Looking back at 2018 to see which Microsoft and general tech predictions we got right

As many of my colleagues and others do this time of year, I too will turn my pen toward the future and scribe what I see in the world of tech for 2019. Before I look forward, however, I will briefly look back at what "Jason 2017" saw for 2018 and review what I got correct.

Ambient computing and security concerns rising

Last December I predicted:

As we approach a 2019 5G rollout, and more ambient computing devices come online in 2018, I believe a critical mass will be reached that will force greater attention, and more regulations to address the inherent vulnerabilities of ambient computing in 2018.

In November 2017 I also wrote ambient computing puts us at greater risk to hackers. I addressed the various "access points" hackers have into our lives via smartphones, smart cars, Wi-Fi connected smart homes and smart speakers.

Between 2017 and now Google and Amazon (and others) have pushed their respective Google Home and Amazon Echo smart speakers with competitive pricing geared more toward proliferation rather than profits. Google Home Hub, Echo Show, Facebook's Portal and others have brought screens to the ambient smart speaker battle. As these devices and this technology takes up residence in our most personal spaces, hacking of these devices has remained an ongoing concern for some.

Computer science Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Moustafa Alzantot, has posited that the A.I. in these devices could be maliciously tricked using sound into "hearing" one command while a user utters another.

Always-listening A.I. may be listening to more than you think.

Furthermore, in late 2017 Bose and Sonos smart speakers were found to be prone to a particular hack. In line with the potential malicious breaches of privacy, smart speaker consumers are trusting live mics in their homes for the convenience of always-listening devices that respond to "wake words." As an Oregon couple's whose private conversation was recorded by Amazon's Echo and was sent to others discovered, these devices have the potential to always listen for more than a wake word.

Security advocate Josh Corman is pushing for legislation to head off the potential weight of vulnerabilities a deluge of IoT devices will potentially bring with 5G's distribution.

Despite these concerns, Jake Williams, a cyber-security expert argues smart speakers are unlikely targets for hackers. Perhaps. If so, the biggest threat to our privacy may not be hackers, but the companies that make these devices listening in on our most private moments.

Always Connected PCs (ACPC) and the carrier effect

Embedded SIM-equipped (eSIM) ACPCs which allow users to choose carriers and plans directly from Windows, I predicted would begin to impact a change in the carrier model in 2018. As power shifts from carriers to consumers, carriers would have to become more aggressive in their offerings as they packaged data with ACPCs sold in their stores. I predicted:

This data purchasing model for a growing platform of connected devices will provoke carriers to become more competitive with their packages and offerings.

This year Sprint offered free data to consumers who purchased an Always Connected PC through that venue. Though off to a slow start, Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 850 processors promise a steady progression toward the vision of this tech. Hit.

Microsoft's pocketable Surface and carriers beware

I predicted:

Microsoft will launch its pocketable telephony-enabled Surface the Fall of 2018" was my prediction for Surface Andromeda. That device which many critics over the years argued didn't exist has been pushed out to "after a larger" Surface Centaurus PC.

This date was a clear miss, but more so for Microsoft which desperately needs a pocketable device which can do what a smartphone does and more sooner than later.

Ironically, many outlets claimed Microsoft was not working on a mobile device — we presented an analysis that showed otherwise — have been diligently covering Surface Andromeda with seeming excitement. Now that we all agree the project is real, let's hope Microsoft delivers.

How Microsoft's Surface Andromeda pocket PC could disrupt the market

Progressive Web Apps (PWA), 5G and app gap begone

Last year I said,

2018 will be the beginning of broader use of PWAs on various device types including cellular PCs and Edge."

This, though modestly fulfilled beginning, has come to pass. Additionally, companies like Appscope see the potential for PWAs and are committed to reaching developers, growing the ecosystem and building consumer awareness of PWAs.

Sites like PWA Directory, PWA.rocks and Outweb are also pushing PWAs though perhaps not with the same obsession for quality Appscope does. Microsoft and Google see a hybrid web/device future of which PWAs will play a part. 2018 was just a beginning to a potential comparative surge in 2019. Hit.

Quick picks

I said,

Edge computing would enable more powerful and intuitive AI.

Smart speakers and evolving assistants like Google Assistant that will navigate phone calls (above video), Cortana (in the enterprise) and Alexa indicate this was a hit. "ODG, I said, "will launch telephony-enabled AR smartglasses." Though ODG has been a leader in smartglasses for years (though unknown by many), no telephony-enabled smartglasses emerged in 2018 (though the company's CEO has hinted at them). That's a miss.

Finally, I said, "Qualcomm will win its fight against Broadcom's hostile takeover attempts." Hit.

It's exciting to look at technology, trends, business decisions, strategies, market fluctuations, consumer behavior and more to predict what the future holds. It's also intriguing to look back to see how accurate or inaccurate those thoughtful predictions were.

Though I had more hits than misses for my 2018 predictions, let's see if I can do better for 2019.

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!