How were my 2021 predictions?

Every year I try to predict some of the technology trends and predictions for the year ahead. And then at the end of the year, I mark the original predictions. (You can see how well I performed last year and work backwards).

In the next few days, I’ll work on the predictions for 2022. This will be quite a challenge considering none of us even know what everyday life will look like in the next few weeks!!

1. Microsoft Teams becomes the next operating system

Microsoft Teams is a fully-fledged platform, supporting apps from Microsoft (of course) and a myriad of third parties. I had predicted we’d be using Teams for email and banking apps by the end of the year but that proved a little too ambitious.

Maybe the term ‘operating system’ is also ambitious because this year Microsoft announced the latest version of its operating system, Windows 11. If it’s any consolation, several of the screenshots on the latest Windows 11 page on show Teams in various guises.

By December, Microsoft aggressively adjusted its pricing for Teams against Zoom and Slack, at about a third of the price, so it’s clearly a strategic platform for the future.

Verdict: 5/10. Yes, it’s become a strategic platform for Microsoft, but the predictions were a bit too ambitious.

2. IPOs and M&As to accelerate

A year ago, I wrote “We’ll see even more business deals in 2021 than 2020. Venture Capitalists (VCs) regretted not doing more deals in the 2008-9 crisis, and they won’t repeat the same error this time.” VCs didn’t waste any time this year.

To put the number of IPOs in the US stock market into context, there have been 5,752 IPOs between 2000 and 2021. Almost a fifth of those were in 2021 alone.

2021 has been a busy year for IPOs. Source: Stockanalysis

March was the busiest month, with 151 IPOs – more than the totals for 2016, 2009, 2008, 2003 and 2001.

Verdict: 10/10 – a record IPO year

3. Sport, especially football, to experience some turmoil

The sporting news in 2021 was full of turmoil.

Off the court, on Sunday 18 April, the top 12 football clubs across Europe (6 of them from England) announced they would be forming a new “European Super League”, financed by JP Morgan. It seemed to have come as a total surprise because FIFA (the world governing body), UEFA (the European governing body) and the English Premier League all criticised the new league. Interestingly, the breakaway clubs’ fans also protested the proposed league. Within three days, the plans were all cancelled, and the teams were back to their usual competitions.

To quote Michael Gerber, there’s always going to be someone more successful, richer, better looking or with a nicer car. In 2021, this applied to Premier League football clubs, as the Saudi Public Investment Fund bought Newcastle United for £300 million. We’ll need time to decide if this is a good deal (for anyone). As it stands, the Saudi fund is the wealthiest, in a very wealthy group of Premier League owners.

In December, two drivers were tied going into the last race of the Formula 1 calendar. The race was exciting (for an F1 race), and then this happened on the last lap:

Other sports had their own turmoil. Tiger Woods flipped his car back in February leaving him with several injuries. The US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have said they won’t send diplomats to the Games because of concerns over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. Athletes from the countries will be free to travel to the Games. And in the US, there’s turmoil in the MLB (baseball), with players potentially going on strike.

12 months ago, we weren’t sure if the 2020 Olympics were going to happen. Gladly they did, but it was odd watching on television without large, international crowds.

From a British perspective, Emma Raducanu became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam (in Emma’s case, the US Open) since 1977.

All in all, quite an eventful year in sport!

Verdict: 9/10 – it was more “chaotic” than “tumultuous” this year.

4. Retailers to do something about returned items

Shortly after releasing last year’s predictions, the NRF (US National Retail Federation) released a sobering report about returns. Over $400 billion of merchandise was returned in 2020. $25 billion of that was fraudulent. “For every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $106 million in merchandise returns”.

There haven’t been any major moves to reduce the number of returns, but clearly this impact to the bottom line for retailers is untenable.

Around Europe, we saw a shortage in delivery drivers (both HGV and smaller home delivery services). At the same time, many businesses are offering same-day delivery services.

Combining HGV driver shortages with final mile delivery services and the rising number of returns feels like a ticking time bomb for the sector.

Verdict: 0/10 – inaction for 2021, but I’m sure we’ll see innovation (perhaps in the pricing model rather than the service) appear soon.

5. Tech Titans move into healthcare

I summed up this prediction with “Expect to see the tech titans move into preventative care. They’ll become more involved in mental health, from retail addiction (Amazon suggesting fewer orders this week?) to screen-time (Apple suggesting you could do with a 48-hour break from your iPhone?) and exercise (Garmin suggesting spending the next hour brisk walking?).”

Microsoft launched Viva this year, which sends a daily email promoting meditation, breaks during the working day, automatically blocking times in the calendar to focus. I use most of the features regularly and find it helpful.

Apple moved further into healthcare with a variety of services ranging from individuals to hospitals, with technologies ranging from EHR (Electronic Healthcare Records) to monitoring at the patient’s home.

(The prediction of Amazon advising a break from retail therapy hasn’t materialised).

A special mention to the great work on the NHS apps. Reporting a result on the NHS website is super simple and quick. And also, the new NHS app seamlessly integrates with a doctor’s surgery and a nominated pharmacy. By the time I walk over the road from my GP surgery to the pharmacy, my prescription is ready at the counter.

Verdict: 8/10. Healthcare technology moved on significantly in 2021 and looks like it has the momentum to continue.

6. Insurance data moves from batch to streaming data

“We’ll see more of these types of gadgets that links home automation, security and insurance products together, probably as a subscription service.”

Except for a few niche providers, this didn’t manifest itself as predicted. Some of the major technology companies provide inexpensive, smart (Internet connected) home-based video cameras which are straightforward to link together and provide a simple home monitoring service (with movement detection).

Unfortunately, these services work independently of insurance companies.

It’s surprising that none of the major UK home insurance companies even ask if homeowners have a video doorbell or other connected cameras.

I expect in the future that video doorbells will become the “dashcams” of the insurance world, which provide discounts. The same will apply to smart or connected leak monitors.

Verdict: 0/10 – probably 2-3 years too early on this one.

7. Personal lines insurance due for a shake up

In the US, new insurance companies such as Lemonade are making insurance much easier to buy – with a clearer user experience, no-nonsense inclusion & exclusion items, and clear (as well as affordable) monthly pricing.

Lemonade is still rare in the insurance industry. Predictions of a single policy to cover all our personal items and liabilities are still a way off.

Verdict: 0/10 – several years too early on this one.

8. The rise of the [premium] email newsletter to balance biased media

On November 15 2021, Substack announced they have 1,000,000 paying subscribers. The top 10 publications on Substack collectively bring in more than $20 million a year. Quite an achievement: I had predicted it would double from 100,000!

In terms of news quality in mainstream journals, I tend to read an article on a news website or in a newspaper, and I will often double check the facts, or check a balance of opinion on social media so that I can understand the real facts. We seem to be at a low point of trust with the mainstream media.

Verdict: 10/10 – premium email newsletters will continue to be increasingly popular.

9. Offices and retailers

It’s pretty grim reading for high street retailers. “More than 35,000 British retailers and 20,000 bars and restaurants are facing significant financial distress” and “Spending in physical stores alone is expected to fall by 23% compared with 2019” – according to insolvency firm Begbies Traynor.

Online clothing sales are set to overtake in-store sales next year, according to a new report by Retail Economics.

I walked through an UK indoor shopping centre on Tuesday 28 December to have some dinner and go to the cinema, and the shopping areas were almost empty.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, especially for owners of warehouse space. Warehouse space in the UK could run out next year, despite building 49 super sheds last year.

12 months ago I wrote, “We’ll see some experimentation of how banks might combine together in a single shop unit”. The UK Post Office ran the experiment this year, where a member of staff from a different bank used a Post Office branch once a week. They ran the experiment in towns where the other banks had closed their branches. Over 12,000 people used the trial for more complex transactions – such as bereavements, power of attorney and larger cash deposits.

Verdict: 7/10 – retail and retail banking are changing quickly as predicted, but we’re not seeing offices turned into apartments quite yet.

Summary of 2021 predictions

A total score of 42 out of 90. This was quite a binary set of predictions – I either seemed to get them spot on, or totally missed the mark. Perhaps that’s expected when the predictions were quite complex this year.

Stay tuned for predictions for 2022 coming in the next few days.

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year!

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