Since 2009 I’ve started each year by making predictions for the new year, and since 2009 I’ve mostly gotten those predictions wrong. Despite being horrible at it, this annual effort at forecasting the future is an amusing exercise, so continuing the inglorious tradition, here’s a bunch of guesses about what’s (probably not) going to happen in 2019:
- Tiger Woods will return to the world golf #1 ranking at some point in 2019. Assuming he can stay healthy this year, his season-ending victory at the Tour Championship in 2018 should be an omen of good things to come. The golf world seems very ready to have its superstar winning tournaments again.
- Democrats will not seriously pursue impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019. I may be either giving Democrats too much credit, underestimating what Robert Mueller’s investigation will uncover, or be too optimistic about Trump not doing anything so crazy that impeachment becomes inevitable, but I think the Democratic leadership wants to avoid this fight unless forced into it. Absent facts emerging that demand impeachment, Pelosi & Schumer seem to understand that they need to be seen as using their power responsibly, and also that pursuing impeachment without bipartisan agreement on wrongdoing would set a dangerous precedent in which future Congresses would no longer view impeachment as a last resort but instead as a way to eliminate an opposition President.
- After Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox Studios, 2019 will see another massive media merger. It may be something like Sony merging with Netflix, Warner Brothers buying the Fox Network, Google gaining a broadcast or studio presence, or something else entirely, but it will be comparable in magnitude to the Disney-Fox deal. With its acquisitions of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012, and now Fox Studios (which included a large stake in Hulu), Disney is dominating the entertainment market, and the other major players will be looking for ways to compete.
- After making almost $60 billion in profits in 2018, Apple will see its lowest yearly profits since it made $40 billion in 2014. Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, but since his death Apple hasn’t created any new products that have had a major impact in the market, and with competitors now offering comparable devices at cheaper prices, 2019 will be the year that Apple’s failure to innovate without Steve Jobs finally starts to catch up to it.
- Despite massive privacy violations Facebook won’t make any significant changes this year and will begin to see its active user base erode. By the end of the year the number of people “quitting Facebook” will be a noticeable minority, and other companies will be either planning or promoting legitimate Facebook alternatives in an effort to snatch up the Facebook deserters.
- With dozens of Democratic candidates testing the waters of a Presidential run, by the end of the year the leading candidates will be Elizabeth Warren, a new face that the party’s Progressive wing coalesces around (probably someone like Kamala Harris), and someone with executive experience (a governor, military leader, or former executive branch leader) who no one is paying any attention to right now. If Bernie Sanders runs he’ll lose most of his 2016 supporters to whoever the new Progressive darling ends up being.
- SpaceX will successfully launch a crewed flight to the space station this year, but Boeing will further delay their first crewed mission until 2020.
- With the rollout of 5G cellular service already beginning, Google will make a move towards acquiring an existing wireless company or deploying its own 5G network. From 2010 until 2016 Google was actually building out a fiber network to provide internet access directly to homes and business, and with that effort having stalled it seems possible that they have instead decided that 5G wireless networking is a cheaper and better way to pursue the company’s goals of providing internet directly to consumers.
- Avengers: Endgame will outperform Star Wars: Episode IX at the box office. This may not be a particularly risky prediction given that Star Wars: The Last Jedi took in $620 million vs $678 million for Avengers: Infinity War, so I’ll up the ante by saying that the next Avengers movie will earn at least $100 million more than the next Star Wars film.
- After Virgin Galactic finally reached space in December, their flight test program will continue through 2019, but they won’t fly any paying customers. They will, however, do a test flight with Richard Branson on board during 2019 – the Virgin CEO set ballooning world records in the 1980s and 1990s, so hopping on a test flight to space is right up his alley.
- Despite predictions of bidding wars, during NFL free agency Le’veon Bell won’t be offered anything that comes close to the reported $70 million that he turned down from the Steelers. While he’s arguing that he should be paid $17 million per year, at best he’ll be the NFL’s third-highest paid running back behind Todd Gurley ($14.375 million per year) and David Johnson ($13 million per year). Owners won’t want to reward a player who sat out a season, while general managers won’t want to devote a large chunk of their salary cap to a guy who seems to have an inflated ego and who was immediately replaced by someone who put up better numbers.
- Tesla will introduce a major refresh of its Model S and Model X vehicles, including a new battery pack technology. The specs they have been promoting for their upcoming semi truck indicate that they’ve got some exciting new battery technologies ready, but at a minimum they will want to get all of their vehicles using the 2170 battery cells that they produce at their Gigafactory rather than the 18650 cells they currently purchase from battery manufacturers.
- Boeing will officially announce its new 797 plane this year, touting a signature oval-shaped, composite fuselage meant to maximize passenger space while limiting aerodynamic drag. There have been conflicting reports about the construction materials and shape of the new plane’s fuselage, but I think an oval, carbon-fiber fuselage will be favored as a baby step towards the much more efficient blended wing body designs that will (hopefully) become the norm in future aircraft.
- While US politics will continue to be a dispiriting example of how not to run a country, at least one major piece of legislation will pass this year since both Trump and the Democrats will be eager to show that they are capable of getting things done. Priorities for Democrats seem to be some sort of voting rights act, fixes for Obamacare, and changes to the immigration system. Trump would be happy with either a wall or something that he can call a trade deal. Both sides would probably settle for an infrastructure package. Thus, I suspect that if investigations and scandals don’t swallow the entire agenda that a bargain will be cut to give each side a “win” that they can tout to their supporters ahead of the 2020 elections.
- PG&E, now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy due to liability from the recent deadly wildfires, will be split up and in many cases turn into municipal utilities. The process will be a painful one – it makes sense for a big city to purchase electrical poles and power plants, but would be too costly for a rural area to purchase and maintain – so the story of PG&E’s demise will slowly escalate into a major crisis for the state of California during the coming year.
That does it for 2019. The comments link is available for anyone who wants to add their own predictions, otherwise check back in one year to see if I could beat 2018’s rate of 25% correct predictions. Note that the Browns have been intentionally excluded from this year’s predictions in order to avoid jinxing what everyone is cautiously hoping will be a promising season.