Previous Blogs

December 15, 2020
Intel Bets Future on Software and Manufacturing

December 8, 2020
Cisco Webex Updates Tools for Hybrid Work Environments

December 1, 2020
Qualcomm Pushes Mobility Forward with Snapdragon 888

November 17, 2020
Microsoft and Chip Partners Help Secure Future PCs with Pluton Processor

November 10, 2020
MediaTek Driving New Low-Cost Options for 5G and Chromebooks

October 27, 2020
Sony Highlights Remote Technologies for Creators

October 21, 2020
Dell Technologies Embraces “As-A-Service” Models with Project Apex

October 13, 2020
PC Growth and Evolution Continues to Impress

October 6, 2020
Google Workspace Reflects Changing Nature of Productivity

September 22, 2020
Microsoft Highlights Future of Work with Teams Updates

September 14, 2020
Nvidia Purchase of Arm Completely Resets Semiconductor Landscape

September 1, 2020
Nvidia Pushes Ray-Traced Gaming Ahead with 3000 Series GPUs

August 25, 2020
Pending Fall Tech Releases Bring Excitement and Hope for Normalcy

August 18, 2020
Intel Chip Advancements Show They’re Up for a Competitive Challenge

August 11, 2020
New 5G Opportunities Coming with Mid-Band Radio Frequencies

July 28, 2020
The Shifting Semiconductor Sands

July 21, 2020
Microsoft and Partners Bring More Hyperconverged Hybrid Cloud Options to Azure

July 14, 2020
New Study Highlights Pandemic-Driven Shifts in IT Priorities

July 7, 2020
Nvidia Virtual GPU Update Brings Remote Desktops, Workstations and VR to Life

June 30, 2020
Power Efficient Computing Noteworthy During Pandemic

June 23, 2020
Apple Transition Provides Huge Boost for Arm

June 16, 2020
Cisco Highlights Focus on Location as Companies Start to Reopen

June 9, 2020
WiFi 6E Opens New Possibilities for Fast Wireless Connectivity

May 26, 2020
Arm Doubles Down on AI for Mobile Devices

May 19, 2020
Microsoft Project Reunion Widens Windows 10 Opportunity to One Billion Devices

May 12, 2020
New Workplace Realities Highlight Opportunity for Cloud-Based Apps and Devices

May 5, 2020
HP’s New Chromebooks, Thin Clients and Gaming Machines Highlight PC Evolution

April 28, 2020
Google Anthos Extending Cloud Reach with Cisco, Amazon and Microsoft Connections

April 21, 2020
Remote Access Solutions Getting Extended and Expanded

April 14, 2020
Apple Google Contact Tracing Effort Raises Fascinating New Questions

April 7, 2020
Need for Multiple Video Platforms Becoming Apparent

March 31, 2020
Microsoft 365 Shift Demonstrates Evolution of Cloud-Based Services

March 24, 2020
The Time for Pragmatism in Tech is Now

March 17, 2020
The Value of Contingencies and Remote Collaboration

March 10, 2020
AMD Highlights Path to the Future

March 3, 2020
Coronavirus-Induced Pause Gives Tech Industry Opportunity to Reflect

February 25, 2020
Intel Focuses on 5G Infrastructure

February 18, 2020
Apple Coronavirus Warnings Highlight Complexities of Tech Supply Chains

February 11, 2020
Arm Brings AI and Machine Learning to IoT and the Edge

February 4, 2020
Nvidia Opens Next Chapter of Cloud Gaming

January 21, 2020
Cloud Workload Variations Highlight Diversity of Cloud Computing

January 14, 2020
New Research Shows It’s a Hybrid and Multi-Cloud World

January 7, 2020
It’s 2020 and PCs are Alive and Kicking

2019 Blogs

2018 Blogs

2017 Blogs

2016 Blogs

2015 Blogs

2014 Blogs

2013 Blogs

TECHnalysis Research Blog

January 5, 2021
Big Tech Trends for 2021 Are Hybridization and Customization

By Bob O'Donnell

While it may seem like a bit of a fool’s errand to try and make predictions after a year that absolutely no one expected, there do seem to be some interesting trends emerging across the tech world that will likely have an important impact in 2021. So, in the spirit of trying to make some sense of the chaos—and with the full acknowledgement that, once again, almost anything could happen—here’s my take on trends in a few specific areas, including cloud computing, work-from-home, semiconductors and connectivity, that I think could prove to be important this year.

First, at a high level, I believe 2021 will likely be the year of hybrid, well, everything. According to Webster’s, a hybrid is something “having or produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements” that is “marked by heterogeneity in origin.” In other words, it’s a blended version of different pieces that is often designed to perform the same tasks as the originals, but that does so in a different or more flexible way. Inherent in the concept of hybrid, from a technology perspective, is that existing solutions or technologies only solve or provide the capabilities for a portion of a given problem or task. It takes the combination of multiple pieces to create a more complete solution. In many cases, hybrid solutions are also seen as an evolution and/or advancement of existing “baseline” technologies.

In 2021, I expect to see a number of different variations on this hybrid concept—some of which are continuations of trends that have already started and others that are new. What ties many of them together is the fact that they are typically driven by very specific real-world needs that have only become apparent after the use of the baseline elements led to the discovery of limitations or flaws that initially weren’t readily apparent. And just as in the biological world, where the concept of hybrids originated, there is the possibility for a nearly limitless variety of combinations, each designed to meet very specific needs. In other words, many more opportunities, but the possibility for much more confusion as well.

This relates directly to the second big-picture theme I expect to see play out this year—an increased degree of customization and specialization. As the tech industry matures and its impact reaches even further into business and society, an obvious step in this maturation process is creating products and services that are more uniquely suited to a wider variety of specific applications. General purpose approaches are giving way to tailored solutions, designed to meet the particular needs of organizations, industries, individuals, and environments. The end result, once again, is a significantly wider array of choices, which creates more opportunities for a bigger group of vendors to create relevant products, but also creates the potential for more complexity and confusion in the marketplace. I’d argue that we’re there already, but I have a feeling it will get worse this year.

Looking at specific tech-based hybrid implementations, Hybrid Cloud, of course, will continue to be the cloud computing methodology that gains the most amount of attention from a product development, product marketing, and actual implementation perspective in 2021. By tying together some of the characteristics and benefits of the public cloud—most notably the new types of application and developments models built to create cloud-native applications—along with the tangible, practical benefits of onsite computing hardware, many variations of hybrid cloud are proving to be a good real-world fit to the demands of modern IT departments.

In 2021, we’ll likely see even more variations on the hybrid cloud theme, with industry-specific and other customized solutions coming to the fore. Yes, general-purpose cloud tools can be beneficial to many, but the unique demands of different industries, company sizes, regulatory environments, and other variations are driving an explosion in new offerings.

In the workplace, hybrid work environments that incorporate tools, capabilities, and processes that allow both local and remote workers to effectively collaborate will also become the norm. This topic garnered a great deal of conversation last year, but it won’t be until later this year that we actually see it getting put into practice. The full implications of what hybrid work will entail and the specific products and services it will require are still being determined—the lessons from real-world experience will undoubtedly provide insights that are hard to imagine now. What is clear even now, however, is that companies are going to need to further adapt to this new reality and make adjustments.

Concepts like hot-desking, “hoteling”, and other new types of work models are certainly going to be part of these plans, but we will likely see other variations as well. Importantly, none of these solutions are likely to meet all the specific needs of different organizations, so I expect to see many different options and for several of them to be successful. It’s definitely not one-size fits all when it comes to hybrid work tools—even, and especially, with videoconferencing and collaboration platforms. One obvious implication of hybrid work is that the transition to notebook PCs for virtually all types of workers seems nearly inevitable, and the opportunity for new types of easy to connect and share PC peripherals that work with those laptops will be important as well.

From a semiconductor perspective, look for dramatic growth in hybrid chip architectures, as well as a huge jump in the development of custom chips—particularly various types of application-specific accelerators, such as AI processors. Last year saw the debut of a growing number of custom silicon parts from companies like Apple and Amazon, whose primary focus is not semiconductors, and I expect that trend to continue this year. In addition, the rise of chiplet-based designs from more traditional semiconductor vendors like Intel and AMD—where multiple separate pieces of silicon are combined into a single finished part—will also lead to more flexible, customizable types of chips in 2021.

In the case of semiconductors, hybrid designs can also refer to the combination of chip elements made from different “process nodes”, or manufacturing sizes, that are packaged together in clever ways. This move to disaggregate different components from a single, massive chip design is arguably being led by Intel, as they’ve both recognized the limitations in pursuing that strategy, while simultaneously developing interesting new chip-stacking and other intra-chip connection and packaging technologies that make it possible. In 2021, I expect these more flexible types of hybrid designs will enable things like parts from multiple different vendors, manufactured in different places to be combined into a single, highly efficient, highly customized chip.

Finally, a less obvious implementation of hybrid technologies is likely to occur in connectivity, particularly around 5G and more advanced forms of WiFi. While some have argued that these two technologies are competitive—particularly with the expected appearance of more mid-band 5G later this year in the US along with the enormous swath of 6 GHz frequencies that WiFi 6E brings to the table—the more likely scenario is that the two will serve to complement one another. As we all learned firsthand in 2020, virtually nothing is more important than stable, fast wireless connectivity, regardless of where you are located and what type of work (or play) you are doing. As a result, efforts to increase the stability and availability of these connections is going to receive a great deal of focus.

Of course, by themselves, cellular and WiFi signals are completely independent, but what I expect to see in 2021 is targeted development efforts at the software, hardware, and even chip level to get these technologies to work together more efficiently in a hybrid model. Imagine, for example, the ability to leverage 5G and WiFi connections simultaneously to increase the speed and reliability of a wireless link. In addition, the ability to automatically and seamlessly switch between the two technologies in the event of congestion, or other problems, with one type of connection versus another would also increase the value of both of them. In order to make this happen, there will need to be more devices that include the latest flavors of both technologies, and I expect that to be a key trend for 2021 as well.

Ultimately, I’d argue that the key theme for tech trends in 2021 will be specialization. At a high level, this means more of the advances in tech will likely be seen as more incremental than truly innovative, because many of them will be refinements to existing products and services. Sure, there’s always the possibility for a completely unanticipated major breakthrough—if we take away anything from 2020 it should be to prepare for the unexpected—but it feels to me like this isn’t the year for that. Instead, I expect the tech industry to take a step back, survey what they have to offer, make important refinements and improvements to those offerings, and prep themselves for bigger innovations in the years to follow. Note that this isn’t an indictment of the industry and its capabilities, nor is it a bad thing. As many of us learned last year, sometimes the time to think and reflect can give us a clearer view of what’s needed to come.

Here’s a link to the original column:

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

Leveraging more than 10 years of award-winning, professional radio experience, TECHnalysis Research participates in a video-based podcast called Everything Technology.
  Research Offerings
TECHnalysis Research offers a wide range of research deliverables that you can read about here.