2016 digital predictions

This is the sixth year of my digital predictions for the forthcoming twelve months (see here for 2015).

Many more industry commentators and research analysts are now releasing their predictions, but they don’t mark their work at the end of the year (last year I scored a woeful D) and their ‘predictions’ are actually trends.

So here goes for what lies ahead in 2016:

1. The eyewear war

An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass
An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass

In 2016 we’ll see a new three companies go eye to eye on their product offerings: Microsoft’s Hololens versus Facebook’s Oculus Rift versus Google’s Glass and Cardboard products.

In 2016 the new version of Google Glass will be released, specifically focussed on enterprises. Microsoft will be releasing Hololens to developers from Q1 2016. And Facebook will also be releasing Oculus Rift in Q1 2016.

The ultimate winner of these multi-billion dollar investments will be customers. Devices will still be well into four figures, and we’ll see some incredible implementations from gaming to enterprise.

2. B2B will catch up with B2C offerings (thank goodness)

We’ll start seeing enterprise applications with the look and feel, and overall usability, of consumer applications.

Do you find it frustrating how you use a smartphone app on the way to work, and then have to use a cumbersome, difficult to navigate, horrible application at work? In 2016 we’ll start to see enterprise applications become friendlier, with easier interfaces, making them nicer to use.

Expect to start seeing cleaner interfaces on enterprise apps; UX professionals embedded in development teams; applications that work across desktop, tablet and mobile devices; and happier staff (OK, I can’t predict that one).

3. The next episode for Netflix

Netflix will buy a traditional broadcaster, or vice versa, and who knows what will happen next.

As of 30 December 2015, Netflix’s market cap is $50.1bn (£33.8bn). Sky’s market cap is £18.9bn, ITV’s £11bn, BT’s £38.9bn and Vodafone’s £57.7bn.

Netflix’s share price increased over 140% in 2015 (Sky’s 25%) and I predict that Netflix will join forces with a traditional broadcaster or a telco in the coming year.

4. New banks in 2016 looking for customers

In 2016 we’ll see a number of new banks being set up, but I doubt many people will switch to them.

The term ‘challenger bank’ has been used to group together the banks that are looking to compete with the traditional big four banks: Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS. These four banks currently hold 77% of personal current accounts and are responsible for 85% of small business lending.

In 2016, four new challenger banks will appear – Mondo, Tandem, Atom and Starling. They are likely to be primarily mobile apps, to appeal to a younger demographic.

However I don’t think many people will switch their current accounts to these new banks. In the UK we are a loyal bunch of customers to our banks, and we are switching banks less frequently – even since the launch of the Current Account Switch Service.

There will be a big marketing launch for each of these banks (probably focussing on social networks) but the main question will be why do I want to switch?

5. Ultra HD Blu-ray sales

A lovely 55" Samsung 4K TV, but what are you going to watch? Photo courtesy of Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr
A lovely 55″ Samsung 4K TV, but what are you going to watch?
Photo courtesy of Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr

Ultra HD Blu-ray might be the shortest-selling media format, even shorter than laser disc and Betamax.

Yes it’s surprising that in a world where downloadable games and media is rising at the cost of physical media, we’re about to see another physical media format arrive – Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Perhaps this is a demonstration of how slow real-world broadband speeds remain.

4K televisions have been on sale for over three years now, but to watch Ultra-HD content, owners have been limited to some Netflix or Amazon Prime content. Sky TV customers have long been teased about the forthcoming Sky Q box, which will support Ultra HD but without any firm commitment of content.

Ultra HD Blu-ray players are likely to cost around £2,000 at launch, and I reckon it will be difficult to still find them for sale by the end of 2016.

6. Autonomous agents will buy over $1bn of stuff for us

By the end of 2016, the first $1bn of products will have been purchased for us by autonomous agents such as Siri, Cortana, Google Now or Tesla.

In March 2015 Gartner predictedWithin the next two years, autonomous mobile assistant purchasing will reach $2 billion annually.” The interesting part is the following up question, “What does this mean for your organization?

The answer to the question will be how products will be marketed between machines, what we’ve previously called M2M (Machine To Machine).

I don’t think it will be as high volume as Gartner predicted, but I do think we’ll see the first billion dollars of commerce being recommended and automatically purchased for us by our smartphone and car. Welcome to the start of the Internet of Things.

7. Different business models to defend against hacking

In 2015 we saw several more high-profile hacks, and as a result we’ll see innovative business processes to reduce the risk of being hacked.

Companies may use more SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings – such as hosted CRM solutions rather than trying to host and defend user databases themselves.

We’ll also see distributed fragmented databases – literally spreading the risk, perhaps even keeping content on smartphones rather than centralised.

Expect to see torrent-style distributed files being used by organisations to defend against hackers.

8. Social media: It will all be about live

In 2016, it will all be about live video on social networks
In 2016, it will all be about live video on social networks

Social media in 2016 will be rejuvenated with live video content. Lots of live video.

We’ll see a new generation of social networks focussing on live content – services such as Blab (the story about how Blab was founded is more interesting than the content it hosts!), Periscope, Meerkat and Facebook Live.

Twitter started off as a live conversation but has grown into a mass of noise and matrix style information overload. We’ll see a return to the need for immediate, live content.

The age-old challenges of live video will reappear – how to moderate illegal (pirate) and pornographic content.

Live video will then bring a new range of applications to ‘edit’ the stream will titles and effects – making it much higher quality.

9. Asta-la-vista Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer has been CEO of Yahoo! for since July 2012 and I doubt she’ll be in the same position at the end of 2016. In fact, I doubt Yahoo! will look like the same company at the end of 2016.

Marissa Mayer will be sacked as CEO of Yahoo! and we’ll see a more traditional CEO rather than a competitor such as Google or Facebook.

Yahoo! still has some great assets – and not just the prize 15% stake in Alibaba. Products such as Yahoo! Finance and Flickr are still going strong, but need reinvestment and UX overhauls to make them great once more. In 2014, Yahoo!’s revenue was $4.6bn and their website reports, “In 2014, our global user base across search, communications, and digital content grew to more than 1 billion monthly active users”. To put that number of mobile active users into context, Twitter has 302 million month active users.

Yahoo! is ripe for a takeover, or a major shakeup to maximise the $4.6bn turnover and established product sets – but probably not with Marissa Mayer.

10. Twitter to be acquired by a very large company

Twitter’s share price continues to fall (over 35% in 2015) and will become an acquisition target.

Twitter’s user growth is stalling, and its share price is falling. Expect to see one of the other technology giants make a bid for Twitter in 2016 – perhaps IBM (for the data insights), Microsoft (to become a mega-player in the social networking world) or even Alibaba (to gain a stronger international foothold).


Come back at the end of the year to see how I fared.

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