Here's part two of a 2-part look back at which of my 2019 tech predictions did and didn't prove accurate. Part one can be found here, and the predictions themselves (made last December) can be found here and here.
Prediction #11: Amazon's Offline Retail Efforts Swell, While Its Online Dominance Attracts More Scrutiny
Verdict: Mostly True
Amazon.com (AMZN) didn't carry out any massive new offline retail investments this year. But Jeff Bezos' company did announce that it's launching a chain of grocery stores that will be separate from (and from the looks of things, cheaper than) Whole Foods. In addition, Amazon was reported to be thinking about both launching supermarkets that support Amazon Go's cashierless checkout technology, as well as licensing Go's technology to select retailers.
And yes, in a year that saw tech giants in general attract greater antitrust scrutiny, Amazon's online retail operations weren't ignored. The FTC launched an antitrust probe that reportedly covers Amazon's fulfillment fee policies and Prime services bundling, along with the ties between its direct e-commerce and marketplace businesses. And the EU opened a probe into Amazon's alleged use of marketplace sales data to strengthen its direct e-commerce business.
Prediction #12: 3 of Facebook's 4 Main Platforms See Major Changes
Verdict: Partly True
The prediction here was that Facebook (FB) would get more aggressive about trying to boost user engagement for its core app, and would also step up its efforts to monetize Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Facebook did unfurl several moves to boost core app usage. These included launching a News tab and its previously-announced dating service, expanding the reach of its Marketplace service and investing more in its Watch video platform.
However, while things are likely to change some in 2020, Facebook continued to take a cautious approach to monetizing Messenger and WhatsApp's giant user bases. Rather, the biggest 2019 product announcement related to the apps involved a project to integrate and support end-to-end encryption across Facebook's various messaging services (including Instagram Direct).
Prediction #13: Facebook's Other Main Platform -- Instagram -- Loses a Bit of Its Luster
Verdict: Not Really
Instagram did get some negative publicity from time to time over things such as the behavior of "influencers" and its potential impact on self-esteem. But it avoided seeing anything resembling the backlash its parent company witnessed in 2018. And it's worth adding here that relative to many social media peers, Instagram's leadership has been fairly proactive about addressing the kinds of issues that could eventually spark a larger backlash.
Prediction #14: AMD Gains Mindshare Among PC Buyers
It's safe to say that AMD (AMD) had a pretty good 2019. And among its highlights for the year was the launch of very competitive third-gen Ryzen desktop CPUs that both drove share gains and made the days of AMD being seen as a cut-rate PC CPU brand feel like a distant memory.
And while AMD's progress in the notebook processor market wasn't as dramatic, the company did gain some share here as well with the help of solid design win activity with leading notebook OEMs.
Prediction #15: Chinese Tech Stocks Outperform*
Verdict: The Asterisk Wins
The asterisk was meant to signify that this prediction could be blown up by trade tensions continuing over the course of 2019. That's pretty much what happened.
Nonetheless, while Chinese tech stocks didn't collectively have a standout year, many of them still did well. The KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF is up 29% on the year, nearly matching the Nasdaq's 32% gain.
Prediction #16: Uber Struggles to Live Up to Its Pre-IPO Valuation
Verdict: Quite True
Needless to say, things didn't go as planned either during or after the IPO process. Though its stock has bounced a little in recent weeks, Uber currently sports a $51 billion market cap, as investors remain on edge about both Uber's losses in general and the performance of its Uber Eats food-delivery unit in particular
(Now if only I'd also mentioned Lyft and WeWork in this prediction.)
Prediction #17: AR Makes More Noise Than VR
AR and VR are both still in their infancies, as headset developers both work to address current hardware shortcomings and/or build a critical mass of users and developers. But of the two technologies, AR arguably got a little more consumer and corporate attention this year.
Mobile app developers running the gamut from Snap to Adobe to Microsoft (see Minecraft Earth) continued investing in AR-powered apps and features. And headset developers such as Nreal pushed the envelope regarding what lightweight AR glasses are capable of. It's still early days, but a lot of big and not-so-big tech names are taking AR quite seriously.
Still, VR did make some incremental progress of its own, even if VR headsets remain a niche market for now. Facebook's Oculus Quest headset and Valve's Index headset have both sold out during the holiday season.
Prediction #18: Enterprise and Telecom Hardware Spending Go in Opposite Directions
The prediction here was that enterprise hardware spending would slump following a strong 2018, and that telecom hardware spending (under pressure for a long time) would rebound.
Enterprise hardware spend did significantly weaken, as an Intel (INTC) server CPU upgrade cycle came to an end and IT departments continued prioritizing software and cloud services spending over hardware purchases. But with 5G network rollouts still in their early stages and many telcos seeing little or no revenue growth, telecom capital spending didn't improve much.
Prediction #19: OLEDs Move Downmarket
Verdict: True (But Moreso for Phones Than TVs)
Thanks to both panel price declines as well as the popularity of OLED displays among smartphone users, it's now pretty common to spot OLED panels on mid-range smartphones. Google's Pixel 3a phones and Samsung's latest A-series phones are good examples.
OLED TVs have been reaching lower price points as well. But outside of the occasional promotion, prices are still typically above $1,000.
Prediction #20: Netflix Revamps Its Pricing -- Possibly in Both Directions
After testing out the concept in 2018, Netflix (NFLX) rolled out a cheap, mobile-only, streaming plan in India this summer, and more recently launched one in Malaysia. Odds are good that mobile-only plans will launch in other emerging markets over the course of 2020.
And as many readers probably know, Netflix also revamped its pricing in the other direction in the U.S., carrying out early-2019 price hikes before Disney (DIS) officially priced (never mind launched) its Disney+ service. Price hikes were also carried out in some international markets.
At the same time, Netflix didn't (as I thought it might following 2018 tests) try to crack down on password-sharing by cutting the number of simultaneous streams supported by cheaper plans. However, Netflix exec Greg Peters did indicate in October that his company is exploring its options for reducing password-sharing.