As the dust settles on 2012, it’s time to glimpse what 2013 has in store for us. The year 2012 saw an avalanche of gadgets. The tech terrain was trying to make space for every consumer type with devices of every size, shape and to meet every budget. From smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks to hybrids, socially integrated cameras, HD displays and smart TVs, we saw it all. The next year is poised to take these technologies a notch higher, and the consumer is sure to benefit from it.
Vishal Tripathi, Principal Research Analyst at Gartner, believes that in the coming year we will see a lot of convergence of technology, devices and even players in the market. And what will drive trends is the price-point of the products. He says, “What we will see is convergence of all kind of devices. We will see tablets, hybrids, smartphones, but one thing that will be common is more computing power for a better cost. Products are getting powerful, but at the same time the market is getting much more competitive. Also, gone are the times when a brand could dominate a single space. Now it’s more cross-functional, cross-device scenario, as there is a convergence of different players, hardware, vendors etc.”
We spoke to the key players in the industry to know their plans for 2013 and what they predict for the New Year in tech.
Year of the smartphones
Apple and Google continued to innovate at their usual fast pace and gave us two more powerful iterations of their respective OSes, namely, iOS 6 and Android Jelly Bean. But it was Microsoft who stole the limelight all through the year, unfolding its products one after the other. It is in 2013 that the number of Windows Phone 8 devices will hit markets in full swing from companies like Nokia, HTC and Samsung. Moreover, RIM will try to bounce back with BB10 devices, which is not a mere upgrade from the existing operating system but a complete overhaul. Slowly, the smaller phone makers are also gearing up to offer smartphones at affordable range for budget consumers. Clearly, next year is going to be all about smartphones.
Talking about its Windows Phone 8 devices in India, Microsoft said, “Windows Phone has done well in India and the response from both consumers and business users has been extremely positive. It has also received positive reviews for its innovative and refreshing features. Enthused by the positive initial response for Windows Phone 8, we look forward to the array of new devices by different hardware partners including HTC, Nokia and Samsung.”
Amit Mathur, Director Sales at Research in Motion
Now, it isn't going to be just these three platforms fighting it out; the year 2013 will also be deciding RIM’s fate. This year was almost no-show for the company, but by the end of January 2013, it will be launching BB10. Amit Mathur, Director Sales at Research in Motion, tells us, “The mobile landscape is preparing for another shift, and with BlackBerry 10, we are at the start of a new era of mobile computing, that is why we built a new platform on new architecture from the ground up, not just a new device. RIM will focus on both the enterprise and the consumer market.” For next year, he predicts, “2013 will see colossal strides of innovation in the field of smartphone processors, NFC, 4G, and, of course, applications. The hardware of the smartphones has to keep pace with the giant leaps taken in the software segment of mobile phones and thus we can expect to see enhanced and more sophisticated hardware specifications in phones in future. The OS war is heating up and the smartphone industry will climb onto the next phase of evolution, i.e, Mobile Computing.”
Nokia has been coming up with some nifty features to strengthen its mobile foothold with wireless charging, imaging and entertainment for phone users and predicts that next year will see flourishing growth in the mobile space. “With increasing Internet access on phones, smartphones will march towards dominance. The year 2013 will be the year of bigger touchscreens, faster processors, powerful cameras, useful apps and more importantly, navigational tools. Smart devices for entry level users who aspire it all on their phones, be it apps, music or mail will also be a huge trend,” says Vipul Mehrotra, Director and Head, Smartphone Devices, Nokia India.
Needless to say, consumer expectations and demands have been on a rise from smartphones, as they expect their phones to work almost like full-fledged computing devices. Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director – Asia South, NVIDIA says, “Today, consumers expect to have the same kind of computing experience on their mobile device as their desktop or notebook PC – HD video playback, streaming video and audio, multitasking, browsing the web, 3D gaming and 3D interfaces. Consumers are demanding this experience on their handheld devices without compromising on battery life, security or reliability. However, mobile users often face the power-performance paradox, where one would have to turn off many of the ‘smart’ features of their smartphones to get longer battery life. Tegra 3’s unique 4-PLUS-1 technology helps get around this paradox.”
Sanjay Maheshwary, Marketing Head, Mobile Communications, LG India
Sanjay Maheshwary, Marketing Head, Mobile Communications, LG India, predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will become the primary means of surfing the Internet, competing with the Windows system. Smartphone penetration is also likely to increase in 2013 thanks to the growing affordability of smartphones.
Phones with 1080p displays
Physical keypads are already passé and touch panels have their roots firmly grounded in the tech terrain. This will continue to strengthen in the year 2013. We will see manufacturers work at strengthening the touchscreen and the viewing experience. In fact, some have already upped their game with 1080p touchscreens. Shashin Devsare, Executive Director, Karbonn Mobiles, says, “I think the time is right for Karbonn Mobiles to delve into full HD or 1080p displays. The technology is novel and we are definitely working towards it, which should materialize the same by 2013. Although Karbonn Mobiles has devices with full HD support, we shall very soon be taking a giant leap in the direction of full HD display in the smartphone category as well and hopefully, will be out with our 1080p display smartphone by the next financial year.”
On the other hand, Sanjay from LG India predicts, “By mid 2013 itself, high end smartphones with 5 inch display and 1080p displays would become common. Full HD displays, with their insanely detailed screens, will do some major rounds in the mobile industry. A 1080p screen has text so sharp that it can cut you, and HD videos play without any hiccups. Since 1080p screens need a lot of power, smartphones that sport the said displays would come with quad core processors and abundant internal memory.”
Apps to gain prominence
The humble apps that have provided us with information, entertained us and much more, will increasingly play an important role in the coming year too. The number, quality and types of apps will provide an edge to one OS over another. The result of the recently released 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report also highlighted the increasing prominence of apps. Nearly 84 percent of respondents in India divulged that mobile applications are important to their daily lives as compared to the global average of 70 percent. Little wonder then that the major players in the market are gearing up to spruce up their app store.
The recent Windows 8 launch also witnessed various initiatives from Microsoft to encourage app developers to develop apps for the Windows 8 platform. A statement from Microsoft Corporation India Pvt. Ltd. says, “App support has been one of the crucial aspects for any device. Keeping the same in mind, immersive apps are the focal point of the Windows 8 experience. Apps are clean, beautiful and intuitive. Windows 8 apps are connected and alive, keeping you up-to-date on the latest news, weather, social media updates and more, without effort.” Even RIM, which is about to unveil its BB10 platform, was seen wooing the developers and has even opened up all the API’s for better app integration. In the coming year we will also see more focus on quality apps, with major players like Microsoft and even RIM having introduced measures to review and certify apps before they are published in the app store.
Nokia, who is trying to regain its foothold in the market, too realises the importance of apps and has trained its attention on developing apps that provide value, particularly location based apps and services. Vipul Mehrotra of Nokia India says, “Location-based services are core to Nokia’s overall vision to build products that sense the world. These services represent the future of mobility, and we are building a Location platform to create a digital, predictive model from all the places and objects in the physical world, including people’s activities. We have build apps, like the recently launched HERE maps for Nokia and Apple devices, Nokia Maps, Drive, Transport, Traffic, City Lens for Lumia devices and Nokia Nearby for the Asha range of Smartphones. Also, augmented reality will become an important aspect to the mobile world in 2013. Even though Augmented Reality has been around, the expected boom should happen in the time to come. More and more augmented reality apps will be downloaded as it has become a key means of engaging with consumers.”
Vishal Gondal, Managing Director – Digital, DisneyUTV
When it comes to app development, according to Vishal Gondal, Managing Director – Digital, DisneyUTV, ‘freemium’ model is what will pave the way, he says, “‘Free’ is the next big thing for sure! For app developers, the freemium model is fast emerging. The term ‘freemium’ is devised using two powerful words ‘Free’ and ‘Premium’. A freemium app is offering an app free of charge while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality or related products and services. Freemium apps induce user engagement, help build communities and spread a good word around too. The upsurge in mobile apps has already caught the attention of brands and marketers with innovative products like app jacket, app wrapper etc., which help the brands reach out to their consumers through apps. This will only intensify in 2013 with in-app advertising and many such innovative products. Most importantly, every platform functions because of the content it has for the audience; same will work here. With Apps gaining immense popularity and dependability, in the end it is the kind of apps and the usability that it all comes down to. The year 2013 will surely witness a lot more innovative, personal and unique apps.”
Talking about trends in apps, Deepak Abbot, Vice President, Product, Zapak Digital Entertainment says, “We should be witnessing more apps branching out to televisions, game consoles, and other connected devices this year, apart from phones and tablets. Another trend we will see increasing this year will be increasing prevalence of shell apps, where native apps can be found on App stores but entire functionality is taken ahead by HTML5, one such example is Facebook. These wrapper apps will also end up on web as HTML5 improves. Further globally we will also witness in store mobile use to increase this year.”
Hybrids not likely to replace tablets
This year, when we saw the brigade of hybrid devices show up at the various tech events, the thought that next year will be all about hybrids may have crossed everyone’s minds. However, industry experts beg to differ and don't think that hybrids are here to compete with tablets, rather they could just make a small space of their own, if priced well. Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director – Asia South, Nvidia, opines, “For hybrids to gain traction in the future, they need to be more affordably priced than the ultrabooks that are currently available in the market. With the evolution in digital content and consumer preferences, newer form factors will continue to emerge as OEMs find innovative designs to satisfy consumers.”
When we asked Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO, Datawind, if next year will be all about tablets, this is what he had to say: “According to me, new trend is Tablet cum Smart phone. Nobody can imagine their life without a phone, and now tablet are becoming necessity to their lifestyle statement. The form of a tablet speaks about the convenience of a device’s use and we think the 7” device is well-suited to the needs of the target demographic that we have in mind.”
Rajesh Thadani, Director, Consumer Business Segment, Lenovo
On the other hand, Rajesh Thadani, Director, Consumer Business Segment, Lenovo, is quite optimistic about the future of hybrids, “Convertibles represent the latest demonstration of our PC+ approach in action. Lenovo has an entire family of touch-optimised convertible devices, including the Yoga 13 and Yoga 11, each specially designed to maximise Windows 8 usability. These new multi-mode devices might change the future of personal computing and redefine the way people use PCs, with the ability to serve different needs. They address the unique needs of consumers, businesses and everyone in between by creating high performance laptop-tablet combinations in new designs and different sizes.”
Affordable tablets will continue to grow in India
We are a price sensitive market and will continue to be even in the year 2013. This is one reason why affordable tablets and smartphones will proliferate further. Low budget tablet makers really don't feel the need to jump the high-end tablet space and seem to be happy in their space. Amul Mittal, Co-founder, Zync Global Private Limited, says, “Zync’s aim is to provide quality products and solutions at an affordable price. A high-end product need not bleed the pockets; we are dedicated to provide high-end technology at the most affordable cost to the consumer. A majority part of India is still price sensitive and holds a lot of potential. We are looking at continuing the same trend with better and advanced products at low price points.” He also predicts the next year could see a slew of 4G tablets, and Zync is also gearing up foray into the 4G segment.
Amul Mittal, Co-founder, Zync Global Private Limited
Mr. Tuli of Datawind, who has been instrumental in the low-end, low-cost tablet trend, says, “We are not planning to enter high-end tablet space so far. Our motive is to empower niche segment of the society and provide them with affordable technology devices.” He plans expanded form-factors to include 5”, 9” and 14” displays, in addition to 3G and 4G units for 2013, and predicts that in the next 24 months, the tablet market would exceed the size of the computer market in India – i.e. 10 million units/year.
Don't write off PC just yet
With smartphones and tablets taking over the market at a fast pace, many believed that the PC era was about to end. Even reports from research firms like Gartner and many others points to this possibility; in fact, Gartner’s report for the third quarter 2012 revealed that India PC market had declined by 5.9 percent. However, the launch of Windows 8 could give PC a fresh lease of life. Windows 8 has tried to craft a platform which will be instrumental in reshaping the entire mobile and desktop space. With the dual nature of its OS, Microsoft has tried to form space for all types of devices ranging from hybrids, convertibles, AIOs and so on. Microsoft says that its Windows 8 is Windows reimagined – from the chipset to the user experience. “It gives you all the things you know and love about the desktop and gives you a modern user interface that’s beautiful, deeply personalised, fast and fluid. Consumers no longer have to choose between the convenience of a tablet and the productivity of a PC.”
Vinay Shetty, Country Head – Component Business, ASUS (India), points out to another factor that may have affected the PC market; he explains, “2012 was a slow year for PC components largely due to a reduced assembler market caused by Thailand floods, rupee devaluation and hard disk price inflation. The hard disk prices have now stabilised and there will definitely be an upward trend in the assembler market and PC component sales in the coming year.”
Eben Upton, co-founder, Raspberry Pi Foundation
Even Lenovo’s Rajesh Thadani believes that it’s too soon to write-off the PC. He says it will continue to drive growth and innovation in PCs while expanding their business across the four screens (PC, tablet, smartphone, smart TV) of devices and into the ecosystem of cloud services and other applications that enable the PC+ era. He explained, “We will continue to enhance our product portfolio by introducing new products, including different sized tablets, power-packed ultrabooks, feature-rich AIOs and robust notebooks that run on the leading operating systems. Lenovo is fully committed to the future of the PC industry for the long run and is confident that it will continue to outperform and outgrow the market.”
However, some beg to differ, like Eben Upton, the co-founder of Raspberry Pi. He says, “I think that the desktop segment will continue to shrink at the expense of notebooks and tablets. Only a minority of people (hardcore gamers, engineers) actually derive any benefit from the desktop form factor.” He also predicts continued softness in the PC component space, driven by the rise of tablets.
Cameras to go social
The camera industry has been evolving over the years with elevated features of higher resolutions, better lenses, increased zoom and so on, but this year laid the stepping stone as cameras added connectivity to their gamut of features. Direct sharing via cameras with support for Wi-Fi and also 3G (Samsung Galaxy camera) seem to be hinting what’s up the sleeve for cameras next year. Clearly, next year is going to be all about Internet or socially-connected cameras giving preference to sharing on the go.
Sajjan Kumar, Vice President – Imaging, Nikon India
Sajjan Kumar, Vice President – Imaging, Nikon India, predicts, “The near future for camera industry will revolve around the camera that fits into the stay connected anywhere, anytime zone. With the arrival of Wi-Fi enabled and Android based cameras, the next step could be cloud and social integration. Cameras can look for the technology to seamlessly incorporate with the cloud, providing limitless storage and accessibility to users. With ‘social’ being the buzz word, cameras will possess capabilities and features that will enable users to instantly upload captured images to Facebook and other social networking websites.” He further adds that advanced cameras with interchangeable-lens would be the brightest spots in the market.
Parveen Sahni, Director – Imaging Communication Products, Canon India, thinks likewise and Canon would be focusing on Wi-Fi enabled cameras, among other things. Canon will also be focusing to minimise environmental burden through effective application of technologies. “Some of the current technology innovations of 2012 will remain our focus for the new year as well, especially on the features like Wi-Fi enabled cameras, Super zoom technology, Wide bright lens and fastest AF and 30X optical zoom,” adds Parveen.
Cyber Criminals to target smartphones and tablets
Increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets will also make them vulnerable, as was evident with the rising security threats to mobile devices in 2012 in the form of malwares, viruses, Trojan etc. And this will continue to grow in 2013. The Android OS in particular is at a higher risk. As per a report on Trends for 2013 presented by ESET, the amount of Malware for Android has grown at a dizzying pace. It states further that malware targeting Android will not only keep on rising at a considerable rate, but will also continue to evolve until they are very similar in capability to their peers in the world of more traditional computers.
And surprisingly, despite of our increasing dependence on smartphones and tablets, there is very little awareness when it comes to security threat that they pose. Aware of this, the cyber criminals are increasingly targeting these platforms. According to the Norton Cybercrime Report 2012, in India, it is estimated that more than 42 million people fell victim to cybercrime in the past twelve months, suffering approximately US $8 billion in direct financial losses. David Hall, Regional Consumer Product Marketing Manager, Asia Pacific, Norton by Symantec, draws attention to two major trends that we will witness. He says, “In 2013, we will see the cyber equivalent of saber rattling, where nation states, organisations, and even groups of individuals will use cyber-attacks to show their strength and 'send a message'. On the other hand, with the addition of payment methods in social media, we expect to see e-payments grow in popularity in 2013. And where there's money, there will surely be cybercriminals following right behind to rip us off. Most likely, we'll see socially spread malware that takes over the user's account, re-sets passwords and uses the encrypted but stored credit card information to make real world purchases for the crooks.”
Vincent Weafer, Senior Vice President of McAfee Labs
McAfee’s annual 2013 Threat Predictions report too points out to the fact that the threats to mobile devices will become the focus of cybercriminals. It also predicts that the influence of the hacktivist group “Anonymous” will decline, and we will witness increase in large-scale attacks that attempt to destroy the infrastructure. Vincent Weafer, Senior Vice President, McAfee Labs, says, “Cybercriminals and hacktivists will strengthen and evolve the techniques and tools they use to assault our privacy, bank accounts, mobile devices, businesses, organisations and homes. In 2012, McAfee Labs saw the number of mobile threats increase dramatically as ransomware expanded into mobile devices. The development and deployment of increasingly sophisticated ransomware technologies that will 'lock up' a phone or tablet, and threaten to keep it that way until a ransom is paid, will be a prominent trend in 2013. Also, while hacktivist attacks won’t end in 2013, if ever, they are expected to decline in number and sophistication. In 2013, many more of the world’s military units will be on the front line of social networks, communicating more frequently. State-related threats will increase and make the headlines while suspicions about government-sponsored attacks will grow.”
On the other hand, owing to the increasing threats to the mobile devices, even telcos are gearing to address these issues. Yatish Mehrotra, Hub Head-South, Tata DOCOMO, says, “We are witnessing increasing trends of mobility apps, tablets and smartphones being launched and with that, there is an increasing concern on the data security on such devices. Therefore, there will be sleuth of security solutions targeting the different ends of the spectrum. There is an increasing demand and awareness among the users, be it at micro level or macro level, to secure the data that is flowing in free space-cloud. We are working towards that direction to provide some solutions that secures data on mobile. We are also witnessing increased trends in cloud services as well. The coming year will see telecom space move from providing the conventional voice services to a platform for developing unique Lifestyle and Data Security Solutions for the users.”
Expect m-commerce to take-off next year
The boom in e-commerce has been exponential, with sites mushrooming on a daily basis. But in the long run, only the ones that are good will survive, while the others will have to shut shop. This, as consumers get pickier about shopping from sites that deliver over simple promises of great discounts. As Muralikrishnan B – Country Manager, eBay India, points out, “The year 2013 will be more defining in shaping up of the industry as players with sustainable business models and the ability to manage scale will dominate the consumer’s wallet and win in the long run. The year gone by has seen new player announcements, consolidations and closures of existing players, expansions into new areas of business and evolving online consumerism. As the funding environment for eCommerce companies has softened, long-term players are now re-thinking their strategies to create sustainable business models. The coming year will segregate boys from men. As the long term players get their act together, the industry will see significant advancements in creating affinity amongst consumers, a reliable ecosystem with regards to payment gateways and shipment of the purchase.”
Muralikrishnan B, Country Manager, eBay India
Ishita Swarup – CEO & Founder, 9rasa and 99labels, agrees with him as she opines that the e-commerce industry will be more organised. She says, “My calculated guess is that two or three key players will emerge from each space and consolidate their energies and resources to form a stronger presence in specific areas of operation. This has been a pattern globally too. Since the global ecommerce industry is much better established, we have a lot to learn from them. They teach us invaluable lessons on how to get the most from platforms like Social Media, how to smoothen logistics and how to put technology to work for us, among other lessons. I think it’s a year to watch e-commerce in India take on new shapes and dimensions; it’s well poised for bigger things to come!”
Another major trend that will define next year is m-commerce, Muralikrishnan B says, “mobile commerce has picked up tremendously in the country and will continue to grow in 2013. In fact, an increasing number of companies globally are leveraging mobile phones to generate organic sales. In India too, the need for mobility and convenience along with the desire to grab the best deals are the primary driving force behind mobile commerce. With the rapid increase in smartphone penetration in the country, mobile commerce has gained increasing acceptance amongst users.”
Sundeep Malhotra, CEO Homeshop18.com
While Sundeep Malhotra, CEO, Homeshop18.com, agrees that m-commerce is the future, he is more cautious in his approach. He says, “The industry is just starting to look at m-commerce, but there are a lot of challenges. One of them being mobile Internet, as 3G has not been one of the most stable services. 4G is launched, but isn’t widely available. Also, other problems include bandwidth and high device prices. There is a long way to go for m-commerce. As bandwidth increases and device prices come down, m-commerce will also get a good push. Homeshop18, as a part of this industry, is setting itself up for this time-run. Mobile coupons are coming up but mobile shopping is still slow. We expect 4G to pick up next year and hence, support m-commerce. The future is very rosy as mobile penetration is very high and the customers will have a chance to reach us easily.”
Ankit Khanna, VP – Product Management, Snapdeal.com, too accepts that while m-commerce is the way to go and feels there are lot of challenges. Nevertheless, having launched their m-site, he is optimistic that it will give them an edge over others. He says, “Establishing our mobile platform was quite difficult and challenging. To begin with, making people transact on the web was itself a biggest challenge due to things like trust issues, limited card reach and the fact that people wanted to have a price advantage over offline transactions in order to make them buy. Secondly, even though the mobile Internet penetration has grown a lot in the last 12-15 months, it’s largely limited to the content that is in the lines of social network, emails and browsing sites; people were not looking to shop. And the third reason is that the infrastructure to facilitate mobile transactions is bad; I would say that there are not enough payment gateways to make payment solutions available on the mobile to enable transactions.”
Sachin Bansal, Co-founder and CEO, Flipkart
On the other hand, Sachin Bansal, Co-founder and CEO, Flipkart, is optimistic about the future of m-commerce. He says, “We are betting on m-commerce in a big way in 2013. Mobile shopping has experienced exponential growth in 2012 and we see mobile’s revenue contribution to online shopping going up in the near future. Increased Internet and smartphone penetration is leading to wider usage and hence, growth in m-commerce. Today, mobile is the only medium of Internet access for a large customer base. Another factor that will contribute to this market is speed of access. While India may still be far behind when it comes to 3G penetration, this is also set to grow. While it’s early days yet, the potential is huge. E-commerce firms that put in the effort in designing tailor-made mobile interfaces that enhance the on-the-go browsing and buying experience are the ones who will capture the market.”
Talking about the growing opportunities in the storage industries, Rajesh Khurana, Country Manager – India & SAARC, Seagate Technology, said, “The mobile lifestyle is becoming increasingly visible today both at enterprise and consumer levels. We believe that tablet offerings will continue to evolve and may result in a notebook refresh cycle to lengthen, depending on macro-economic conditions and competitive product offerings. We are optimistic that the wide variety of new notebook offerings, including thin and light systems, will result in renewed growth in this market over the next 12 months. We also remain optimistic about the long term impact of Windows 8 and other operating systems that enhance the user experience by incorporating touch, keyboard, pen, voice and gesture. All this means more storage opportunities.”
Rajesh Khurana, Country Manager – India & SAARC, Seagate Technology
Amongst others trends that we will witness in the coming year, BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” is something that will be increasingly adopted and in-keeping with these, the business houses will have to adapt their policies to safeguard their privacy and security. A recent Gartner survey found that 70 percent of respondents have or were planning to have “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies within the next 12 months to allow employees to use personal mobile devices to connect to enterprise applications, while 33 percent of all organisations surveyed currently had BYOD policies in place for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Also, fanning this trend is the increasing adoption of cloud that we are likely to witness in the coming years.
Do you agree with the predictions for 2013?
Wishing all our readers a happy New Year.
Main Image Credit: Getty Images
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