Open Source and Technology Predictions for 2014

Mon, Dec 30, 2013 with tags predictions , technology , 2014 , security , chip and pin , hulu , hbo , verizon , steamos , valve , linux , tablets , android , windows , windowsrt , windowsphone , microsoft , snowden , nsa , cloud , women , automotive , politics

This marks my fourth attempt at being a technology pundit after previous attempts in 2010, 2011, and 2012. I honestly have no idea what happened to my 2013 predictions or if I ever made them. As usual, these predictions are intended to be concrete and testable, rather than vague things like “the singularity happens” without providing a definition of the Singularity.

  • America finally sees chip and pin credit cards

It’s no longer a rarity to find a credit card with a chip on it, but they’re almost always chip and signature cards. While the chip provides additional security as the actual credit card number is never sent, merely a cryptographic challenge/response, the signature still is easily forged and often ignored.

The Target data breach in November and December 2013 showed just how fragile and insecure our credit card system is. Within days of the breach banks were buying their own credit card numbers from black market sites to notify their customers. Banks are proactively issuing new cards to customers, but this leaves them open for the next massive security fault. A shift to chip and pin would make the system massively safer - but this requires infrastructure changes. Expect to see this happen quickly at least one major bank will announce that fradulent charges as a result of magnetic stripe scans for cards that have a chip will be borne by the vendor, not the bank. This will cause uproar, but it needs to happen.

  • Hulu is bought by HBO or Verizon

Hulu has been trying to sell itself for a couple of years. It’s always on-again and off-again. While Hulu is attempting to move forward with original series, it’s not having the same luck that Netflix has had with its high profile series (e.g. “House of Cards”, “Arrested Development”, and “Orange is the New Black”). This is partially because of a vision problem, and partially because Hulu currently lacks access to fine grained customer data that Netflix has. Fortunately for Hulu’s financial state, but HBO and Verizon are looking to expand in this area. HBO is looking to fend off challenges from Netflix and, while it has continually produced high quality series, it may be struggling and access to the data behind Hulu would bolster HBOs demographic knowledge. HBO provided content would also give Hulu a much needed shot in the arm and provide a HBO a lifeline beyond the slowly dying medium of cable television.

In contrast, Verizon is facing challenges from Comcast as it attempts to become a communication and data hub. Verizon has tried to launch their own television networks and distribution, but their streaming platform is still rather poor. Acquistion of Hulu would give Verizon a high quality streaming platform, in roads into Comcast customers, and also a nascent studio that develops content.

There’s an outside chance Amazon could purchase Hulu - it would be a great expansion of Amazon Prime. However, I think that if Jeff Bezos wanted Hulu under the Amazon banner it would have happened already. This most likely means tat Amazon has big plans for whatever will become of Amazon Prime Video as Bezos doesn’t play small. How exactly Bezos intends to notify his 20 million+ Amazon Prime customers that he has high quality video streaming remains a bit of a mystery.

  • SteamOS will finally drive the year of the Linux Desktop

Although Linux has been successful for years as a server platform, the joke among supporters of the Linux desktop has always been “next year will be the year of the Linux desktop”. Valve’s work on SteamOS will finally make that a sort of reality. Gabe Newell has been vocal about migrating away from Windows because the mess that is Windows 8, and it appears that developers are becoming increasingly frustrated. Steam for Linux has already made it possible to play hundreds of games on Linux with no additional effort - expect to see this number continue to grow in 2014. These games will prove a necessary component as Valve goes head to head against Microsoft and Sony for control of the living room. Along the way Valve will pick up something that Linux users have longed for - support for Netflix.

  • Dual operating systems will land with a resounding thud

Continuing with discussion of the woes of Windows 8 - we’re hearing that many vendors plan on announcing dual platform tablets at CES. I’m going down right now and saying that this is a stupid idea that will fail in the marketplace. End users don’t want to think about having to reboot a tablet to switch between Android and Windows. They just want it to work. The added cost of the dual platform tablets, combined with the fact that I’m certain they’ll have uniformly terrible user experiences and build qualities, ensures that this is an idea that is dead on arrival.

  • Microsoft merges Windows Phone and Windows RT

Recently Microsoft has been running commercials describing the one consistent interface across all their devices - phones, tablets, and desktops. The problem is that people not only want one interface, they want one system. Apple and Google did the right thing by not creating a new operating system when they created tablets (although, if we’re splitting hairs, one might say that Android Honeycomb was a new operating system). People want to have their apps at their fingertips - and this means that they either have the phone operating system on the tablet or the desktop operating system on the tablet. Microsoft attempted to have it both ways with Windows RT.

  • Snowden will get asylum in Brazil or Germany

Greenwald has hinted that only a small portion of the overall trove of Snowden documents has been released. Both countries have acted as though they’ve been surprised about the revelations that the United States was spying on them, although the reality is that their security apparatus should be gutted wholesale if they didn’t already know this. Nonetheless, while most of these revelations won’t do anything to change the behind the scenes action, politicians in both countries will seek to strike a “special” deal with Snowden that at least gives them the perception of getting inside information on the spying scandal.

  • A major cloud provider will suffer a data breach exposing data on VMs to other customers

This is one that we haven’t heard much about yet, but I’d imagine we’ll see more about it this year. Many companies, both larget and small, are moving their operations to shared cloud hosting environments such as a Amazon EC2, SoftLayer, and RackSpace. Racently it was found that Digital Ocean, a smaller hosting service, had a flaw in their systems that didn’t securely delete VMs. This lead to the possibility that someone could see the data of other customers. Fortunately, it seems as though this was relatively innocuous, but given the potential for problems here, I’d say that this is the first of many such problems we’ll hear about in the future.

  • At least one Silicon Valley “luminary” will lose his job because of comments made about women in tech

There recently was a bit of brouhaha regarding comments that Paul Graham made about women and innovation. Although, according to Paul Graham, his comments were taken out of context. Nevertheless, the whole firestorm was oddly reminiscent of Donglegate and it’s clear this is still a really touchy issue - and for good reason. Given the fact that not all tech luminaries are as socially smart as they are technologically smart, it’s only a matter of time until one of them says something really stupid that will be taken even more out of context than Paul Graham’s comments.

  • An automobile manufacturer will suffer a major security breach in the software installed on their vehicles

More and more it seems as though the software in automobiles is the differntiating factor between brands and even within the brands. While software had a simple start in cars, it’s not unheard of for cars such as the Chevy Volt to have 10 million lines of code that encompasses software with dozens of different licenses. Unfortunately, building good software is hard. Building secure software is even harder. The remote access through apps, such as the OnStar Remote Link App, provide numerous new attack vectors. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this going.

  • A major credit card data breach will lead to legislation that shifts the onus of credit repair from the consumer to the vendor that leaked the data

Right now if your credit card information is stolen through vendor, you’re not responsible for the charges, but you are responsible for cleaning up any mess on your credit report that may result. Quite frankly, this is a massive abdication of responsibility and I think that once we see a large scale data breach that gets enough people really angry (it could be Target), we’ll see legislation that finally asks the folks who suffered the data breach to bear the costs for fixing it. This goes beyond the usual and useless “1 year of free credit monitoring”.

  • The house and the senate will remain largely status quo

I don’t think this needs any dramatic explanation. The house is rigged enough that there are few competitive districts. The senate will remain in democratic hands not because the democrats will run a set of great campaigns, but more because the republicans insist on nominating crazy people.

What are your thoughts about these predictions? Have I started to go too easy? Should I go back to focusing almost exclusively on open source? Do you have predictions of your own that you’d like to share?