The year ahead in technology fail: You knew they were bad, now they're going to prove it

Stock up on schadenfreude, it may be 2022's most popular commodity

Opinion We've had nearly two years of the type of uncertainty that could make even the most avant-garde quantitative analyst fiddling with a risk management model weep. And now we're all on board for another trip around the Sun.

There's a lot to say about the tech prospects of the next 12 months.

First of all, processor wars are hotting up again. Second, the gap between infosec's successive "worst days ever" seems to be halving from six months to three. Also, the battle between regulators and the privacy pirates of adtech is getting properly interesting.

Plenty of time for that later. Instead, in keeping with the real meaning of the New Year, here are some contenders for the biggest hangover of 2022.

The Metaverse

Facebook is grimly going for it, at the same time as it's grimly defending itself against whistleblower allegations of grimly chasing profitable ideas it knew harmed kids. If all goes "well", those who defend the Facebook Metaverse concept (and there must be some outside the company, like those who defended Mussolini by saying "at least he made the trains run on time") will be pleased to see that "at least" they'll have built a workable virtual shared immersive environment.

A measure of how badly things are going is the shuddering horrors of the "concert in the metaverse" movement. There's a whole world of music fans who'd seriously consider any technology, no matter how expensive, that could recreate being at a live gig right now, as would every performer on the planet. What we get is Justin Bieber. The overlap of Bieber fans and those who have or could buy VR gear is what mathematicians call the empty set. It's precisely reminiscent of the parade of bad idea music media formats of the '80s and '90s – 3" CDs, pre-loaded SD cards, microcassettes – that launched with a tiny spread of mainstream artists and then sank without trace.

My prediction? Metaverse may be going into 2022, but it's not coming out.

HDMI 2.1

This is a bit special. HDMI 2.1 was, until recently, hotly anticipated by picture pundits for being faster, fatter, and more flexible than HDMI 2.0.

2.1 has a host of features, including a 48Gbps bandwidth that can support 10-bit 4k resolutions at 120Hz – and with native compression, up to a theoretical maximum of 10k.

To give you an idea of how much overkill this is, the bandwidth of the human optic nerve is roughly 20Mbps. Your pet eagle might appreciate HDMI 2.1 more, with four times the acuity, near-panoramic field of view, and a much broader colour gamut than humans, but hold on before splashing out on a new monitor for Eddie.

Because, while HDMI 2.1 officially still has all those features and more, they are now optional. All of them. So optional, in fact, that a connection with none of them can still be called HDMI 2.1, despite being exactly the same as HDMI 2.0. Which no longer officially exists – the two standards have been merged.

As marketing decisions go, this stands by itself. Even the car crash of SuperSpeed USB, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, and USB 3.2 Gen 1 all being the same thing isn't as bad. Faster versions of USB 3.2 – Gen 2 and Gen 2x2 – properly delineate the higher speeds. You know what you're getting. As of now, you've no idea what you're buying with HDMI 2.1. It feels like a scam. Good work, HDMI people.

Windows 11

Windows 11 is a tragedy in the making. Not because it is a bad revision of Windows, but because it's actually quite good. The tragedy is that it's undone years of Microsoft shedding the worst of its old image.

The messaging around Windows shows a company confused about what it's doing and what its products are for. There was the initial "you must buy new hardware with the latest TPM" followed by, well, not so much.

Then the previews couldn't decide between being a promotional tool for Edge, or a delivery system for revenue desktop content. Now the company's turning into Douglas Adams' Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, with your computer growing the Genuine People Personality of a desperately needy teenager.

USER: Busy day today, computer. Let's crack on.

Win10: Hey, do you want to upgrade to Windows 11?

USER: Not now. Work now.

Win10: Windows 11 is great!! It's very pretty. Here, let me…

USER: <boots into Linux>

Win10: I can see this relationship is something we're both going to have to work on.

The best we can hope for in 2022 is that this side of Microsoft dies from shame. We nearly got there when Ballmer danced into the sunset. One last push.

NFTs

The falling birth rate of the richer nations is going to give "one born every minute" a rigorous workout when it comes to NFT schemes. You could buy one in the hope that, like the naffest examples of '70s decor, it will acquire an ironic sheen 50 years hence. Or you could just create a random block of bits by sampling FM static. Your call.

There are plenty of other failures-in-waiting: foldable phones, AI art fads, the self-propelled prybot called Amazon Astro, the tottering edifice of a global economy linked by smoke and mirrors to the Chinese property market. Place your bets and pour another coffee: it's going to be an interesting year. ®

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