NEW YORK (
) -- Now that I've
, it's time to speculate about what 2013 might bring.
Everything mobile moved to the forefront this year. Mobile hardware was at the heart of everything, led by companies like
and, to a lesser extent,
. Mobile payments were provided by
. Mobile shopping was done on Amazon and a variety of other flash-sites and daily-deal shopping.
That theme won't change in 2013, though there may be fewer products and more services, software and games.
On the following pages is an outlook, including the possibility of an Apple TV and the fate of certain handset makers.
Twitter Files to Go Public
This isn't the same thing as
did in mid-2012. Twitter will likely
its documents in preparation for an initial public offering in 2014.
Last year I predicted that
would acquire the micro-blogging site. I wouldn't be surprised if Google makes another run at Twitter, though I expect Twitter would prefer to remain independent.
CEO Dick Costolo has been pretty adamant that the company doesn't need to raise funds soon, as it tries to maximize revenue, while maintaining the user experience and value that Twitter has become. In mid-2012, Twitter said it "expects to generate at least $1 billion in sales in 2014."
I think we'll see Twitter file its documents around November, with an expected offering sometime around February.
Zynga Gets Acquired
Zynga has had a rough 2012, that's for sure. The company has lost nearly three-quarters of its value, important executives have
, and Facebook recently distanced itself from the game maker.
CEO Mark Pincus still owns a significant portion of the company (50.15% of the voting rights as of August), despite having sold off significant amounts of stock in the initial public offering and subsequent offering earlier this year.
Zynga, best known for its
Words With Friends
is trading at extremely cheap levels. It has almost enough cash on hand (about $1.6 billion at the end of the
) to equal its market cap ($1.8 billion). Zynga is still generating cash flow from operations -- $30.1 million in the third quarter -- and it owns a valuable piece of real estate, its San Francisco headquarters.
a tweet that said going private should be an option for Zynga. Given the amount of cash it has on hands, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see a management-led buyout on this one.
An Apple Television
People have been speculating about an Apple-branded television since Steve Jobs mentioned the idea in his biography. "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud." No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
I mused that it would happen last year, but now it looks like a rollout may take place in 2013. Some analysts on Wall Street are saying the same thing.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicts Apple will launch a television set in November 2013, selling between $1,500 and $2,000. "We expect the beauty of the design to be a feature, but the most important feature will be the ability to use the TV as the main interface for the living room across multiple devices. We believe the TV will include Siri and FaceTime. The biggest item unlikely to come with the TV will be unbundled channels," Munster wrote in his note.
I think we may get one earlier than November, perhaps as early as March. Apple has moved up the iPad release to October, the iPhone is in September and Macs may be refreshed in June. Spring is open on Apple's calendar.
Larry Ellison Retires
CEO has shown no signs of slowing down, he is a senior citizen. At 68, Ellison is one of the older CEOs in tech, and it's not like he needs the money. Ellison is sixth on
, with an estimated net worth of $36 billion.
Ellison is so rich, he recently bought his own Hawaiian island, so it's not like he's scrounging pennies to put in the piggy bank. I don't think Ellison is going to step down next year, but I wouldn't be surprised by it either. Perhaps the death of his best friend, Steve Jobs, has got him ruminating about life.
If he does indeed decide to call it quits, my two best guesses are internal choices as his replacement: Oracle co-presidents Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, who joined Oracle in 2005 and 2010, respectively. Ellison said Catz would be his successor "if I dropped dead tomorrow," but he's also said the replacement should be an engineer, neither of which Catz or Hurd are.
Chalk this one up as highly unlikely, but you never say never in this business.
Intel Becomes a Major Foundry
It's no secret that Intel is losing the mobile chip space to
, as Intel's -x86 architecture can't compete when it comes to power consumption.
Intel has a few courses of action: continue going head-to-head with ARM-based processors as it's done before, license ARM's technology, or become a foundry, manufacturing chips for third-party companies.
I suspect that Intel will ramp up its foundry business for companies looking to produce their own chip sets, similar to what Apple is doing with its A-series chips for the iPhone and iPad. Intel is already producing chips for smaller third parties, but nothing like what Apple would need for its iDevices. That would make Intel one of the largest foundries in the world, competing with
I don't think we'll see Apple cave to Intel on using -x86 architecture in any iDevices, as the app ecosystem has been created using ARM-based technology. And I can't see Intel licensing ARM's Cortex processors. Intel will do anything to get a piece of the Apple pie, particularly as rumors hint of Apple moving away from Intel altogether.
Apple Makes a MacBook Air That Runs iOS
Going back to the last prediction, Apple has been looking to move away from Intel for its MacBook lines, and it sure isn't going to give away any of its industry-leading profit margins when it comes to owning the whole device.
suggested that Apple would distance itself from Intel in its MacBooks, though not for a few years.
Apple reportedly has big plans for its chip business, now headed by Bob Mansfield as part of the Technologies unit. Technologies combines all of Apple's wireless teams and Apple's semiconductors group, which according to the press release
, the semiconductor unit has "ambitious plans for the future."
Apple has been trying to merge OS X, its desktop operating system with iOS, its mobile operating system, and has done so with some success. I don't expect a full-fledged iOS-enabled MacBook Air, but perhaps one that runs both operating systems. We could potentially see OS X become so iOS-like that users will have a tough time telling the difference.
Big Data Mergers
Big data is all the rage, as companies try to understand their customers better, and cater to specific needs.
Considering how flush with cash the technology sector is, I would not be surprised to see a buying spree on "big data" companies that add discovery and analytical technologies to their portfolios.
is one company that focuses on data, having called itself the "Google of big data" to
and perhaps even Google itself may be willing to open up their checkbooks to make more sense of the world's information overload.
Microsoft Makes Xbox 720
Xbox 360 has been a huge hit since the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant launched the gaming console in 2005. Though some Microsoft execs have said a new console won't come out for a few years, I believe that's a smoke screen.
Microsoft executive Shane Kim
the Xbox 360 in 2009 and said the device could last as long as until 2015. A lot has changed in three years, and it's increasingly likely that Microsoft, along with
, will release new gaming consoles, as
did earlier this year, with the Wii U.
It's unknown at this point what the device will look like, but it's a good bet it will offer many of the same great features that have made the Xbox 360 a success, including Xbox Live, and various content deals, with the likes of
I'd expect the next Xbox to be released somewhere around mid-November, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
Nokia Goes Under
has enjoyed some optimism recently, as sales of the Nokia Lumia 920 extend a lifeline to the struggling Finnish handset maker.
Nokia is working to bring the new device to a multitude of carriers, including
, the world's largest. But once Apple is firmly entrenched around the world with its iPhone 5 and Samsung offers its latest and greatest, it may be curtains for the Finns.
Nokia has a heavy debt load and has been trying to cut costs, but cutting can only get you so far. If sales of the Lumia 920 and other offerings remain "mixed," as Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley put it recently in an analyst note, Nokia may have to use more of its net cash to survive. Walkley says Nokia will have "roughly ¿2.5B in net cash exiting 2013, and this is lower than the ¿3.6B in net cash currently on the balance sheet due to restructuring cash payment estimates and our expectations for ongoing operating losses that will also adversely impact the cash balance."
Nokia could sell its strong patent portfolio to stave off the inevitable a little while longer, along with other assets such as Navteq, but I believe 2013 will prove to be an incredibly difficult year for Nokia, as it continues to lose market share.
Steve Ballmer Leaves Microsoft
Steve Ballmer has been at the helm of Microsoft since January 2000, taking over for Bill Gates, who started the company. Since Ballmer has been CEO, shares have lost 9.65%, excluding dividends, according to
. Needless to say, shareholders are starting to get antsy.
Windows 8, which was supposed to be the company's saving grace, has had a lackluster reception, due to its difficult interface. The reception has been so poor that Windows head Steve Sinofsky
Sinofsky was thought to be a successor to Ballmer. Now that Sinofsky is out, the pressure is really going to mount on Ballmer to try to right the ship. If he can't, then maybe the board of directors will decide it's time for a change.
The next guy probably couldn't do much worse.
-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York