The new year is upon us, and here at V3 we've been consulting the runes to foresee what will shake up the technology industry during 2016.
Each of the team has picked what they are most excited about for tech this year, and what they are least looking forward to.
Editor Madeline Bennett
Last year saw even bigger shifts in the cloud, and something I'll be looking out for in 2016 is to hear evidence of how these moves are paying off, and that the laggards are finally catching up with their own moves off-premise.
I covered various major IT events last year, from Oracle OpenWorld to Web Summit, and a common theme at these conferences was seeing a big-name CIO take to the stage to talk about how much of his infrastructure was already in the cloud and how much more would be within the next couple of years.
Companies from GE to Coca Cola, AstraZeneca to the DVLA touted their cloud successes and plans, and I can see firms of all sizes following these examples and aiming to move the bulk of their applications and infrastructure to the cloud during 2016. This is good news for businesses as they'll be able to take advantage of all the potential benefits of cloud computing, but this might be a worrying time for technology workers as firms see ways to shrink their internal IT resources via the streamlining the cloud offers.
One thing I'm definitely not looking forward to is finding out that yet again, technology giants like Google, Apple and eBay have paid a pittance for their UK tax bills. The trick here is to set up shop in the UK and then divert all earnings via an offshore facility to avoid contributing to the nation's tax coffers. This has led to ludicrous yet true cases like the Facebook one: the social media giant's UK staff took home an average of more than £210,000 last year, while Facebook paid less than £5,000 in corporation tax after making an accounting loss of £28.5m in Britain in 2014. This is despite Facebook reporting overall global revenues of $12.5bn for 2014, and having millions of UK users.
In his final budget before the 2015 General Election, chancellor George Osborne proudly boasted that he has come up with a way to stop these tax avoiders and claw back billions in lost revenue. However, critics were quick to point out that under his plans the numbers would fall far short of multiple billions and none of the cash would be seen for years anyway.
Deputy editor Dan Worth
Ah 2016. A fresh start, a chance to do good things. I hope the rest of the world is feeling the same way, as there are plenty of exciting and interesting areas on the horizon.
I'm sure the Internet of Things (IoT) will become more prevalent this year, as more sensors are deployed and networks brought online, further digitising our everyday lives.
We may also start seeing more developments in areas like driverless cars and 5G research that could further point the way to the future, although we probably won't see anything beyond more experiments this year.
One area where the future has definitely arrived, though, is virtual reality. I had my first experience with an Oculus Rift headset in November and was blown away by the technology, and I’d be very surprised if it didn’t become a staple of many people’s lives in 2016.
Sadly I also think this year will see the government gets its way with surveillance reform, likely to be the introduction of a new law that will only increase the powers of the state to peer into our everyday lives.
Of course some form of monitoring is necessary to stop terrorists and crime, but as I wrote last year, governments have a habit of using laws introduced for one purpose for something quite different.
Technology editor Dan Robinson
Indulging in a spot of crystal ball gazing is always tricky for would-be experts, as you are likely to wind up being totally wide of the mark and looking like an idiot.
Having said that, some of the things on my mind for the coming year include the Dell-EMC merger, or rather what effects it might have on the rest of the industry. Faced with an ever expanding Dell, will other enterprise technology firms feel the need to go on the acquisition trail in order to bolster their own technology portfolios?
The data centre is also becoming an exciting area to watch, with technologies such as hyperconvergence, software-defined storage and software-defined networks all starting to reshape the infrastructure used to deliver applications and services.
Some examples here are HPE's Synergy platform and Intel's Rack Scale Architecture, both of which aim to deliver flexible pools of compute, storage and network resources that can be divided and allocated as necessary, and both of which are due for delivery in 2016.
Another interesting technology coming from Intel is the Knights Landing Xeon Phi processor which, along with its Omni-Path high-speed fabric, is a key component of the Scalable System Framework Intel is developing as a reference architecture for high-performance computing (HPC) systems.
Intel's notion here is that a single architecture should be able to support HPC applications such as big data, visualisation and machine learning, instead of these running on dedicated infrastructure. In other words, it wants to develop a general purpose platform for HPC, mirroring the way Windows PCs have become a general purpose platform for productivity tools.
Among the things that I am least looking forward to is the possible enactment of the Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the Snoopers' Charter. If this does happen, internet service providers will be forced to retain a history of everyone's internet activity, a pointless and ultimately self-defeating scheme that is likely to see broadband bills rise to cover the cost of storing all the data, while the records themselves will represent a huge tempting target of sensitive data for hackers to try to get hold of.
Reporter Roland Moore-Colyer
It would be easy to predict that big data, the IoT, mobile and cloud computing will continue to be hot topics in the IT world as more companies offer an increasingly diverse range of services and products tailored to meet the needs of customers.
But what I am predicting, hoping and almost demanding is that the public sector really drives ahead with its plans to become more digital and thus more effective, streamlined and efficient. The Government Digital Service (GDS) has £450m earmarked for it in the Autumn Statement budget, so pursuing the government's digital transformation should be its sole new year resolution.
I only hope that the change of leadership in GDS this year will not hamstring its ability to pursue a much needed digital and government-as-a-platform agenda across the public sector, rather than be pushed aside by other departments determined to operate in silos.
And with a hefty £1bn allocated to the NHS to make use of new technology, I hope to see more hospitals follow the example set by the IT overhaul of Cambridge University Hospital Trust with the help of HP.
From a more personal and hardware oriented angle, I hope that Google pushes ahead with some of its more innovative projects, including the Brillo IoT operating system, driverless car technology, and of particular interest the Project Ara modular smartphone, which could cut hardware waste yet enable more phone customisation than ever before.
Project Ara has sadly hit a few stumbling blocks, but the other two seem to be driving ahead, and could see the introduction of some truly captivating technology in the new year. Bring on 2016.
Security writer Jason Murdock
Over the course of 2015 I spoke to several security experts who predicted an increase in data breaches, cyber extortion and internet-based chaos in 2016.
F-Secure's Mikko Hyppönen said that the cyber arms race has only just started. Echoing these comments was former US Air Force and NSA cyber expert Cedric Leighton who told me that, whether they like it or not, everyone is already enlisted in the cyber war. Additionally, former FBI cyber expert Leo Taddeo told me that nation-state snooping will continue to grow despite the well-publicised peace agreements earlier last year.
The unpredictable nature of the information security scene makes it difficult to gauge what will change over the next 12 months, but we are very likely to see greater sophistication in the tools used by cyber criminals, a rise of underground dark web marketplaces, a lower cost of entry for hackers, and cyber espionage increasingly on the agenda of governments.
Surveillance is now a central focus of governments around the world, including the US, UK, Germany and France, and new laws are being pushed for that would enhance the powers available to law enforcement and local police. The UK Investigatory Powers Bill, for example, would allow cyber spooks to legally hack into devices and force internet service providers to store data for up to 12 months (at a cost to the taxpayer). It appears that this push seeks to legitimise the shockingly invasive spy apparatus exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013 and, in my opinion, we should look to rein in, rather than foster, government snooping.
Over this year, I believe we will see better integration in technology. Terms like big data analytics, biometrics and mobile/cloud will further merge. It will be interesting to see how the security industry evolves alongside these technologies and how it reacts to the emerging threats that will no doubt pop up as a result.
For business owners, my advice is clear and concise: pay attention to online threats. No-one wants to be the next TalkTalk, Ashley Madison or Office of Personnel Management, and no CISO wants that call at 2am breaking the news of a major hack. So, good luck!
Reviews writer James Archer
I suspect that, for the first half or so at least, 2016 won't be so much about launching new innovations as it will about catching up with last year's. In the mobile space, Android 6.0 Marshmallow and USB-C are still disappointingly under-used, the former rolling out out to non-Nexus devices at a glacial pace and the latter being the sole domain of expensive top-end devices.
Even Windows 10 feels like hardware firms aren't making the most of it, and that's more or less the de facto OS for new PCs and laptops. How many big new laptops and productivity tablets have taken advantage of the face recognition in Windows Hello? There's the Dell XPS 12, Microsoft's own Surface Pro 4 and very few others of note.
In a way, the rate at which vendors get on board with advances like this is my biggest hope and my biggest fear. The hope is that we'll see some truly next-generation hardware without focusing too much on design cul-de-sacs like higher resolution screens and thinner form factors, and the fear is that we'll just get more of the same with a few incremental upgrades.
That almost covers it for me, but there's one more thing I really want to see in 2016, and it's been brewing in my mind ever since watching a small British firm launch its first smartphones in a Soho theatre. The Wileyfox Swift was a budget-oriented but extremely promising smartphone, the surprisingly mid-ranging capability of which made it easily stand out over its bigger, pricier companion, the Wileyfox Storm.
Call it nationalism, but I'd be very interested indeed to see a UK-made smartphone cause as much of a ruckus as the OnePlus One did in 2014, and with the benefit of practice plus a good starting point in the Swift, Wileyfox's next product could be the one. It would make a better story than the inevitable iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7, anyway.
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