Now that our gadgets are plenty fast and powerful, and most software is easy enough for babies to use, everyone is searching for the Next Big Thing in tech.Based on the investments Big Tech companies are making, the next tech wave will likely be powered by contextual and predictive technologies.
In plain terms, contextual and predictive technologies are designed to get our devices to do exactly what we want without us having to ask over and over again.
Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) new Cortanafeature for Windows Phone can dive into a handful of apps and anticipate when and where you'll need certain bits of critical information. For example, Cortana can offer up your flight info and boarding pass as you travel to the airport. It can then prominently present that information to you without you doing anything. In some cases, it could even automatically relay information to another app.
What's particularly interesting about Cortana is how much attention Microsoft has given it. Cortana was the star of the show at this year's Microsoft Build developers conference, overshadowing substantial Windows and Windows Phone updates.
Microsoft is not alone, either.
Related: Meet Cortana, Microsoft's Siri
Google (GOOGL) offers a similar service called "Google Now" for Android devices. Earlier this year, Yahoo! (YHOO, Fortune 500)paid a cool $80 million for Aviate, an Android app that changes the look of users' homescreens based on where they are, what time of day it is, and what they're doing. Nest's thermostats learn your habits and the most efficient way to manage the temperature in your house.
The lack of contextual services is also what makes Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) Siri feature more of a gimmick than a digital assistant. Apple has spent years polishing its voice recognition technology, which works pretty well. But aside from things like dictating text messages, setting alarms, and checking the weather, there's not much to it that is actually useful.