Few years have polarized public opinion as the one about to end. 2016 has seen political upheaval, heightened conflict and a sense, generally, that the things we once took for granted aren’t quite as solid as we thought. But tech rarely toes the mainstream path–and while this year has seen the lowest number of IPOs since 2009, it has been a year in which technology has become the lead story, whether it’s Facebook’s fakery or Tesla’s tiles.
But that’s 2016. 2017 promises as much if not more from the market, which some experts predict could be the ‘Year of the Unicorn’. Whether or not that prediction bursts into life, here are five headlines we at Red Herring are looking forward to from the next 365 days. Let us know if you agree–or if there’s anything you think we’ve missed. And besides that, have a happy new year and we’ll see you on the other side…
1. Trump vs Tech
We outlined the incoming US President’s issues with the tech industry back before he took pollsters by storm. All that becomes reality on January 20th when Donald Trump is inaugurated as the country’s 45th commander-in-chief.
The former real-estate magnate met with Silicon Valley scions in December to discuss his far-ranging plans for the industry, which include privacy and visa gripes. But even as the press cameras clicked, leaders like Apple CEO Tim Cook could barely hide their ill-will towards Trump. And as the President-elect gears up towards what will likely be the most divisive term in recent memory, expect a raft of clashes with tech’s top brands.
2. Say goodbye to drivers
Autonomous cars have been at the forefront of tech news for years. But in 2017, with Google, Tesla, Uber, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and others all ploughing headfirst at a driverless world, expect the sector to rev into sixth gear this coming term.
Companies providing platforms have already teamed up to counter the big players’ dollar-sapping projects. And with smaller firms like nuTonomy winning admirers worldwide–and a host of plans to get wheels on public roads in 2021–next year will provide a fascinating tech shootout between some of the industry’s most enlightened names.
3. Google and Facebook’s fake plays
Mark Zuckerberg’s November claim that Facebook is a technology company, not a media company, was met with derision across the world, particularly in light of elections and political contests in the US and Europe that were flooded with fake news and partisan propaganda. In 2017, with votes such as Germany’s, and increased tensions on Russia’s western borders, expect to see the social media giant shift gears to combat arguments that it is a threat to democracy.
Incoming US President Donald Trump has threatened Zuckerberg’s charges, and Google, with anti-trust laws to mitigate their ever-expanding dominion over the online sphere. Does he have a chance to reign in two of the 21st centuries true corporate leviathans? Or will users, their utopian Internet dreams shattered, turn to other corners of the web? Expect media to go into overdrive reporting this new and vital global component.
4. Make or Break for Elon
Few entrepreneurs this year have captured the public spirit like Elon Musk. Tesla’s leader navigated a $2.6 billion merger with solar provider SolarCity in November, making it a top stock-market pick for 2017 by Baird Equity Research. That is incredible given Musk’s boundless ambition, and Tesla’s product range, which gets more sci-fi by the year.
At the forefront of a make-or-break year for the firm, however, will be its relatively long-established auto wing. Tesla Motors will release its mid-range Model 3 car late 2017 to coincide with a boom in battery production predicted to push the marque towards the mainstream. The first lithium-ion batteries from Tesla’s own Gigafactory in Nevada should also roll off the production line. Musk will hold an investor’s Q&A at the plant next month.
That should be good news for the environment–as will Tesla Solar’s aforementioned hookup. And all this doesn’t even mention Musk’s other ventures, including space rockets and Hyperloop, the cutting-edge platform with which Tesla hopes to transform transport. Oh yes, and he’ll be advising Donald Trump on tech. Do things ever slow down for Musk?
5. Artificial Intelligence Becomes Everyday
2017 has been widely heralded as the Year Of AI. And Red Herring sees it no different: Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Uber and a glut of other top tech names are working like crazy to corner a market that is swiftly being inserted into the lives of billions of ordinary men and women.
Scientists are now teaching computers to ‘learn’, something which should excite enthusiasts and terrify technophobes in equal measure. Assistant, Alexa and Echo are becoming household names already. And Google’s Neural Machine Translation system already translates sentences better than traditional platforms. Expect to see AI dominate next week’s CES in Las Vegas, which will be the first industry barometer for a packed 2017.