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Mac Planet: Predictions for 2013 and beyond

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Steve Jobs was such a singular individual, it's unlikely any one person would ever have that drive at Apple again. Photo / AP
Steve Jobs was such a singular individual, it's unlikely any one person would ever have that drive at Apple again. Photo / AP

I'm not very good at making predictions. I either bet on the wrong horse, or propose the wrong horse in the first place. What seem like logical streams end up being dead ends and unnoticed rivulets lead to mighty rivers. But enough of the bad metaphors. Here's what some much better-connected people are actually predicting.

As some people maintained, the Mayans' computational skills weren't really up to it, so the December 21 Doomsday prediction was all wrong. Now even my iPhone has a far better computer that a Mayan mathematician's brain. In fact, the cheapest mobile phone you can buy probably has far better computational chops.

NASA has pretty much debunked all the crazy planetary ideas for our demise, by the way.

Longer term, I sincerely hope Apple doesn't dilute what it does. Dilution has been very destructive to Apple in the past, and to its users.

Steve Jobs was such a singular individual, it's unlikely any one person would ever have that drive at Apple again, but I hope Apple doesn't stray from his legacy of excellent products delivered uncompromisingly. (And I know Apple has got it wrong, sometimes, even under Jobs, but not as a rule.)

This policy might mean expensive stuff, but we who buy it already truly do appreciate what we buy. And eventually everyone else gets to benefit, thanks to cheaper knockoffs, sometimes with more or better features.

Anyway, on that generous note, what do real pundits say?

And if you have reached that point of annoyance with my glib arrogance ... you know, the point some of you always reach with Mac Planet - keep reading: you might at least appreciate the wisdom of Popular Mechanics, IBM and Android-appreciatin' Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Woz believes that mobile devices will eventually become the "remote controls," so to speak, of the world, which must be encouraging for Belkin and the company's WeMo Switch and WeMo Switch + Motion. These are plug-and-play products that allow users to remotely turn televisions, radios or computers on or off.

Note that "I'm a genius" Wozniak serves as chief scientist at Fusion-io, a manufacturer of enterprise flash storage for data centres and other devices. Accordingly - and unsurprisingly - he reckons data centres are going to get bigger.

"Data centre technologies will be to 2013 what the cloud will be to 2012," Wozniak wrote in a guest post on the Forbes magazine website. I thought that was the cloud, myself. At least you have to admit it is 'predictable'. Flash storage would certainly give data exchange speeds a real boost. Wozniak will profit from it. He offered an example: "Enterprises with different offices in multiple cities will run the same cloud services out of each office and have the cloud services talk to each other to ensure synchronisation-improving overall efficiency." He reckons collaboration tools will predominate. Much more out there, Woz thinks mobile devices will increasingly become local repositories for information shared between owners, who'll use those devices to control their environments, which confirms Belkin's thinking with the WeMo.

IBM, which was widely predicted to be headed for demise several decades ago after failing to get with the Personal Computer Revolution, is nonetheless still with us. IBM reckons we're entering the era of cognitive computing - machines that help us think. Fine, I need all the help I can get.

We already have the beginnings, they posit, with sensing machines in self-parking cars and biometric security. The 'IBM Next 5 in 5' is a forecast of inventions that will change the world in the next five years, and they concentrate (ha ha) on how computers will mimic the senses.

IBM reckons we'll be able to reach out and touch through our phones; computers will 'hear' what matters (filter, in other words); digital taste buds will help us eat healthier and computers will get senses of smell. But whether that means they'll be able to tell you what new products stink, I don't know - I imagine they will be too partisan in their programming for that, concentrating on approved devices for our delectation and, more importantly, for our dollars.

IBM also predicts 'a pixel will be worth a thousand words'. Considering how tiny Apple's pixels are getting, they'll be really little words, so I don't really understand what the computing giant of old actually means here. But you might.

Popular Mechanics' predictions seem a little less serious. For one, the science magazine thinks drones will protect at-risk animals from poachers. Meanwhile, drones are killing at risk humans in various places, so this seems ironic (if you can call it that). I immediately picture a drone protecting a tiger getting into a firefight with the drone protecting the rare antelope the tiger was about to eat. Further, PM posits 'digital ants' protecting the US power grid, and synthetic meat that vegetarians will want to eat. (I'm vegetarian, and I say no way, Popular Mechanics! Yuck!). And will the power grid ants also eat the synthetic meat? Or just synthetic sugar?

People will be fluent in every language - it won't be long until your cellphone speaks Swahili on your behalf.

Well, yes, that's entirely possible. But in my experience, some people's smartphones and tablets already speak Swahili for all the good they do them.

Popular Mechanics thinks software will predict traffic jams before they occur ... Can't we do that already? For example: Auckland will always have traffic jams at rush hour, morning and afternoon or weekdays. Entirely predictable. No technology required.

Bridges will repair themselves, contact lenses will give us Terminator vision, we will find life beyond Earth (and probably attack it, is my prediction). Supercomputers will get tiny, and US Navy SEALS will be able to hold their breaths for four hours.

See? I said they were more fun. But if you think that's crazy, there's lots more where that came from: 110 predictions for the next 110 years.

Don't hold your breath, though (ha ha again): This was the magazine I read as an impressionable kid. By now, I was supposed to be living on the 110th floor being fed food pills by robots, and jetting off with my personal jetpack or, in groups, in hover cars.

I'm not, for the record. Be safe, be secure, keep your computer cool and I hope you enjoy summer.

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