Trump’s impact and other tech predictions for 2017

Trump’s impact and other tech predictions for 2017

Every year around this time I bring out my crystal ball to see what’s in store for next year. Mine has always been a little cloudy, but – this year – I’ve upgraded to a cloud-based system, which gives me access to a lot more data and the ability to consult my crystal ball from my smartphone, even when away from my fortune-telling studio.

Still, like all technology, my prediction machine is subject to bugs, user error and poor tech support, which is as good an excuse as any for the likelihood that some of my predictions won’t pan out.

One signal that’s coming in at full strength is that the Trump administration will have an impact on tech policy, beginning with net neutrality, which the Federal Communications Commission narrowly approved in 2015 under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat.

The soon-to-be Republican-controlled FCC is sure to reconsider the limitations on internet service providers in offering content to their subscribers. Look for a free-for-all when it comes to providers offering free or discounted premium content, which will be a short-term benefit for consumers with possible long-term downsides if it means that providers also will be able to discriminate against other services – even if only through price wars that put non-partners at a competitive disadvantage.

The possible demise of net neutrality will have even more impact if we see continued consolidation in the communications industry. Somewhat surprisingly, Donald Trump came out against the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner, but my crystal ball says that he’ll back off on that and allow it to go through.

There will be continued pressure on Facebook and Google to cut back on fake news, but it won’t come from the White House.

What will come from the Trump administration is a redefinition of how it communicates, including changes in how it does press briefings and increased use of social media to reach out directly to the public.

Trump has already said that he wants companies such as Apple to build their products in the United States. I think plans to make that at least a partial reality will be announced in 2017. But don’t expect the factories to open next year, and don’t count on them bringing in a significant number of new jobs. If more tech devices are made in America, they’ll be mostly built by robots. In fact, if energy remains cheap, it makes economic sense to build them close to where they are consumed, especially if companies can drastically reduce labor costs through automation. It may be good for the companies and good public relations for the administration, but it won’t bring back many manufacturing jobs.

I expect 2017 to be a big year for automobile automation. I don’t know what it has in store, but Ford plans to make some announcements at the CES show in Las Vegas starting Jan. 5.

Fully autonomous vehicles won’t hit the road in 2017, but an increasing number of vehicles will offer semi-autonomous features, even on low-end models. Toyota already offers most of its automated safety features as standard equipment on its 2017 models, including its $15,000 Yaris.

I just bought a new Prius and am enjoying adaptive cruise control (it will slow down or stop based on the vehicle I’m following); lane assist, which warns me and nudges the steering wheel slightly if I wander outside my lane; and a blind-spot monitor for changing lanes. I hope to never experience the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, but I did get a warning the other day when a person walked behind me as I was backing out of a parking stall. I expect these features to be standard equipment across the industry.

Later this year, I expect models from several carmakers to have features similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, which essentially automates freeway driving, including changing lanes. What all this means is that cars are — finally — evolving rapidly, which should be good news for the leasing industry.

You’re probably familiar with Amazon’s Echo home voice-activated player and home automation controller as well as the heavily advertised new Google Home product. I expect similar products from Apple and Microsoft. They will compete not only on ease of use, but additional features — such as controlling your TV, sending and receiving text and email messages, and answering complex questions — as they continue to improve their artificial intelligence software.

The Echo Dot was already discounted to $38 before Christmas (it’s now back at $50), but I see these devices becoming even cheaper as the companies figure out ways to make money on the services they deliver and the data they collect.

After years of so-so upgrades, Apple will release a radically redesigned 10th-anniversary iPhone, possibly with an all-glass body, significantly better battery life and a new version of iOS that greatly enhances Siri’s voice control. And Creative Strategies CEO Tim Bajarin predicted it could have some interesting augmented reality features to enhance its value with gamers, educators and others who can take advantage of the ability to superimpose computer-generated images on real-world scenes and objects. It will be expensive, as always, as Apple tries to maintain its margins against a sea of low-cost competitors.

Because of price competition, Android will increase its market share in the U.S. with a slew of excellent phones coming out late in 2017, starting at under $200.

Like most years, 2017 will probably not see any major tech revolutions, but there will be a lot of evolutionary innovation as well as a bit of fear and doubt as the tech industry gets used to working with the new Trump administration.

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Published at Thu, 29 Dec 2016 21:55:50 +0000