With SXSW Interactive 2014 winding to a close, it’s time to ponder which trends will have the tech community buzzing next year. Hint: it all starts with advances on the mobile front.

Smartphones as Remote Controls

Connected TVs and mobile are coming into their own at the same time, and not without reason. The ease with which consumers can carry their media experiences from screen to screen is only going to get easier. This has significant implications for traditional media like TV and even newspapers.

A device as simple and affordable as a Chromecast can transform a compromised viewing experience on a smartphone into a premium viewing experience on a flat screen TV, with no wires and very few clicks involved. Smartphones as programming devices are increasingly resembling remote controls. Conversely, a newspaper like the New York Times doesn’t have to be something to browse in the coffee line or on the train, its video section can now be your Nightly News if you like, just one more reason every publisher on the planet needs to go ALL IN on video.

A Third Mobile Platform

As iOS cedes some of its hegemony to Android, there’s still room for a third mobile OS to breakthrough in a big way in a year’s time. But who will it be? Despite generally high praise for its UI, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is struggling for market share at a meager 3.2%, while yesteryear players like Blackberry are trying to reinvent themselves. The door is wide open for surprise players like Cyanogenmod, a community-built Android operating system, and Firefox OS to take a big step forward in 2014.

Branded Video Content

There was no shortage of spotlight on content producers at SXSW this year, but very little branded video content or their creators were highlighted in a meaningful way. As The Social Network and House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti said during his SXSW chat with Randi Zuckerberg, this third category of content (after “user-generated” and traditional content producers like movie studios) is still in its infancy, but expect that to shift in a big way in 2014 as more dollars flow into video and brands become more practiced at creating and distributing high-quality, high-profile video content.

Hands-Free Mobile

Between wearables, the cloud, and more sophisticated apps and functionality on smartphones and tablets, we’re rapidly approaching the day where we can do an awful lot of computing without typing a word, which is frankly wonderful, since the outright slog of typing words on a smartphone is pretty much the only thing thwarting a fullscale mobile revolution (by the way, this is a primary reason browsing content will continue to flourish on mobile devices — reading an article doesn’t require typing!). The minute someone solves the typing problem or largely abolishes the need for it altogether via sophisticated voice-command software, we’ll all be living the future depicted in the movie Her – which is either terrifying or really cool.


While not completely ignored at SXSW this year, the notion of discovery and serendipity as a sibling to search is still findings its way to the tech mainstream. Expect that to change come this time next year as consumers begin to rely more heavily on personalized filters to bring them the content they want to engage with, any time, any place. As Outbrain can attest, more and more dollars from advertisers are shifting toward this important new media category, which means pretty soon we’re all going to have to start talking about it.

Photo courtesy of Steppschuh via Flickr