Say hello to my little friend: Mobile to rule 2013


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I was going to start off my very first Planet Otterbox post with a carefully crafted grandiose self-portrait, but there is no time. No time for shenanigans and ego stroking as the new year, with its promise of new hardware and tech that will define 2013, is upon us. I’ve already wasted too many precious 0’s and 1’s. Let’s get this going.

With sugar plum fairies all danced out and champagne flows corked until 2014, there is but one hallowed tradition left to ring in the new year: CES. I can almost smell that singular mixture of cleaning solvents and industrial glue wafting through the vents of straight-from-the-factory prototypes. As a napalm and surf-loving Robert Duvall might say, it smells like…victory.

Alas, I won’t be attending the sacred halls this year, but by-the-minute coverage from every tech site on the internet should give a hint to what tech we can expect in 2013, as well as slake my thirst for pictures of giant TVs. If only James Cameron reintroduced Smell-O-Vision instead of 3D…

Last year saw a flurry of product launches from all the big names in the industry. Apple rolled out a redesigned iPhone and iMac, brought its Retina display tech to the MacBook Pro lineup and introduced the iPad mini. Samsung released the usual flotilla of handsets, TVs and other consumer electronics, while Google continued to do its thing with Android and experimental software and hardware products. It was a good year (not for my wallet, however, which is now home to at least two moth families).

For 2013, my Gorilla Glass ball tells me innovation will shift further toward low-cost mobile computing products and away from desktops, with tablets gobbling up even more market share as increasingly capable devices enter production. The iPad will of course be in the driver’s seat, but there should be some decent competition from Google and Samsung if Android 5 Key Lime Pie brings the tart when it hits mid-year.

Expect smartphone proliferation to continue as per usual, with small performance upgrades from last year’s models. Some say 2013 will be the “year of the phablet,” a device positioned awkwardly between smartphones and tablets, but these people are wrong. So very wrong. Phablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Note look ridiculous and I don’t want to be seen talking on one. Ever.

The move to mobile will be helped along in no small part to the less-than-adequate Windows 8, Microsoft’s attempt to jury rig a touch-driven OS on top of a classic windows OS on top of archaic code from yesteryear. It didn’t work out as planned. Having spent some (infuriating) time with the operating system, I can say the general consumer may be…put off from the desktop experience.

As for by-company prognostications, there are countless predictions of what to expect from the “four horsemen of tech” (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) in 2013, but look for the biggest surprises to come from relatively small startups seeking to disrupt the market with innovative niche solutions. These tiny operations have seen levels of success over the past few years, and I see a real mainstream market opportunity coming up with a possible lull in innovation from lumbering OEMs.

Crowd funding services like Kickstarter have already proven there are needs yet to be fulfilled by tech’s giants; the Pebble e-paper smart watch and its $10,266,845 of backing being a prime example.

It comes down to a balance of consumer need versus consumer want. Whereas giant manufacturers conduct a sometimes dysfunctional ballet of want and need versus profits, small start ups can focus solely on the consumer with direct input from investors. Generating hundreds of billions of dollars per year is great, but being small and nimble has its advantages.

Speaking of enormous liquid assets, there has been speculation that Apple lost a step after co-founder Steve Jobs passed away in 2011. Chatter has it that with the tech guru gone, and the pipeline of products he had a hand in creating almost dry, the world’s most valuable company won’t be able to keep its edge. Expect more of this kind of talk as Apple pushes out iterative product refreshes throughout 2013.

As always, no one really knows what Cupertino has up its well-tailored sleeves. Apple’s legendary secrecy has led to “inside reports” saying the company is primed to release a set-top cable box, while others say the product will be a full-fledged HDTV and still others say nothing of the sort is being planned. Cloak and dagger tales aside, expect Apple to be Apple and await the launch of premium products at premium prices. Perhaps a revolutionary product will be peppered in sometime in 2013, but don’t expect the company to disappear if that doesn’t happen.

So, relatively low-cost portable computing devices like tablets and smartphones are to rule the on-the-go mass market; start ups are going to see their day in the sun; and Apple will release refreshed iPhones, iPads and Macs with a possible bonus product to be announced. Get ready for a huge year of device buying. My nose can’t wait.

– Mikey Campbell

Mikey Campbell is the Editor at Apple Insider. Look for his Planet OtterBox post the first week of every month.
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About the author

Mikey

Mikey

Mikey Campbell is a self-professed tech geek. Perhaps it was the "100-in-one" electronic learning kit his father gave him as a child, or some genetic disposition to solder, but his need to break into a shiny new gadget cannot be stopped. After graduating from college with a degree in journalism and working a brief stint at a local daily print publication, he explored his roots in Japan for three years; making countless visits the electronics sanctuary that is Akihabara. When he's not tearing down perfectly good hardware, Mikey is out taking artsy photos or hitting the beach in his home town of Honolulu, Hawaii. Mikey is currently an editor for Apple news site AppleInsider.

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