In the world of tech punditry, the month of December is practically synonymous with predictions about the year ahead. I try to opt out of the fun. I’m a sober, serious journalist, dammit–not the Amazing Kreskin!
Besides, predictions are a no-win situation. If your prognostications are sure things, they’re hardly worth mentioning. If they’re wacky and surprising, they’re unlikely to come true. You end up either boring people or looking stupid. Or both.
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Still, I’m not above musing about what’s next for technology–what’s bound to happen, what I hope will happen and what I fear could happen. Herewith, some thoughts along those lines in nine categories.
What we can assume will happen: By the end of the year–and maybe way before that–Microsoft will release its radically new, touch-centric operating system. (“Windows 8″ is a code name: Its final moniker may be something else.)
What I hope will happen: Well, first of all, I hope that Windows 8 will be good. (Microsoft released a test version in September, but it’s too rough and incomplete for a final verdict.) But even if it’s great, it’s so different from Windows 7 that it’s going to take many folks a while to understand it, let alone love it. Like the shift from Microsoft’s text-oriented DOS operating system to Windows, this one could take years to play out. I’d like to see everyone from consumers to businessfolk to tech pundits acknowledge that and demonstrate some patience with Microsoft’s big new idea.
What I fear will happen: Windows 8 won’t catch on right away, and will be widely–and prematurely–declared to be a Vista-like debacle.
What we can assume will happen: Apple will release a new iPhone, a new iPad and some new Macs. (I refuse to speculate on any other items it might have up its sleeve for 2012.)
What I hope will happen: With these products and other 2012 moves, Apple will make a statement about its post-Steve Jobs future. And I hope that it will quickly make clear that its goal isn’t to reflexively channel its cofounder, doing precisely what he would have done in every instance. That strategy might work at first, but in the long run it would turn the company into something similar to the Walt Disney Company as it existed in the years immediately following Disney’s death in 1966–the period when it produced regurgitated tripe like The Aristocats. The sooner Apple’s current management shows it’s thinking for itself, the better.
What I fear will happen: Rather than judging Apple’s 2012 products on their merits, pundits will be fixated on judging them primarily in terms of how Jobs-esque they feel–and will decide that they fall short.
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