactive developer Rich Harris tentatively suggested that “projectors in phones/tablets become slightly more mainstream”. Nicholas also pointed to the wildly-successful Raspberry Pi as a possible hit for 2013, once “someone figures out and capitalises on a break-out mass appeal use” for them…

Some of the team got a bit, er, creative, in their thoughts for the future. Scrum master Haran Rasalingam described his “hope for thought-controlled operation of the computer” using existing technology, adding that he was “fed up of typing” and unsatisfied with dodgy speech recognition software. Haran added, slightly alarmingly, that “a brain implant would be a great stocking filler…”.

The web: content and code

The potency of the web as a medium was a common theme, with Andrew excited about web-based gaming: “we have the APIs: Gamepad, mouse lock, fullscreen. And WebGL is on desktop, mobile plus support coming to PS3 (4?)”, and Nicholas agreeing that “new gaming devices (Valve…?)” could be on the way. Developer Max Harlow predicted the onset of “more Snow Fall-like content”, referring to the New York Times’ recent experiment into interactive articles. Rich talked about the impending release of LeapMotion, leading to “developers building naff demos, with people disappointed after the hype. Then we collectively start to discover what 3D gestural input is good for and it becomes a Thing that we all have to Know About”.

Education came up, with Andy suggesting “more schools will start adopting centralised tablet requirements for pupils”, adding that his nine-year-old nephew is already experiencing this. Similarly, Andy goes on to suggest that more UK universities will offer online courses as Duke University is already doing with Coursera.

Content itself was another strong theme, with developer Sebastien Cevey predicting “the rise in single-page webapps, particularly hybrids with the History API and mixed client/server rendering for lighter page changes”. Conversely, Patrick argued that “the decline of single-page webapps” would be a key theme of 2013, claiming that “client-side performance and responsive advertising” would be the big stars of the year, with Max adding that “someone will figure out how to do web advertising that doesn’t suck”. Product manager Tom Grinsted agrees, predicting that “advertising money actually starts to follow users and we start to see genuinely significant ad-spend on mobile / cross-platform initiatives. This necessitates agencies starting to come to terms with modern technologies and move away from the single-size animated gif banner”.

The semantic web seems due for more mainstream adoption in 2013, if Max is correct: “Semantic web stuff quietly becomes more used, but nobody really notices”, he claims, citing Facebook’s recently-announced Graph Search as a factor. Nicholas doesn’t agree though, joking that it’ll be “the ‘next big thing’ for the 12th year running”. Seb also adds his support, citing “increasing use of Schema.org” as a 2013 feature.

The industry: companies, devices and specifications

The responsive web: the Guardian’s new mobile website as viewed on multiple devices
Technology companies were debated: Apple vs Android came up, with Patrick predicting “the decline of iPhone’s dominance” and Rich saying he thinks “Chromebooks will eat Windows 8’s lunch”. Michael claimed Apple will continue to dominate in high-end smartphones, but Android will take over the mid-to-low tier. He also anticipated the mythical “Facebook Phone”, but similarly predicted it would be aimed at “entry-level, third world” markets, possibly being free as a device, or offering “free internet in exchange for being part of the Facebook network”. Seb added that the growth of the Android tablet market could “eat into the e-reader market”. Andy speculates that “either Android or iPhone will be hit by a virus”, with product manager Ulyssa MacMillan agreeing: “Running in the Background will be a box office smash, with a full range of physical and virtual merchandise (cuddly squeaky viruses? McAfee Nikes?). Angry Malware is next years’ Angry Birds”.

Ulyssa also offered some clarity on the mobile web: “responsive digital products will become standard – brands that don’t make the shift and maintain separate mobile websites will be considered behind the curve by the mainstream. And poked with a stick”. Nicholas pointed to 4G, claiming it will “make mobile networks almost usable”. James offered his thoughts on RIM, claiming “Blackberry will take one last roll of the dice with its new smartphones and will bounce back. I’ve test-driven a prototype device and it was surprisingly good considering the phones they’ve put out in the past”.

Michael ranted about privacy and cryptography: “Cryptography in the browser will continue to be a mess despite the W3C’s best efforts. However, developers will use it, and we’ll see pages that select fundamentally broken algorithms and initialisation vectors, or apply them in inappropriate ways. This will leave people feeling secure, but we’ll see attacks against it in the wild by the end of 2013 or earlier”. Not content with this cynical doom-mongering, Michael goes on to say that “general consumers will protest about how concerned they are about privacy, but will continue to flock to privacy-violating companies and products without any concerns, nor join privacy initiatives like the EFF”. Nicholas terms this “the rediscovery of privacy”, citing xkcd.

Developer Ken Lim should, perhaps, be given the last word for our 2013 predictions. His reply, when asked about themes for 2013 in technology? It was just two words: “desktop Linux.” Good luck, Ken!

What do you think? Anything we’ve missed? Violently disagree? Let us know below.

Posted by
Guardian Digital Development team
Thursday 24 January 2013 09.51 EST