Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

The dying technologies of 2016

To every thing there is a season, and for some technologies the time to die is almost upon us

computer monitor in trash
Credit: Scott Teresi, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1

For many technologies, the time to die will be 2016.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be people still using the deceased technologies. After all, at least one company is still using an Apple IIe for accounting.

But these dying technologies are so far gone they’re not going to matter to most users and companies. For example, while Windows XP is still used by a handful of businesses and by 11% of users, according to NetMarketShare’s count, no one thinks of XP except as a slowly dying, zombie operating system. And, considering how insecure Windows XP is these days, many of those XP PCs probably really are malware zombies.

So what’s going to the chopping block in 2016?

Well, a lot of once-popular gadgets are on their way out. Remember when digital music players were all the rage? All that’s really left of that is Apple’s iPod. The iPod has been declining for a while now. Some people hoped that Apple Music could relaunch the iPod, but that’s not happening. The future of music in your pocket belongs to smartphones.

Speaking of smartphones, I don’t see BlackBerry staying alive for another year. The latest model, the BlackBerry Priv, hasn’t found much love. It was fun for a while, BlackBerry, but you can stop thrashing now. It’s time to lie quietly in your grave.

I wonder too just how long Microsoft will pour money down the Windows Phone rathole? I mean, the company wrote off its entire smartphone investment in Nokia in July 2015. NetMarketShare has the Windows Phone OS with a lousy 3.4% of the mobile market. This is a dead operating system walking.

Still, Windows Phone is doing better than landline phones. These once universal gadgets still have a minute presence, but every year that goes by, fewer people I know use one. The bottom line is everyone uses a mobile phone, so who wants to spend money on an additional phone that can’t go in your pocket? Only grandpa and grandma, and even they’re getting the clue.

Thinking of antique technologies, vinyl has made a comeback but CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray? They’re all marching to the media graveyard. Today, we stream everything we can. I still buy and own CD and DVD players, but I’m an old guy. Also, call me a Luddite, but I like having my music, videos and books in my hand, not in some distant cloud. There aren’t many of us left. Fewer and fewer PCs and laptops come with a CD/DVD player.

We used to use CD/DVD drives to install software too. I rarely do that anymore. That’s not just because we download almost all our software today. It’s also because stand-alone PC software is on its way out. Accounting, office suites, customer-relationship management — you name it, we do it on the cloud now.

Thus, it’s no surprise that PCs continue on their way out the door. PC sales continue to decline. IDC has announced that 2015 PC shipments declined by 10.3% year-over-year from 2014. They still sell in the hundreds of million, so they aren’t going to be disappearing from our offices soon, but by 2020 it will be a different story.

I grew up with much of this technology. I will still be using a lot of it in 2020, but I doubt the rest of you will have PCs, DVD players and stand-alone software programs. The writing is on the wall for many of these technologies, and that writing is an obituary.

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