Tech trends to track during 2020
What are the tech trends to track in 2020? Here are a few predictions:
TV streaming wars
Figures in December showed that Netflix's biggest growth is in Europe. While rivals such as Amazon Prime Video have much more modest uptake, Disney Plus and AppleTV+ are both starting to ramp up, while Amazon may well look to increase its footprint in sports. (In the UK, it had exclusivity on a number of Premier League matches over the Christmas period).
All of this is happening at a time when video on phones is matching - or surpassing, in some age segments - traditional TV set viewing. A recent eMarketer report shows that media consumption on phones and tablets has now overtaken TVs in time per day. But the real advance is in phones, which will overtake TV in their own right over the next year or two.
The key tech gadgets to expect
In the world of gadgets and hardware, the coming year is going to be a combination of solid iterations and futuristic bets.
The 5G iPhone in September will probably be the single biggest launch of the year. Prepare for a big hype machine around that. But Apple may also debut a relatively new piece of technology: augmented reality glasses. Apple has been talking about augmented reality for a few years, showing off early versions of it on its iPads and iPhones with games, Lego and a handful of demonstration work applications. But the next step is a pair of glasses that gets its connectivity from your iPhone or your 4G-connected Apple Watch.
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The basic idea behind augmented reality glasses is to let you 'see' digital things mixed in with the real world. Pokemon is the only mainstream hit application to date.
But billions of dollars are currently being invested in the technology by companies like Magic Leap, as well as Apple. Otherwise, we should finally see mainstream commercial releases of 'folding' smartphones from Samsung and Huawei. They'll probably be very niche, though. Of equal interest may be Microsoft's Surface Duo, a dual-screen Android device which is around the size of a very large smartphone but which is also intended as a useful work device.
Of lesser interest will be the wave of 8K televisions (and cameras) coming to an electronics sales showroom near you. The industry says that this is the latest, greatest standard in visual entertainment. What they don't tell you is that it is almost impossible to tell any difference at all between 8K and 4K on a TV screen that is smaller than 65 inches in size. (Indeed, it is still hard to make out any difference between a 4K and older 'full HD' picture on screens of 40 inches or less).
If you're buying a new TV, you're better off focusing on good-quality HDR (high dynamic resolution) instead. 8K may be more useful to videographers, however. All of that resolution makes it handy for one thing: editing. You can crop in and still have a very sharp piece of footage.
The great Windows 7 security shutdown
You can expect quite a bit of focus on this in the first weeks and months of this year. Anyone who remembers the Wannacry ransomware outbreak of two years ago and how it particularly targeted those with out-of-date Windows XP PCs and laptops will appreciate the gravity of the situation. Microsoft will stop protecting Windows 7 from viruses and malware from January 14, except for those who pay a new premium for security 'extended support'. The security switch-off isn't a surprise; the tech giant has been specifically warning that this moment is coming for the past year.
The Huawei debate set to rage on
Huawei may see a significant deepening of its investment in the Republic of Ireland in 2020, even as the US administration continues to lobby European governments hard against it, as part of a wider war on Chinese industrial expansion. The telecoms giant has already pledged €70m(£60m) in the coming period in a mixture of research and expansion of its own office in the Republic. But the company is scouting for a European location to build a components factory that could get around a current US ban on it. That Huawei has not been met with the same kind of animus or restrictions in Europe as in the US is something of a diplomatic setback for the Americans.
Most European security agencies, including Britain's, have looked at the company's telecoms networking equipment closely and concluded that it doesn't merit any ban.
Nevertheless, Huawei will continue to be a lightning rod in the global telecoms and technology world. This year could see the US strike a trade deal with China. If so, that should include an easing of US trade restrictions on Huawei.
But if tension between China and the US persists, there will be no let-up on stories and narratives around its status as a potential security risk to western infrastructure.