The longer you work in the tech space, the more you get a feel for the way things might go. It’s like you always have your head on the rails, listening for the on-coming train. No one can see it and, even if they too put their heads on the cold, hard metal, they can’t even detect a tremor. But 36 years of listening has fine-tuned your senses and now you can hear and feel things others can’t. So, you stand up, squinting into the distance, and tell a tale of possible tech futures.
These are nine predictions that range from near certainty to almost fanciful. It’s also just a glimpse. Use this set of predictions as a spark for your own prognostications.
Streaming bundles up
Before the end of next year, consumers will be seriously considering a range of streaming bundles, which will increasingly resemble the cable deals they all tried to discard. With dozens of streaming services available and the uncertain economic landscape for both the services (subscriber churn and drain) and the industry that feeds them (entertainment), smaller streaming services may look for the safe harbor of bundles or even consolidation.
Could Apple buy Netflix in 2023? It could probably afford it, but Disney, which already owns Hulu and Disney+ is a more likely candidate. Netflix’s interest in a sale may rely, in part, on the success of its ad-supported option. Thus far, it’s been a bit of a dud, but that could change next year. If it doesn’t and Netflix goes through another cycle of subscriber base instability, it could look to make a deal.
At the very least, we’ll see more cable and internet companies offer even more packages that include all your favorite streamers, just as they’ve done with cable bundles for decades. Everything old is new again.
EV takes a turn
The entire auto industry is trying to shift from combustible engines to electric motors and in 2023 we should see new sedans and cars from all the major manufacturers. EV growth in the US has lagged well behind Europe and China but the introduction of EV pickups from GM and Ford could change that.
In an ironic twist, the EVs that are supposed to help us beat back climate change by producing zero atmosphere-harming emissions may be more vulnerable to climate-change-produced weather events. Hurricane Ian produced salt-water floods that damaged electric vehicles’ giant lithium-ion batteries (that usually run the entire base of the car) and made them prone to bursting into flames.
It’s something that Tesla, probably the world's leading EV car maker, may want to address in 2023. But that once stalwart leader is now teetering with massive stock losses and a CEO who seems more interested in social media than the EV brand he built. Elon Musk will have to refocus on Tesla in 2023 to save it and help the entire EV market move forward.
It’s a fair bet that we'll see the first sets of port-free and wireless smartphones in 2023. Apple already removed the physical SIM slot for iPhone 14 phones (in the US), and many believe it may move quickly from Lightning port to USB-C port to no charging port at all. It’s possible that one variant of the iPhone 15, maybe the rumored Ultra, could ship in some markets without a charging port and charge through an included MagSafe charger, instead.
Apple, though, may not be ready to take the leap. Surely one or two smaller Android manufacturers might try a port-free phone before the end of 2023, if for no other reason than to test the waters.
For that wireless future to happen, we need faster wireless charging capabilities. The current best wireless chargers offer 15W and can charge a phone in under two hours. 2023 might see higher wattage and 45 minutes to a full charge.
Rationalization of the smart home
The biggest story in the smart home space will undoubtedly be Matter. Unfortunately, consumers will spend most of 2023 not understanding it or even caring about it. However, if Matter does its job, many people may benefit from it all the same.
As more and more smart home gadgets bought throughout the year support Matter, consumers may find that the setup and interoperability between their disparate digital assistants just works. This, obviously, will be a triumph for Matter and all its partners even if Matter doesn’t matter to consumers at all.
The only thing that might slow down Matter’s adoption and utility is if not enough companies also support Thread, the low-power mesh network technology that’s been married to Matter for faster and easier smart home connections. I have seen far too many products supporting one (Matter) but not yet the other (Thread).
Moving on from social media
The social media reset will continue apace in 2023 with Twitter either dead or under different control, Facebook taking a Metaverse breather, Instagram trying to find itself, and TikTok battling a US government that doesn’t trust it.
This will leave the field wide open for the rise of some new platforms. Despite its inscrutability, Mastodon has an early lead as a Twitter replacement, though it’s not much of a news platform. I think there may be something new on the horizon that combines the best of what Twitter was, Instagram’s classic photo prowess, and the safety and community of early Facebook. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
The question is, will our love affair with social media even survive 2023? My money is on nope.
Folding up Apple
By demonstrating this next-gen iOS or iPadOS device early, Apple could give developers 18 months to design new apps for folding, and possibly dual-screen iPhone and iPads.
It’s not an unprecedented move. I still remember Apple unveiling the cylindrical Mac Pro at WWDC 2013 and not shipping for six months. Perhaps this more radical product move will need even more time in the development oven.
Sustainability is us
One of the biggest stories at CES 2023 won't involve new gadgets that rejuvenate your face, fold your clothes, or put you in the Metaverse. It’ll be sustainability, and it’s a narrative that will carry on throughout 2023.
It’s a way for companies to talk about climate change without fully addressing it. Instead, they’ll all use terms like “carbon neutral,” “net zero,” and “sustainability.” At least the last one seems to refer to a more life-sustaining planet.
For the first time, we’ll be talking about our own at-home carbon footprint and asking how the products and technologies we bring into it can help us lower our own emissions. For many, their efforts may stop outside the front door as they consider their first EV (see above). But considerations of smart home technology may finally be married with not just cost-savings through more efficient technologies, but Matter-based systems that can communicate and craft a better and more neutral home energy profile.
Metaverse on hold
On the one hand, I’m excited by the VR and AR advancements I’ve experienced through Meta’s latest Quest headgear. The Quest Pro shows how far we’ve come in advancing mixed reality. But as many pointed out to me, a system that still can’t have virtual objects interact seamlessly with the real world is far from ideal.
The good news (and bad news) for Meta is that no one is interested in the Metaverse. In other words, there’s no rush to build that immersive, do-everything world for everyone at home, work, and play. Instead, Meta will spend 2023 refining its mixed reality hardware and world-building software while most people still use their VR headsets primarily for gaming and exercise.
2023 will not be the year of the Metaverse and it might even skip 2024. I think 2025 is, with much smaller, lighter hardware and 10X better optics and graphics, when things finally start to get interesting.
AI goes to work
Someone is going to hire the first AI reporter to not just cook up ideas based on prompts, but to send out queries, get answers, and compose original stories. An AI will break news. 2023 will also see the first stage production of a play written by an AI. A song written, composed, and performed by an AI will hit the Billboard Top 100.
Major art museums will host AI art shows, and some will hang the computer-generated art right alongside the masters. At some point, no one will be able to tell the difference.
As I said, this is all no more than a narrow view of what is going to be a very wide and busy technology future. I may be wrong about some or all these things, but I bet I’ll be more right than the ChatGPT AI. When I asked it about the major tech trends of 2023, it told me about technologies, like 5G for smartphones, that had already happened. Maybe I should rethink that whole AI bit.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.