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Behold your high-tech future
As 2013 unfolds, you probably won't be surprised to encounter battles over who can access your personal data, new gaming consoles, big developments from Microsoft, and the perhaps the death of a once-proud smartphone superstar. Admittedly, predicting the future is a tricky business—especially in the volatile world of consumer technology—but we're always inspired to give it a try.
So, with a dash of context and bit of reckless prognostication, here's a sneak peek at some of next year's headlines.
Google opens assistive-tech business unit
In early 2013, Google's Project Glass is set to land in the hands of developers who paid $1500 per pair during Google I/O 2012. You've already seen the vision for Google Glass, featuring a camera, maps and directions, and video calls.
But what you didn't know is that futurist Ray Kurzweil, Google's new director of engineering, was hired in 2012 to help roll out the consumer version of Google Glass. We'll also learn that Kurzweil will open a new business unit at Google, dedicated to creating assistive technology for the disabled.
Also in 2013, hackers will create a Terminator-style heads-up display for Glass with facial recognition.
WikiLeaks founder extradited to U.S.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been in near solitary confinement inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London for six months. He can't stay in there forever, and Ecuador probably doesn't have the operational capacity to sneak him out of the UK.
So 2013 will be the year that Assange emerges from diplomatic protection to face his accusers in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault. Shortly thereafter, he will be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges in connection with his role in WikiLeaks' 2010 publication of huge numbers of secret diplomatic cables.
John McAfee reality TV show announced
We predict that tech entrepreneur, John McAfee will finally be interviewed by Belize police in a Miami hotel, but will remain in the United States to oversee production of an AMC movie version of his life on the run. Unhappy with the final product, McAfee will ink a deal with cable channel Bravo for a reality TV show to air later next year.
Hybrid Windows 8 notebooks take off, finally
Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, has yet to inspire a wave of consumer adoption of Windows 8 hardware.
But in 2013, hybrid notebooks will finally take off. Microsoft's Surface Pro and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 will gain traction with business professionals who don't want to compromise on either the convenience of a tablet or the functionality of a laptop.
As Microsoft and its hardware partners succeed, Apple rumor mills will buzz over the possible development of the MacPad, an Apple hybrid said to run iOS X. Apple won't comment on the rumor, but it will issue a blanket order prohibiting its engineers and prototype developers from visiting bars.
BlackBerry for the proud 5 percenters
Research In Motion's last shot at relevance comes in January when the company releases the first two devices designed for BlackBerry 10, RIM's touch-centric smartphone OS overhaul.
But with Android and iOS atop the smartphone market, and Microsoft pushing hard with Windows Phone 8, the cards are stacked against a RIM rebound. BlackBerry's share of the U.S. smartphone market has dropped from 35.8 percent in October 2010 to just 7.8 percent in 2012, according to metrics firm ComScore.
By the end of 2013, BlackBerry devices will hold a scant 5 percent piece of the U.S. market, we predict. Diehard CrackBerry users will keep RIM alive, declaring BlackBerry to be the best mobile OS and hardware.
Ikea and Microsoft make Surface coffee table
As a follow-up to its 2012 push to merge furniture with tech, Ikea will partner with Microsoft to make a coffee table that has built-in Microsoft Surface tablet technology. You'll be able to play casual games, sync the table display with various Xbox game titles, surf the Web, and update Facebook—all without getting off the sofa.
Gamers revolt over DRM game lockdowns
In an effort to boost sagging revenues, game console makers will test a new DRM scheme that enrages gamers. By late summer of 2013, the rumored Sony PlayStation Orbis game console and the successor to the Xbox 360 will appear, graced with features such as higher resolutions and augmented-reality glasses. But new consoles from Sony will also come with a big surprise: Their game discs will be locked for use on one specific console unit, effectively ending game rentals, second-hand game sales, and the ability to swap discs with friends. Microsoft and Nintendo will announce similar trials with their console hardware.
Privacy goes public
The age of increased online monitoring will reach a tipping point in 2013. People will care dramatically less about the personal data they post online, and will stop worrying who reads it. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Security Agency's online data collection center in Utah will go live, harvesting data about Americans’ online activities on a massive scale.
Delighting in the Zuckerbergian era of oversharing, users will collectively shrug their shoulders and continue to publicly post every facet of their lives. Data harvesters will lick their chops, and use the info to create ever-more-accurate digital dossiers on everyone—and share them with advertisers and nosy NSA agents. Privacy groups will cry foul and try to warn us.
Microsoft announces Xbox HDTV to match Apple HDTV
If ever there were a year for Apple to jump into the television market, it's 2013. Smart TVs loaded with apps are becoming more popular, and TV makers are gearing up to push high-def OLED HDTVs for mainstream adoption in 2014, according to NPD DisplaySearch.
This sets the stage for Apple to introduce the AppleTV, featuring apps from NBC, ABC, CBS, and other big-time content providers for viewing on-demand content. AppleTV will also have advanced features such as built-in AirPlay and Siri integration.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft will announce that the Xbox HDTV will ship sometime in 2014. This package will sport a built-in Xbox 720 (also announced in 2013), Kinect 2.0, and augmented-reality glasses.
Chromebooks are dead, Jim!
We saw $200, $249, and $300 Chromebooks in 2012, but Google and its manufacturing partners couldn't convince many people to buy the search giant's browser in a box. In 2013, Google will realize that Chromebooks are a dead end, but will flirt with the idea of Android-based laptops before finally refocusing on Android tablets 100 percent. By the end of 2013, the only people using Chromebooks will be a few grade schools in San Francisco and Jeff Jarvis.