Playing technology forecaster is a foolish exercise. Software and hardware advances at unpredictable paces, while the players in the market and consumer tastes can shift with confusing speed.
So instead of adding to the noise of 2013 predictions, why not pick seven that seem particularly unlikely?
Pining away for a Web-connected Apple HDTV is understandable: Pay-TV interfaces are a mess that needlessly shut out Internet media. But there's no easy way to ship a device that could plug into any cable-TV feed without a separate box -- even CableCard-ready TiVo recorders sometimes need extra "switched digital video" adapters -- and no way at all to do that for satellite. Just making an Apple TV box that could change channels would entail an iffy customer experience I can't see Apple tolerating.
Death to Paper Books and Magazines
This prediction -- for an example of the latest version, see TechCrunch's John Biggs -- will be wrong for years to come. It's not just because some readers prefer print to pixels; it's because some design-intensive genres, such as coffee-table books, don't fit into the simple templates of Kindle, Nook and iBooks releases. And because the stubborn persistence of "digital rights management" locks turns away potential buyers like me.
Rolling Back Windows 8's Changes
I'd like to see this myself, but I think my friend Steve Wildstrom and others underestimate Microsoft's stubbornness when predicting a return of the Start menu to Windows 8 or a demotion of its new interface. The Redmond, Wash.-company has spent a little too much time telling developers to write for Windows 8's new look to retreat now. And lest you draw too many conclusions from the surprising departure of Win 8 architect Steven Sinofsky, his successor Julie Larson-Green is just as big of an advocate of these changes.
Broad-Based Sales Taxes on Internet Shopping
I think Amazon and other large Internet retailers should collect state sales taxes in the same way catalog-first operations already do. But while some states have struck individual deals -- California and Massachusetts, for example, recently signed up Amazon -- any move in Washington to mandate sales-tax collection by e-tailers seems doomed by the visceral hostility of many Republicans to anything reeking of higher taxes.
It made sense for Amazon to sell a tablet of its own; Apple had owned that market at the time. Why would Amazon go to the trouble of shipping its own phone when the browser on any decent model gets you to its online store, and when Android phones can also connect to its own app store?
Publishers Push Google News Around
News publishers love to complain about Google News letting some readers skip the actual story (never mind all of the traffic it also sends to a site), but in the United States, few do anything about it. And why should they now? Opting out of Google News only ensures that the zero-value readers who click elsewhere after one sentence will wander away from their own sites instead of Google's.
The idea that Apple will fall to Earth by becoming merely "ordinary" comes up strangely often. Apple gets more customers and makes more money just about every quarter, and I thought that was a pretty good definition of success for a capitalist enterprise even if you don't stun observers with the equivalent of the first iPhone every year.
Note that in handing out these reverse forecasts, I have engaged in fallible forecasting of my own. I look forward to reading your explanations of how I was wrong.