It’s that time of year when we make predictions about what to see from technology in 2021.
We already know we’re good for new iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, new smart speakers from Amazon and beautiful new smart TV sets that will have higher resolution than ever before – at a lower cost.
So let’s offer up some tech predictions about what else we’ll see, or just might.
Let’s start with a given:
You’ll be paying for email in 2021
The world’s most popular email program Gmail, is owned by Google, which has decided to follow in Apple’s footsteps by getting more people hooked on monthly subscriptions. (Apple’s Services – which includes Apple Music, News and iCloud – is now its second-highest revenue generator, above Macs, iPads and Apple Watches.)
As of June 1, Google will no longer allow users to upload their photos and videos to Google Photos for free. Google offers 15 GBs of free storage for photos, but that also includes Gmail and Google Drive backup. The ask is that you pay for storage, which starts at $1.99 a month – but for just 100 GB of storage.
I don’t know about you, but my Gmail is 41 GBs worth now, I have 15 GBs worth of photos in Google Photos and 1.7 TBs on Google Drive.
Sure, I can clear out Google Drive, but the thing is, my email is a living, growing thing that is just not going to get smaller, no matter how hard I try to clean it up. It grows every day. So if you like your Gmail, get used to it – you might be paying.
Microsoft and Yahoo still offer free email, but they’re littered with ads, and you’re encouraged to step up to the “premium” versions, which starts at $5 and $3.49 a month, respectively, to go ad-free. Yahoo is eliminating the ability to automatically forward emails from Yahoo Mail beginning next week, unless you spend $34.99 a year for the service.
Big tech won’t find the new administration any friendlier
Facebook and Google’s woes in Washington, D.C., won’t change with a new Biden administration, we believe. The companies will continue to be hauled into Washington to defend against being broken up. President-elect Joe Biden has complained to the social network many times about all the disinformation coming out about him on Facebook, and the company declined to act. That certainly isn’t likely to play well in the Biden years.
The streaming wars will lose a big player
Many new streaming networks launched in 2020, most notably HBO Max and Peacock, and many more are on the horizon for 2021, including Paramount Plus and Discovery +, but at least one of the new networks will go down. Or so says my USA TODAY colleague Brett Molina, who puts Paramount Plus as the most likely victim.
Paramount Plus is the soon-to-be new name for what was CBS All-Access, with the addition of movies from the Paramount Pictures library and TV shows from the Viacom (MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon) vault. “There’s just too many of them,” Molina says. “I can’t see it lasting.” (You will see many more first-run films on streaming channels in 2021, as Warner Media has announced its entire slate for HBO Max and Disney + has first-run fare scheduled as well.)
5G won’t get any better until late 2021
The launch of new phones with access to the supposedly faster wireless speed of 5G, and the wireless carriers’ breathless hype about speed left many consumers scratching their heads. The promised speeds were no faster than 4G. One day 5G will live up to the hype, but not until late 2021, believes Gene Munster, an analyst and investor with Loup Ventures. For real progress, we’ll have to wait for 2022.
Local retailers will find a way to compete with Amazon
It’s an aspirational wish, but “someone will solve the need and find a way to fill it,” says Kieran Hannon, the chief marketing officer for OpenPath, a company that offers next generation office entry technology. He believes a service will be developed to help local retailers compete with the Amazons of the world by letting customers order from a direct website serving locals and have products delivered to them at home, thus keeping sales in the neighborhood.
Zoom and video meetings will only get bigger
Business travel may start to come back from the dead in the second half of 2021, but all the companies that saved money from the trips won’t likely be as eager to send staffers traipsing around the country when meetings can be done cheaper and more efficiently via video.
Students will one day return to the classrooms, but company meetings, seminars, webinars and the like will likely continue. No need to return those ring lights to improve your appearance yet.
Speaking of Zoom, a possible acquisition?
The video networks is one hot property that saw its usage numbers climb from 10 million to 300 million amid the pandemic, making it one prime acquisition target. Who better to buy Zoom than Amazon?
The companies already work together, with Amazon Web Services providing the server backbone for all those Zoom meetings. Unlike Google, Apple and Facebook, which have their own well-established video networks (Google Meet, FaceTime and Messenger), Amazon doesn’t have one.
So with Zoom in the company, and all those meeting minutes (about 2 trillion in April alone,) what an attractive target that would make for Amazon to remind us to use Alexa and buy more stuff, right?
Pay for podcasts?
Finally, Munster from Loup Ventures believes Apple will follow its smash success with the Services division by introducing a new way for podcasters to make money on their shows by charging admission. He sees a “Podcast +” that sees everyone’s favorite audio shows (like Talking Tech) added to the Apple One bundle with Apple Music. “Good news for podcasters, who may see Apple as another avenue to monetize their listener base.”
We love it.
Happy New Year, everyone!
China surveillance of journalists to use ‘traffic-light’ system
bbc– The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern”.
Documents seen by BBC News describe a system that classifies journalists into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red.
Journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”, they say.
The Henan Public Security Bureau has not responded to a request for comment.
The documents, discovered by the surveillance analyst firm IPVM, also outline plans to surveil other “people of concern”, including foreign students and migrant women.
Human Rights Watch said: “This is not a government that needs more power to track more people… especially those who might be trying to peacefully hold it accountable.”
The documents, published on 29 July, are part of a tendering process, encouraging Chinese companies to bid for a contract to build the new system, won, on 17 September, by NeuSoft.
NeuSoft has not responded to BBC News request for comment.
The system includes facial-recognition technology linked to thousands of cameras in Henan, to alert authorities when a “person of concern” is located.
“People of concern” would be categorised into “thematic libraries” – in an already existing database of information about and images of people in the province.
The system would also connect with China’s national database.
One of the groups of interest to the Henan Public Security Bureau is journalists, including foreign journalists.
“The preliminary proposal is to classify key concerned journalists into three levels,” the documents say.
“People marked in red are the key concern.
“The second level, marked in yellow, are people of general concern.
“Level three, marked in green – are for journalists who aren’t harmful.”
And an alert would be triggered as soon as “journalists of concern”, marked as “red” – or “yellow”, if they had previous criminal charges – booked a ticket to travel into the province.
The system would also assess foreign students and divide them into three categories of risk – “excellent foreign students, general personnel, and key people and unstable personnel”.
“The safety assessment is made by focusing on the daily attendance of foreign students, exam results, whether they come from key countries, and school-discipline compliance,” the documents say.
The schools themselves would need to notify the authorities of students with security concerns.
And those considered to be of concern would be tracked.
During politically sensitive periods, such as the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, “a wartime alarm mechanism” would be activated and tracking of “key concern” students stepped up, including tracking their cell phones.
The documents outline a desire for the system to contain information taken from:
- cell phones
- social media – such as WeChat and Weibo
- vehicle details
- hotel stays
- travel tickets
- property ownership
- photos (from existing databases)
It should also focus on “stranded women”, or non-Chinese migrant women who do not have the right to live in China.
A large number of women enter China to find work.
Others have been trafficked from neighbouring countries.
And the system would “dock” with the National Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Public Security and Henan police, among others.
The documents were published around the time the Chinese government criticised foreign media outlets for their coverage of the Henan floods.
Conor Healy, Government Director of IPVM, said: “The technical architecture of mass surveillance in China remains poorly understood… but building custom surveillance technology to streamline state suppression of journalists is new.
“These documents shed light on what China’s public-security officials want from mass surveillance.”
China’s facial-recognition system is thought to already be in use across the country.
And last year, the Washington Post reported Huawei had tested artificial-intelligence software that could recognise people belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority and alert police.
Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said: “The goal is chilling, ensuring that everyone knows they can and will be monitored – and that they never know what might trigger hostile interest.”
QUALCOMM REBRANDS SNAPDRAGON CHIPS THAT POWER MANY OF THE WORLD’S PHONES IN ATTEMPT TO BE LESS CONFUSING
independent– Qualcomm has announce a major rebrand of its Snapdragon chips, in a move that could make choosing a phone vastly more simple.
The company sells its Snapdragon chips to a vast range of other companies – such as Samsung, HP and OnePlus – which use them to power devices including mobile phones, watches and laptops.
But comparing those devices can often be difficult, because of the confusing name of those Snapdragon processors, which are marked by a host of complex numbers. Since processors are at the heart of the devices, it can therefore be difficult to know whether a given phone is better than another.
But Qualcomm now says that it will simplify its branding in a host of ways, most of which bring new branding to the line.
The most obvious one is that the Qualcomm and Snapdragon brands will be separated. While they will still be owned by the same company as before, the Qualcomm will be removed from the chips itself.
More usefully, however, those complicated names will be changed.
Until now, Snapdragon products have come with three different names. Each of the numbers was intended to show where it was in the line-up: the first indicating the power, the second what generation, and the third used to separate different products within those generations.
But that was difficult to know and to compare. It also led to struggles with Snapdragon running out of names – it has a Snapdragon 695, for instance, and so only space for four more chips in that line-up.
Instead, it will move to a “new simplified and consistent naming structure for our platforms makes it easier for our customers to discover and choose devices powered by Snapdragon”, it says. “This means our mobile platforms will transition to a single-digit series and generation number, aligning with other product categories — starting with our newest flagship Snapdragon 8-series platform.”
It did not give information on what that new naming system would be, and promised more information would be revealed at another event on 30 November.
Gigabit broadband: Internet seen as top homebuyer priority
bbc– A fast internet connection is now one of the most important factors for homebuyers, according to a survey of 294 estate agents across the UK.
Questions about connectivity, usually “full fibre” broadband, are up 69% since the pandemic began, the research, by Omdia for telecoms equipment maker Huawei, suggests.
Speeds of more than 300Mbps are being sought by 34% of buyers – and, according to 33% of the estate agents, can add £5,000 to the sale price of a home – while 23% want 1Gbps.
Asked to name the single most important factor is for homebuyers:
- 23% said the size of the property
- 20% said broadband quality
- 18% said the number of bedrooms
- 10% said the age of the property is
- 9% said transport links
“In many cases, customers feel that good internet is a ‘must have’,” James Hummerstone-Pope, from Purple Bricks, said.
“And poor wi-fi and a bad mobile signal can be a deal breaker.
“Fibre broadband definitely makes properties more appealing.
“And people will sometimes walk away from a property if they feel the broadband and phone signals aren’t good enough.”
- Vodafone to offer full fibre broadband to millions
- Half-a-million homes to get broadband boost
The government has promised to “bring full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025”.
And research from telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests 18.2 million homes (62%) already have access to 300Mbps or faster.
But only a fraction pay for such high speeds.
And the average UK speed is actually 50.4Mbps.
In Scotland and the South West, good broadband is the most important factor for homebuyers, the survey suggests.
But London-based estate agent Foxtons said while buyers considered the internet important – “particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic” – it was usually outweighed by other factors.
“Choosing which property to purchase is an incredibly complex decision that depends on numerous different factors,” a representative said.
“In our experience, the price and perceived value for money, the size and type of property, provision of outside space, as well as proximity to local amenities and schools are some of the most critical factors in the decision-making process.”
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