2021 Technology and business predictions

We ended 2020 with two reviews (re. Business and Tech), so it is quite natural to start 2021 with technology and business predictions. Yes, it is challenging to predict anything in nowadays’ volatile environment, but let’s give it a try – if nothing else, we challenge our own understanding of current tech and business trends.

Slack down (and out)

For anyone looking to turn a switch and change everything 2020 into a fresh 2021, that didn’t quite work out. At least at Slack, someone literally did *not* turn the switch on, so their users’ first day of work into 2021 was actually a day off. Sure, the outage was minor and it only lasted three hours, but it prompted a series of great memes.

So, if we were to play into the Microsoft analogy, we’d say that Slack went a looong way from their cocky Dear Microsoft, welcome to the revolution message in 2016, to filing a competition complaint against Microsoft, to being acquired by Salesforce (at 10% of MS Teams’ size).

The first prediction for 2021? Having a great product will still be not enough. It is either the push on sales/distribution, or consolidation within bigger players that will keep small- and medium-size companies afloat.

Berg Software - 2021 Business and tech predictions - Slack down on January 4

Business growth opportunities in 2021

According to BDO’s Technology CFO Outlook Survey published on January 11, “the tech industry is poised for growth in 2021”.

The surveyed CFOs are mostly optimistic. Some 2/3 of them see an economic recovery, which leads to:

  • 66% expect their companies to thrive in 2021 (vs. 41% in 2020);
  • only 14% still think they will keep struggling (vs. 22% in 2020).

This optimism should transform into more investments for IT:

  • 47% of companies look into digital transformation,
  • 37% intend to expand their product/service,
  • 35% plan geographical expansion.

Across the board, everyone mentions the pandemics as one of the main reasons for accelerated investments; also, the reason why remote work is here to stay:

  • 30% are increasing remote working options for all professionals,
  • 16% of all workforce to remain at least partially remote.
Berg Software - 2021 Business and tech predictions - Business outlook

The effects of remote work

Since remote work is here to stay, it will probably have an impact on individuals’ spending patterns:

  • Investments into office-grade equipment at home: working on a couch is both unhealthy and unproductive, so everyone will need at least a keyboard, mouse, desk and chair. If home office upgrading didn’t completely take off yet, we think it will in 2021.
  • Video calls equipment: until recently, it was “my laptop has a camera”. Now, it’s all about “which camera, lights and microphone setup?” If you can make the best impression while Zooming, why hold it back?
  • Beyond video-calls, we already see AR/VR initiatives to connect people even better. Whether MeetinVR (cute avatars; up to 8 participants; easy file display/sharing/noting), Spatial (3D version of self; up to 4 participants; available pretty much on any device, incl. laptop/ browser) or other, we think that XR is well-positioned to cross the chasm between employees in the office and those still at home.
  • Home entertainment has seen ups (huge audiences and business model updates for Disney+, Netflix) and downs (Quibi shut down after 6 months from launching, now selling content to Roku); but 2021 will be the year of further consolidation. The first step was to get everyone hooked on quality content with recurring payments; then to increase the monthly fees (hello, Netflix!); so from now on they can squeeze you into bundles (see Apple One and Amazon Prime).

Talking of hardware…

Some of the biggest developments of 2020, to produce bigger effects into 2021, are:

  • The highly disruptive M1 chip means better vertical integration for Apple, with generous margin and profit rates. It also brings a literal arms race within the chip industry (Nvidia buying ARM, US setting a chip embargo on China, and maybe Intel waking up for a pillow fight) – so expect 2021 to bring even more powerful computers, with much better efficiency and battery life, to cope with bigger needs for computing power.
  • 5G will go mainstream. Yes, it is still dependent on individual countries’ spectrums and installation rates, but it has the potential to completely transform the way we work. Although you can already get it on a 5G phone, the biggest value gains will be in enterprise: think for example real-time telemedicine, faster IoT/automation, reliable cars/transportation, and all things AR/VR and gaming (yay!).

The Big Tech

Two huge developments happened end-2020 / start-2021:

First, the big four (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google) face stronger antitrust scrutiny. In the US, it’s been “testify in front of Congress” time; while the EU is about to approve the more restrictive Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act. What does it mean for the Big Tech? At a minimum, they can be classified as “gatekeepers”, i.e. subject to stricter antitrust rules and higher fines for breaking them. But then, there are voices asking for the “nuclear option” of breaking Big Tech into smaller companies. This is supposed to reset the rules, inject money into the ecosystem and stimulate competition. Regardless, while opinions seem to differ on which company is the bigger sinner, Google’s first lawsuits already started mid-December. What does this mean for the rest of the market? In some fields, we see increased competition (e.g. Shopify empowering small entrepreneurs to get off Amazon, rumors of competing search engines etc.), so brace for impact this year.

The second Big Tech discussion revolves around individuals’ rights – especially when it comes to privacy and free speech. It peaked with “a president” being kicked off Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. then his associated right-extremist app getting banned from Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, eventually its hosting being canceled by AWS. Do they have the right to do it? “It depends.” Yes, each of their respective Terms and Conditions forbids hate speech. No, they should not have that much power. Yes, it was the right thing to do in order to avoid further escalation of violence. No, this should be regulated. Where does this leave the regular us? Not much changes for now, unless you’re pushing the limits of what can be legally done. But then, regulatory bodies have already started looking into it, so maybe we get the first rulings by the end of 2021.

Public Service Announcement

We are, by no stretch of the imagination, virology/immunology experts. But as vaccination starts rolling out, we have seen very informed voices pointing out that:

  • You are presumed (with ~95% efficiency/accuracy) to be immune about 10-14 days after the second shot. Until then, you can still get sick.
  • Once immune, you can still carry and transmit the virus. When in public, please observe the same rules as before: respect the lockdown measures, wear a mask, keep distance when in public.

…So the best prediction for 2021? If we’re all strict about rooting the virus out, we’ll meet in person for the summer party!

Until then, stay safe and healthy!
Berg Software

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PS: We are also no prediction experts (oh well), so we’re curious to see how our list overlaps with the one of DevOps.com – their Predict 2021 event is on January 21-22, with free registration and a great speakers’ roster.

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