Searchlight List of Lists: Top tech predictions for 2015

Our annual Searchlight List of Lists shows that 2014 wasn't all breaches and tech flops. The rise of the shared economy, the splashy debut of connected devices and personal assistant apps galore were just some of the highlights.

Looking back at what happened in technology in 2014, it's easy to mark it down as the year of data breaches. It wasn't that hacks hadn't happened before last year, but the scale and impact of each consecutive breach kept snowballing. From the Target heist, to the leak of Hollywood celebs' nude pictures, to the compromise of 56 million Home Depot customers' payment card accounts, to the apex of this year's breaches -- the destructive infiltration of Sony Pictures' systems -- the shock and awe of cybertheft left us reeling. As Wired's Kim Zetter spells out, 2014 was a cybersecurity nightmare for a whole lot of people in addition to network administrators -- including customers, corporations and the U.S. government.

Some pundits wrote off the year as a repeat of 2013, replete as it was with tech fails and tech yawns -- product launches that were either "eye-wateringly terrible" or "downright pointless," as Andy Dawson of the U.K.'s Mirror rather dramatically lamented. These misses included the overhyped Amazon Fire phone, the initially promising but short-lived Ello, and the beleaguered iOS 8 (whose kinks have since been ironed out, phew!).

Optimist that I am, I prefer to look on the bright side of tech. As The Street's Chris Ciacca points out, there was plenty of technology that went right in 2014 and that augurs even better IT to come: Google's purchase of Nest and Dropcam and the unveiling of Apple Watch, Ciacca points out, make the concept of the connected device a lot more real. He goes so far as to predict that Apple has a hit on its hands with the Apple Watch. Now that's optimism for you, considering that some data out there suggests there isn't all that much interest among U.S. iPhone users to buy the smart device. We shall see.

Here's what others learned from 2014 and their tech predictions for 2015, as we kick off the new year:

  • 2014 was also a solid year for the sharing economy, with startups like Uber and Airbnb garnering a lot of attention -- especially from investors -- and spreading into new cities at breakneck speed. But the disruptive business models also hit some regulatory bumps in the road.
  • If some of 2014's high-profile breaches were any indication, many users put their personal information at risk by persisting with bad tech habits -- does using the same password for multiple accounts ring a bell? Time to break these routines in 2015.
  • IDC's technology predictions for 2015 are no joke -- the numbers-heavy report is 17 pages long. But beyond all the data, IDC homes in on China's thriving smartphone market, the narrowing pool of cloud players and more.
  • While Oscar Raymundo's trends list for Inc. overlaps with others on a couple of things, he also pinpointed further innovations in virtual personal assistants, predicting that they'll be further integrated into other predictive products. Also, according to Raymundo, mobile payment apps such as PayPal's Venmo will likely get baked into social offerings from Facebook, Twitter and others.
  • Last but not least, here are The New Yorker's top 10 most memorable tech quotes of 2014, which range from disturbing (Uber CEO's not so politically correct quip about women) to moving (Apple CEO Tim Cook's coming out in Bloomberg Businessweek).

So what do you predict for technology in 2015? Will you dwell on the what-ifs of 2014? Or is 2015 full of promise for IT folks? I'm hoping for the latter. Here's to a happy and productive new year!

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups on North Korea's involvement in the Sony breach, and how the Sony hack differs from other attacks.

Next Steps

Read last year's Searchlight Lists of Lists for 2013's best and worst in tech. Then, find out what some of our readers' IT resolutions are for the new year. Finally, read what SearchCIO expert Niel Nickolaisen predicts are the big CIO trends in 2015.

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