6 Tech Predictions for 2013: Amazon Smartphone, Google X Phone and Microsoft Surface Phone

(Updated Jan. 4, 2013)

The following are 6 predictions (in alphabetical order) for 2013 regarding some of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world.

1) Amazon Will Launch Its First Smartphone and Purchase a Mobile OS

With plenty of evidence from the Wall Street Journal, Amazon will launch its first smartphone in 2013.  Given the price point of the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, the Amazon smartphone will likely be aimed at the low-end of the market.  In addition, it will likely arrive in the final quarter of the year (in time for the Holiday season).

2013 will also be the year Jeff Bezos decides whether Amazon will continue to use a modified version of Google’s Android, or whether it will control its own OS.  This will be partially determined by the success of the Kindle Fire HD and Amazon smartphone in 2013.  I expect that Jeff Bezos will decide to have Amazon control its own destiny (and its own OS).  Amazon will acquire Jolla (Sailfish OS), RIM or a third viable OS.

2) Apple Will Embrace NFC and Take Control of Its Supply Chain

Because of the complexity in reaching deals with content providers and TV networks, Apple’s much-anticipated iTV will launch after the iWatch.  In comparison, the iWatch is much simpler.  It is essentially an iPod Nano with added features and a strap.  It will likely launch by September-October at the latest (in time for the Holiday season).  With Apple’s beautiful hardware designs, we expect strong sales of the iWatch, even if the usual iOS glitches are present.  On the other hand, we expect the iTV to launch in late 2013 at the earliest, with early to mid 2014 being equally likely.

With over $100 billion in cash and the painful lesson of being burned by its largest supplier, Apple will take greater control of its supply chain in 2013.  For example, Horace Deidu from Asymco believes Apple took control of a Sharp screen production line.  Apple could take equity stakes in its suppliers, especially struggling companies such as Sharp.  In addition, we expect Apple to drop Intel as its supplier, and design its own CPUs for its Mac computers.  Of course, Apple will move at least 20-30% of its chip production from Samsung to another foundry as soon as possible, with TSMC being the most likely candidate.

Of course, Apple will undergo product refreshes for its iPod, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone and iMac lines.  With the 4th Generation iPad, Apple has shown that it has moved to a 6-month product cycle (for some products).  Thus, the iPhone 5S will arrive in April/May, while the iPad Mini 2 will launch in May/June.

We expect some Apple products to support NFC in 2013.  While the iPhone 5S will ship with a NFC chip, Apple’s NFC payments software could be released after the iPhone 5S launches.

3) BlackBerry Will Make The Comeback of The Decade

With RIM aiming to launch six BlackBerry 10 models in calendar 2013, it should have no trouble selling 40 million BB 10 smartphones (10 million per quarter) in 2013.  Since the breakeven point for the company is estimated at 18 million BB 10 units,RIM will return to profitability in 2013.

The most interesting aspect of BB 10 (and QNX Neutrino) is its use beyond smartphones.  Thorstein Heins has talked in a recent interview about smartphones replacing desktops and laptops in the near future.  A patent filing shows that RIM will likely be launching a dock for BB 10 smartphones in late 2013 or early to mid 2014.  BB 10 can multi-task while running Citrix Receiver, which could be a big threat to Microsoft’s enterprise PCs.

BlackBerry will continue its push into NFC payments using its SEM solution.  In addition, it will move into other markets using BB 10, including smart home security systems.  In fact, these developments could prove to be the most interesting for BlackBerry loyalists.

4) Google X Phone Will Eat into Samsung’s Market Share; Android Will Face Stiff Competition

After depleting the 12-18 months of product pipeline left over from Motorola Mobility, Google-influenced Motorola smartphones will finally launch between May and December of 2013.  The Google X Phone is bound to have a few innovative features not offered by Apple or Samsung.  Because of its high-end specifications, we expect Google to target the high-end segment of the market.

Google’s Android will face competition from new open-source platforms, including Firefox OS, Tizen, Sailfish (by Jolla) and Ubuntu.  The good news for Android is that some of these OSs will launch in 2014.  The biggest threat to Android is Samsung’s Tizen, since it is the only one supported by significant marketing dollars.

With the tech giants battling for the consumer’s living room, we expect Google to release a refresh of its Google TV.  Accessories such as a successor to the Nexus Q will also be released.

5) Microsoft Will Launch a Surface Smartphone

With the experience gained from the Surface tablet, Microsoft will launch Surface smartphones in 2013.  Microsoft will continue to work towards offering one operating system for smartphones, tablets and desktops.  We expect Microsoft to tease elements of this unified OS in 2013, with a release in 2014.

As long as Steve Ballmer remains as CEO, Microsoft will not abandon WP 8, nor will it acquire another mobile OS such as BlackBerry.  If Nokia’s conditions were to worsen, Microsoft would either take an equity stake or buy out the company.

6) Samsung Will Launch Tizen Smartphones, Android-Powered DSLR Cameras and Open More Samsung Stores

Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, Samsung will open more Samsung Stores around the world.  As Samsung faces a looming threat from a Google-backed Motorola, it will invest more heavily in Bada, Tizen and WP 8.  In fact, Samsung will launch its first Tizen-powered smartphone in 2013.  Promoting Tizen will require a significantly investment from Samsung.  However, Samsung can apply its success with Android in pushing this new platform.  With Samsung beating Apple in smartphone shipments and stock market performance in 2012, it is more than capable of promoting a new platform.

Samsung has years of experience producing cameras, and its new Galaxy camera is powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.  After using Android to disrupt the point-and-shoot segment in 2012, Samsung will produce Android-powered DSLRs in 2013.  A DSLR equipped with Wi-Fi, 3G/4G and easy-to-use software will be disruptive to Canon and Nikon.

What do you think will happen in mobile and technology in 2013?  Leave your comment below.

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  • http://twitter.com/gyubok Gyubok Baik

    Insightful predictions! Although, I do wish you would clarify the connection you made with iWatch (which the strength of the rumor is extremely weak) and iTV

    • Michael Li

      That is true – only one website broke the story on the iWatch. But I’ve always believed that Apple can make a lot more money if they offered more accessories. According to a colleague who sells smartphone accessories on Ebay, Apple users tend to pay full-price to buy accessories from the Apple Store (and not from Ebay).

      Apple is now very much a fashion company. Offering the iWatch would play to Apple’s strengths.

  • Luke Longball

    I stopped reading after the author contradicted himself – how can Amazon acquire RIM if you’re asserting that RIM is going to make the comeback of the decade?

    Also, since it’s only 3 years into the decade I would say that some pretty bold assumptions are being made here.

    • Michael Li

      Nope, I don’t think there’s any contradiction there. I wrote that “Amazon will acquire Jolla (Sailfish OS), RIM or a third viable OS”. So Amazon could end up buying Ubuntu (and not RIM).

      As of yesterday’s market close, Amazon’s market cap was $113.6 billion and RIM’s was $6.2 billion. Even if RIM’s market cap triples in 2013 (to $18.6 billion) Amazon could still easily buy the company.

      • Luke Longball

        As of recent, RIM has not presented themselves as being for sale.

        In fact, Thorsten Heins (CEO of RIM) has gone so far as to say that BlackBerry 10 will kill the laptop in 3-5 years time.


        • http://twitter.com/gyubok Gyubok Baik

          Heins also noted the possibility of licensing the BB10 os. Now, whether RIM will license BB10 to third parties regardless of the success of BB10 phones is unknown but still a possibility.

          I think Amazon buying Ubuntu or RIM is highly unlikely, actually not a chance. Amazon wont buy Ubuntu because it is not for sale and it wont buy RIM because 1. If BB10 succeeds, RIM’s Canadian pride will soar and 2. If BB10 fails, Amazon wont want RIM at the price RIM will ask.

          • Derek Fedak

            1) BB10 succeeding and Canadian pride soaring is NOT a reason for Amazon to not acquire RIM.

            2) BB10 won’t fail.

            3) How’s your iPhone?

            Enough said.

          • Michael Li

            Ya I agree with the BB 10 licensing part.

            Ubuntu is maintained by Canonical, which is a private company. It is absolutely possible to buy Canonical (and take control of Ubuntu). In fact, it would probably cost around $200 million (what RIM paid to buy QNX).

        • Derek Fedak

          It does NOT matter whether or not RIM has presented themselves for sale. A company is free to make a bid at any time for the majority of a company’s shares. This is what being a public company is all about!

  • John

    i think apple will buy a good number of small tech companies

    • Derek Fedak

      Thanks so much for your insight.

      Much appreciated.