Apple is the power in beacons technology -- its iBeacons technology is in every iOS 7 device. iBeacons even lets iOS devices act as beacons (all the retailer iPads and iPod Touches now have a new use). But several companies sell stand-alone beacons, as well as beacons protocols and services that can be used in apps across multiple platforms. Some of those also use Apple's iBeacons protocols, of course.
Because Apple has by far the broadest beacon-capable user base, expect it to be the center of gravity for this technology. Again, expect Google to introduce a similar set of APIs and OS-level hooks in Android at some point.
In March 2008, Apple reworked its failed Apple TV device to be a stand-alone media streamer for both local (iTunes) content and online (iTunes Store) content. In September 2010, Apple reworked its little-used AirTunes technology as AirPlay, allowing iOS and OS X devices to wirelessly stream video and audio content to the Apple TV and licensed AirPlay speakers. The combination of AirPlay and the Apple TV revolutionized media consumption, letting computers and mobile devices stream content to a variety of playback devices, as well as receive (in the case of iPad and iPhones) media from other devices. The technology has also gained traction in some businesses for conference room presentations.
But in the rest of the technology world, media streaming is a mess. The Android world has three types of physical video connectors in use (MHL, MiniHDMI, and Mobility DisplayPort), as well as two video-streaming technologies (DLNA and Miracast). Windows 8 uses WiDi, Intel's Wireless Display technology built into its current graphics coprocessors. Amazon.com's new Kindle Fire HDX tablets support Miracast.
Miracast promises to change that, though it had a rough start in 2013. Backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance that rendered the once-messy 802.11 protocols interoperable, Miracast is meant to make wireless video streaming interoperable across computers, mobile devices, and entertaiment devices like stereos, TVs, and speakers. Although Intel's WiDi incorporates the Miracast standard, many Windows PCs need driver updates to get Miracast support to actually work. The Kindle Fire HDX is certified with only one Miracast device, the Netgear Push2TV -- undermining the interoperability promise of Miracast. So far, only Google's and subidiary Motorola Mobility's recent Android devices support Miracast.
2014 will be the year that Miracast pulls together and delivers on its promise -- or follows the fate of DLNA, the clunky standard introduced in 2003 that often fails when mixing devices from different manufacturers and thus flopped in the living room.
It's one of the ugliest terms of tech today, and its meaning is highly variable and confusing, but mobile back ends as a service (MBaaS) is both increasingly important to developers and, I believe, about to go through a major shift. Forrester Research had a good explanation of MBaaS in 2012 when the term began to proliferate: middleware to data management and authentication services that mobile apps would need if the apps were part of a deeper data-driven service. Today, MBaaS is used to mean almost any cloud-resident service an app may need access to, such as video rendering, payment processing, location information lookup, and ad serving.
One sales pitch for today's expansive "any services" version of MBaaS is that mobile devices have too little processing power and storage capacity to do "real" computing, so they need an assist from the cloud. That's not true with the Apple devices and high-end Android devices from the last few years, of course, but it's true that tapping into the cloud provides an almost limitless set of capabilities that developers can use rather than re-create, allowing them to weave together more functionality.
If you use Chrome OS, the chrome browser, or Windows 8's Metro side -- or Web apps in general -- you already see that the mashup notion that briefly shone in the late 2000s is alive and well, but without that name. MBaaS is now effectively a services offering for functionality, rather than apps or infrastructure, that app developers will pull together no matter what devices their software runs on.
That's where I believe the MBaaS shift will occur in 2014. The "M" part will go away because the same logic applies to desktop and Web apps, too. The "B" part will also go away, because the notion of a back end is too confining and assumes a central data center model when in fact services (like APIs) will come from multiple sources and be federated. It's really just services, and they will enrich mobile apps even more.
In other words, MBaaS is going to yield to simply cloud-delivered services. That's why Software AG bought former mashup king JackBe, eBay bought PayPal, Facebook bought Parse, Salesforce.com's Heroku unit partnered with AnyPresence, and Google and Microsoft offer MBaaS functionality in their platform and infrastructure services.
This article, "The 5 mobile technologies to watch in 2014," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.