2014I can say without any reservation that 2014 was the year of the Cloud. Cloud means different things to different people, depending on their perspective, but the Cloud definitely took center stage in terms of the tech industry. Major companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft revamped their Cloud software offerings. iCloud lowered storage prices while delivering a solid iWork product that syncs across iOS, OS X and the web. Google revamped most of its Cloud Apps (Docs, Sheets, Presentations, Draw, etc.) and Chromebooks were the #1 best seller amongst educational institutions. Personally, I think that all schools should adopt Chromebooks due to their super low cost and ease of management. I love my Chromebook, and I believe students should be learning how to work in the new normal of web and mobile apps, versus the old Microsoft Office way. Speaking of Microsoft, they also revamped their Cloud based offerings (One Drive and Office Online) while delivering a decent mobile Office experience on iOS (finally). While I don't use Microsoft products beyond testing for clients and online reviews, I can say that Microsoft has been shoved in the right direction by Apple and Google. Competition is always a good thing, so I wish them well on their new Cloud and Mobile centric vision.
Across the board, mobile apps were dominant in the software sphere this year, and the Apple/IBM partnership illustrates where businesses are looking for leadership in the next few years. Also, the trend of mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) outselling PCs continues. PC sales are down across the board, and I feel that this is a great thing. Even my mother, who has just started to learn how to use the internet in the last year or two, prefers to use her iPad and Chromebox. Most people have no need for the traditional PC and all the headaches that come with it. Long live mobile.
Amazon AWS continues to grow its dominance in the Cloud IaaS provider space while Google, Microsoft and a few others try to play catch-up. Some tech pundits thought 2014 would be the year of the private Cloud, but it seems like hybrid Cloud became the hot growth spot instead. While this does encompass both private and public Cloud, it illustrates that businesses were not keen on bringing on another 'island' technology in the data center. Enterprises are seeking to bring a balanced technology portfolio that is well integrated and provides solutions to current problems. This approach has led to the rapid rise in the hybrid Cloud market, as evidenced by the massive $100 Million vote of faith in Mirantis (an OpenStack hybrid Cloud company). Even with the rapid growth of this segment of the market in 2014, it is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is to come.
2015Looking forward to 2015, I predict that we will see a continued decline in PC sales. Mobile will be the hot sector for sales, specifically smart phones and tablets (in that order). Also, as Apple and Google are now providing their 'desktop/laptop' operating systems for free, Microsoft will need to figure out how to pivot off of selling Windows licenses and shift their revenue streams over to mobile software and subscription services. I believe 2015 will be the last year Microsoft can get away with charging for an operating system, but I am not convinced that Windows 10 will be free. I believe the big three (Apple, Google, Microsoft) will become even more competitive in their Cloud offerings, specifically Cloud storage and Productivity apps. I am excited to see where we stand at the end of 2015.
In a larger sense, I believe mobile apps will continue to dominate software sales, and I also see more shifting away from licensing fees toward subscription services. I believe that we will start to see a consolidation in the Cloud storage market as we have gone from one or two excellent independent apps to a plethora of services which now include the big three. I am personally struggling with organizing data that sits across three or more Cloud storage services, and I imagine that I am not alone. While price will be a big factor in who the ultimate winners are in this space, it is by far not the only factor. Security, ease of use (syncing) and data management will also define this space. Dropbox was one of the first and the best in this space for a long time, but now, I honestly don't see them surviving too much longer. I love their product to pieces, but the offerings from the big three, as well as Box, SpiderOak and even Evernote (in a round-about way) are just to compelling in terms of price and security.
Chromebook and Chromebox are two products that are close to my heart. While I use a MacBook Air for business, I also use a Chromebook and can honestly say that I can do 95% or more of what I need on a Chromebook. There may come a time where I no longer need the MacBook Air, but the industry isn't quite there yet. With recent advancements in application streaming technologies, such as the Photoshop offering for Chromebook, I can see a future where we need nothing more than Chromebooks, tablets or smart phones. We are so close to that, I wouldn't be surprised if it happens in 2015, but I wouldn't count on it. As I said above, in 2014, Chromebook sales outpaced sales of all other devices in schools, even tablets. This is HUGE. The low cost and ease of management are paramount to educational institutions who struggle with funding issues every year. The bigger benefit, in my eyes, is that we are introducing kids to a new way of working and collaborating that does not rely on Microsoft or locally installed applications. I already see the effects of 5+ years of Apple dominance in the mobile arena in terms of how new employees work and collaborate (think Bring Your Own Device). I can only imagine what this will look like in the next 5-10 years as the students who learned on Chromebooks and Google services hit the workforce. Mobile will define the way they work and collaborate, and that is a good thing. There will be a huge boom in productivity and employee satisfaction if this trend continues.
Lastly, I see the IaaS, PaaS and especially SaaS markets exploding in 2015. The big three will continue to build and offer services (SaaS) on their own platforms, but the market is very big. For those that want to focus on building and delivering software and services, not managing data centers and platforms, Amazon AWS, Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure and even the PaaS players like Heroku will provide all of the infrastructure and platform needed. The IaaS and PaaS vendors will continue to see excellent growth as we shift from a local to a mobile software ecosystem, and the SaaS offerings will continue to offer more rich experiences and productivity benefits to all consumers. I predict that 2015 will see explosive growth across all areas of the Cloud, and we as builders and consumers of this paradigm shift will be the better for it.
I am always interested to hear your thoughts on 2014 and your predictions for 2015. Feel free to leave them in the comments. :)