Holiday Tech Musings

From the digital wallet to gadget equilibrium, our senior director of technology analysis Seth Robinson offers his take on the end-of-year trends in tech, and what they mean for 2015.



Senior Director,
Technology Analysis

With the holidays in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look at the year ahead — especially as CES kicks into high gear and brings us fantastic visions of our technological future. Before getting immersed in the new stuff, let’s look at where we are now. Full disclosure: I spent most of the holiday break enjoying the time off and eating too much, but here are a few items that floated onto my radar:

The Digital Wallet is Becoming Real. I played around with Apple Pay earlier in 2014, but the many holiday shopping trips provided a better chance to test things out. The experience varies widely. It worked exactly as advertised at some locations, like McDonald’s, Walgreens, Meijer and Sports Authority. A quick tap and I was on my way. At Macy’s, I had to enter my ZIP code and sign on the card reader. At Best Buy, it didn’t work at all. Of course, Best Buy isn’t listed by Apple as a supporting store, even though they display the NFC payment logo. To be fair, this has seldom worked even with the NFC chip in my AmEx card.

The most common experience, of course, is that a retailer is not set up for any kind of NFC transaction. From what I saw, though, the infrastructure is on its way for paying via phone to become more viable.

Cord-Cutting is Changing Media. On Jan. 1, the hashtag #watchespn trended on Twitter as ESPN’s live streaming service went down at the beginning of the Rose Bowl. There were plenty of conspiracy theories — from revenge on cord-cutters to North Korean hackers — but there was something missed in all the outrage. Throughout the bowl season, ESPN streamed either a skycam feed or a Spanish language feed. The feed for the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl was billed as a spidercam feed, which is more robust than the standard skycam.

Although the network had availability issues, this was still a major nod to the many people moving away from bundled service. Dish Network’s recent announcement of Sling TV is another step in that direction.

We Have Reached Gadget Equilibrium … For Now. I haven’t seen any sales numbers, but from what I could see over the holidays, there was no new, must-have gadget for the year. I’m sure that the latest smartphones and tablets all sold well, but the market is well saturated and the technology landscape has adjusted for these devices. Wearables are still struggling for mass adoption, and the Internet of Things is not quite stable enough to drive demand for everyday connected items or home control stations.

There are still adjustments to be made to fully support the devices that have reached critical mass — network upgrades come to mind after a choppy Skype call — but there is no killer tech out there threatening to shake up usage patterns.

What does this mean for the IT world? Digital wallets signal new and transforming types of transactions, and every company likely has moves they can make to become even more digital. Cord-cutting shows that people are becoming very selective about what they consume, so brands must use new channels effectively. And gadget equilibrium suggests that companies should focus efforts on refining existing policies rather than frantically search for the next big disruption.

There will certainly be change in the technology world in the year ahead. Our upcoming 2015 Outlook report will highlight some of the changes we believe are coming, and until then you can investigate our 4th Annual State of the Channel report. In the middle of all the change, though, there is plenty of opportunity to capitalize on the refinements needed to take the cloud/mobile era to the next level.

Seth Robinson is CompTIA’s senior director of technology analysis.

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