My Brush With Death

Not every tech company or device will survive and prosper in 2015. Here are six tech titans that face a struggle see out the year. The reaper awaits...

Android tablets

One interesting trend over the festive season was the rise of the large-screen Android smartphone - with a concurrent decline in tablet sales. When you can have a six-inch smartphone, why bother with a nine-inch tablet that offers less functionality. And if you want a tablet that can do stuff, these days you can opt for some kind of funky Windows hybrid laptop/tablet device that offers power PC functionality in a tiny shell.

iPad sales remain robust, but iPads are the stand out consumption tablet. And for those that wish to spend less just to watch, read and play, Amazon has a selection of dirt-cheap tabs to satisfy your every whim. What, then, is the point of Android tablets?

I imagine they will be around for a while yet, but I don't expect to see anything but a decline in sales. Once Tesco has cornered a market there really is nowhere else to go, price wise. And I just don't see what Android tablets can do better than other devices.

Survival status: keep taking the tablets

BlackBerry, the consumer phone maker

BlackBerry's tech will still be important in 10 years' time, never mind one. Every smartphone maker owes it a debt for revolutionising portable communication. And, yes, BlackBerry is still making good products. The BlackBerry Passport may not be your idea of a great consumer smartphone, but those that like it, love it.

The trouble is there aren't enough of them to offset the huge losses that BlackBerry has suffered over the past few years. Even after years of shedding staff and growing leaner, BlackBerry's time making and selling handsets is set to end, sooner or later. And as both Windows Phone and iOS move into the business world, it stands to lose its edge there too.

The future for BlackBerry is opaque, but future there will be. Its server-side tech remains best in class, and could prove a tempting target for Google, IBM or even Microsoft. BBM remains a hugely popular messaging service, available on a multitude of platforms. Just don't expect BlackBerry to be making phones you can buy on the high street for much longer.

Survival status: change is good

HTC, standing alone

HTC makes great phones. The HTC One M8 was our favourite handset when it launched, and we can't wait for the HTC One M9 'Hima'. Trouble is, not enough people feel that way.

In Q3 of 2014 HTC sold 5.7m handsets, which was 8 percent more than the same period the year before. Sounds good right? But it isn't. Not really. At the same time the global smartphone market grew by 25 percent. LG's own sales grew by 40 percent, for comparisom.

Dawrfed by far eastern giants such as Lenovo, Huawei and Xiaomi, HTC doesn't have the scale to compete. And as the market explodes it isn't keeping pace. Recent financial figures have been a little better than previously, but that probably serves only to make HTC more attractive as an aquisition for one of the afforementioned giants. If Xiaomi buys HTC it gets immediate brand recognition in Europe and the US, to which it can add its own scale and manufacturing clout. Expect HTC to be in the belly of a tech giant, sometime soon.

Survival status: come to pappa

Standalone satnavs

Squeezed between the twin prongs of built-in in-car tech, and smartphone GPS, the humble standalone satnav is on borrowed time. Pretty soon all new cars will come with all manner of connected goodness. And we all walk around with multiple devices that tell us where we are, and how to get to the next place. With issues around smartphone displays and battery life the satnav isn't dead yet, but it's tough to envisage a long-term future. Single-function devices are going the way of the dodo.

Survival status: heading straight to the tip

Windows 8

Set to be superceded in late 2015 by Windows 10, Windows 8 is unlikely to enjoy the afterlife of Windows 7 or even Windows XP. Rather, expect a rapid disappearance in the style of Windows Vista or 2000. Possibly even faster, as the likelihood is that Windows 10 will be free, and anyone who runs Windows Vista or later will be able to meet the system requirements.

Windows 8 is - unfairly in my view - unloved, and Microsoft is putting a great deal of store into its plan to make Windows 10 more popular by dint of copious amounts of user testing. There is no guarantee that will make it more popular, but it does mean that Microsoft will be desperate to push it out as quickly as possible. Connected Windows 8 users will be nagged to install the free 'upgrade' and Windows 8 will be but a sorry memory.

Survival status: new Vistas await


Each new year 24/7 Wall St. identifies 10 US brands it expects to disappear in the next 12 months. Zynga is top of the list. Zynga is the publisher of Farmville, the once hugely popular Facebook game. But it has failed to capitalise with further hits, and according to internet scuttlebut enjoys a now strained relationship with Facebook. More concerning is the fact that Zynga apps are not properly optimised for mobile.

Survival status: don't bet the Farmville

Main image from JD Hancock.