We still won't see any pizza delivery drones, and your local dairy still won't offer Paywave. But here are some tech trends that will happen in 2020.
1. A 5G iPhone
5G hit New Zealand just before Christmas as Vodafone upgraded 100 main-centre cell towers to the faster, smarter mobile technology, and Spark launched fixed-wireless services for several South Island towns. This year, look for more coverage, a big Vodafone push into fixed-wireless (using mobile as a landline substitute) and Apple launching a 5G iPhone - a key taking-it-to-the-mainstream development that will see Spark motoring to matching Vodafone's 5G mobile service.
2. The console wars reignite
After several quiet years, the console wars will be back this year as Microsoft launches its Xbox Series X, and Sony unleashes the PlayStation 5. Both will feature various incremental improvements, such as snazzier graphics and biffing hard drives in favour of solid-state memory - which should mean much faster load times. But will it be enough to stave off the nascent threat from streaming gaming services like Google Stadia and Apple Arcade?
3. No backlash against Big Tech
Given Google's Grace Millane case name-suppression breach and Facebook's foot-dragging response to the mosque massacres failed to provoke any local crackdown on Big Tech, it's hard to see what could this year. At some point, some politician will step up and make a lot of hay by addressing popular concerns about Big Tech's cavalier attitude to privacy and personal data. But right now, there are no obvious contenders - and that won't change in the runup to an election where we'll see politicians and parties throw money at Facebook rather than regulate it.
4. Mandatory data breach disclosure
A revamp of our privacy law should finally be passed into law this year. Privacy Commissioner John Edwards didn't get everything on his wish list, including the ability to levy $1 million fines, but he did win the concession that organisations will have to disclose when they lose your data, or when it gets stolen.
5. More cut-out-the-middleman streaming services
Once upon a time, scarce satellite capacity monopolised by Sky was the only way to deliver pay-TV content to all Kiwis. Then came the likes of Netflix, which began life by aggregating content made by others. Now, with the rise of broadband, content creators are wondering if they need middlemen old or new. In 2019, we saw Disney decide it was better off reaching consumers directly with its Disney+ streaming services, and pulling most of its content from both Sky and online rivals. Maybe this year will see HBO follow suit with HBO Max. And given Disney+'s success (the streaming service attracted 15 million subs in its first five days), it's unlikely to be the last.
6. A big old social media mess of an election
We've already seen some social media ads and posts that rather bend the truth (see the Herald's fact-checkers on National here and Labour here). This year's general election will likely see a full-on descent into US and UK style social media mayhem - and if so, my pick is that we'll see only tepid attempts by the Electoral Commission, the Advertising Standard Authority and social media platforms themselves to referee as multinational Big Tech companies and the content they publish continues to slip between the cracks.
7. The rise of micro-mobility
Don't like e-scooters? Too bad. Auckland Council has just increased its e-scooter licence limit from 1875 to 3200 (even if most of the newcomers won't be on streets til next month). Watch for other local bodies to follow suit, even though central government has yet to modernise laws about whether the likes of e-scooters can invade footpaths, and investments in cycleways lags. And 2020 will also see the rise of mass-market e-bike sharing. Uber says it will have 655 of its Jump bikes on Auckland streets by next month.
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8. Bendy screen smart devices
Samsung's Galaxy Fold landed at the tail-end of 2019. This year we'll see more bendy screen phones, plus foldable-screen laptops from the likes of Lenovo, Dell and HP. They look cool, but cost the Earth and are a little chunky - and after several false-starts, there are question marks over reliability. Wait for Version 2.0 in 2021.
9. Fulminating over net censorship - but no real action
Whether you believe in blocking certain online content or not, 2019 was a confused mess in this department. The Government leaned on internet service providers to block some sites post-March 15, and they did - and they subsequently voluntarily blocked other content. But Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees also said they were reluctant sheriffs. They wanted the Government to clarify which agency was responsible for censoring content, and when. Meanwhile, Chief Censor Bill Hastings moved strongly against some mosque massacre content, but most streaming video and game content was outside his jurisdiction. InternetNZ put emergency measures in place to make some content impossible for most people to find. And Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin put online porn in her sights, but it was not clear how NZ could overcome the technical issues that stymied similar censorship efforts in the UK and Australia. It would be good to see some more coordination this year, but it's not obvious who will take the lead with practical, achievable measures that don't overstep civil liberties. Another muddle-through seems the most likely outcome.
10. The world's fastest fibre
After the UFB fibre rollout, New Zealand already has some of the best landline broadband in the world. It will get even better in a couple of months as Chorus and other network providers launch 2 gigabit per second and 4 Gbit/s services - with 10 Gbit/s on the cards by year's end. That's a bananas amount of broadband - more than any household could ever use and scads for any business competing in the online economy. But you can never have enough broadband, and new uses will follow just as night follows day. Sign me up.