2017 channel predictions

2016 saw a stellar year for emerging tech, but will 2017 follow suit? Jonathan Easton asks the channel where it thinks IT and tech are going to go over the next 12 months

Speculation is,in many ways, the bread and butter of our industry.

Whether it is attempting to predict the evolving wants and needs of users, or pre-empting the moves of the big names in tech, much of the channel’s job is, all things considered, guesswork.

Hopefully then, with an informed array of voices, we can try to put together a patchwork of what the channel – and wider tech – will look like at this time in the coming year.

2016 was the year that saw a lot of what had, for many, only ever been a sci-fi pipedream, come true in houses around the country. Virtual reality (VR) made its mainstream bow through a multi-million pound PlayStation VR ad campaign and with the retail releases of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive headsets.

Similarly, smart home tech that had threatened to break through into the mainstream for some time, finally reached an affordability for retailers to consider it as more than just a niche and for consumers to consider propelling their houses headfirst into the bright future. 

So what does the channel think will be the big thing for the next year?

“One of the most exciting technology solutions that is poised to emerge in 2017 is Wi-Fi powered devices,” says Lifesize senior director of product management Josh Duncan. “This technology will allow the deployment of smart sensors that do not need power adaptors
or batteries. 

The benefits will not only result in implementations that are easier to manage, but will also provide considerable cost savings. This breakthrough will help drive pervasive deployments of building management, security, and logistic tracking sensors.”

On more of a consumer level, Hama’s Ben Jones thinks that the wearables industry will continue to grow. “With many of us leading busy, on-the-go lifestyles, there is likely to be a number of developments in the wearable tech industry throughout 2017, with the area remaining a significant point of focus for research and development departments.”

Daniel Todaro, Gekko MD, has a similar prediction that we will see pre-existing tech improved upon and increase its public awareness. “With the recent release of Amazon Echo in the UK, and Google’s reveal of the Google Home smart speaker, I expect AI to take the tech world by storm in 2017. 

“Brands have only scratched the surface of this technology, which could quickly become mainstream if given enough support.”

Smart tech for homes is certainly an area that the channel thinks will expand. Will Lui, country manager at TP-Link says: “Smart home technology is gaining traction as a retail category, and we expect this trend to grow yet again in 2017.”

Smart home technology, such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, have brought artificial intelligence into the living room. Vanti CEO and CompTIA executive council member Mike Brooman believes that AI will boom in the new year, and not just in smart home applications. 

“I think we’re going see AI taking a more central role in the industry. We’ve already started to see glimpses of it coming through this year but what we’ll see in 2017 is it becoming more mainstream. 

I was at an event this year and spoke to a Managing Director at a law firm who had hired a Chief Innovation Officer to look at AI’s impact on their business. This highlights how even people outside of the technology industry are looking at this area – people are taking notice of the exponential change occurring.”

In the business world, iiyama senior account manager Lewis Clifford thinks that audio visual solutions for business will see continued development in 2017: “The continued emergence of meeting room and corporate AV solutions to harness collaborative interactivity both “in-room” and remotely will step up a gear for 2017.”

“I expect AI to take the tech world by storm in 2017.” 
Dan Todaro, Gekko

So those are some of the aspects of tech that the channel thinks are going to emerge over the next 12 months, but what markets are going to grow?

“Security will only continue to grow next year as concerns about data safety remain and we’re going to continue to see some high-profile security breaches, which will only drive this,” Brooman says.

It’s not only the security software market that will see growth in 2017, but hardware as well, says Synology marketing manager Joanne Plummer: “Surveillance will always grow, there will always be the need for it wherever you are. Sad as that may be.”

As mentioned earlier, VR really entered into the mainstream consciousness in 2016 and it shows no sign of slowing down. 

With Microsoft’s public push of augmented reality (AR) however, will 2017 see one overtake the other or will both VR and AR co-exist?

“I think AR will be a bigger focus this year than VR,” says Maximity director and CompTIA executive council member Tracy Pound. “That is not to say VR will stagnate, it certainly has a role to play in areas such as gaming and leisure activities, however from a business perspective AR can be much more easily incorporated.”

Todaro however believes that the two will expand and develop simultaneously: “VR and AR will both grow together, offering different things to different consumers. 

“AR will have a massive impact, but the immersive experiences created by VR in gaming and cinema can’t be matched in the ‘real world’. Expect both to be big players in 2017.”

Entatech MD Dave Stevinson holds a similar belief: “VR and AR are complementary. Both will grow. In the end, the two technologies will be on a single chipset.”

While VR and AR were very much at the front of the cutting-edge tech conversation, what was not new for 2016 was the decline of the PC with sales continuing to fall year-on-year. 

“The desktop will definitely continue its decline in 2017,” says Brooman. 

“There is so much focus in organisations on flexibility and mobile working. Mobility is such a priority now, even if your job isn’t inherently mobile people are increasingly looking at flexible working, meaning more mobile working models will become paramount.“

In a similar vein, Jones says: “Gone are the days of chunky monitors and computer towers dominating our offices and homes. As modern living spaces becomes smaller, people are demanding more space conscious, portable alternatives that are easy to transfer between rooms or take with them on the go.”

“The desktop will definitely continue its decline in 2017.” 
Mike Brooman, Vanti

Making an assertion that the entire PC space is set on an inescapable path of failure however would be an overstatement. “Technology goes in cycles,” says Pound. 

“When I first started 32 years ago, PCs were just coming into businesses and they boomed, then once they got power behind them the industry went back to centralised processing and control, then the PC rose again and once again its use is being questioned.

“I don’t think the PC is dead, but it is just in the downward stage of the technology cycle – they are being used less right now but they will come back when people want more localised static control.”

Nobody knows for certain what the next 12 months will bring or what exciting an unforeseen developments will happen. There is no way of predicting the emergence of radical disruptive technology.

Equally, the predictions made by the channel, as informed as they are, have the possibility of being disproven. There’s only one thing that we can say is an absolute certainty right now: with VR, AR, AI and lots of other techy acronyms being developed on, 2017 won’t be boring.

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