Predictions the world will end in December 2012 based on a Mayan calendar seem a bit sensational. Hopefully, these 2012 tech predictions, from a journalist who's covered tech since the dawn of the PC era, don't seem to be too far-fetched. But that's up to you.
1. Apple will lose its cool factor.
With the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple (AAPL) redefined markets and defined cool. But what's left? The iPhone is boxy, flat and feeling stale. The Samsung Galaxy smartphone seems cooler. With Google's (GOOG) Android platform now the fastest-growing mobile OS, Apple's software advantage will diminish. Smartphones and tablets will become commodity items and Apple will be eaten by the collective Android gang. Apple's next big hope is the TV market, a tough nut to crack and where Samsung is king.
2. Google+ will do no harm to Facebook.
The posts on Google+ are more engaging than Facebook posts, thanks to its slick design. And Google+ users are anti-Facebook cerebral heavyweights. But there's only room for one dominant social networking site. Granny and her grandkids use Facebook and won't be switching to Google+. Like all prior efforts by Google to plant seeds in social networking, this one, too, will wither on the vine.
3. Twitter will totter.
Twitter is a speedway of messages zooming past that you see during brief visits. It's not a place to hang out. It's a useful search tool for breaking news or following musings from athletes and stars, but the site is pretty much what it was when it launched five years ago — a short messaging service that youth doesn't care much about. As a platform, Twitter is going nowhere.
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4. Groupon will be half off.
Pioneers always get the arrows. Groupon (GRPN) stumbled into the market for localized online coupons — a gigantic pool of opportunity. But its IPO process was loaded with gaffes, fueled by CEO Andrew Mason making some miscues that delayed the offering. In the rear-view mirror is LivingSocial, learning from Groupon's mistakes and coming on strong. Its largest investor is Amazon (AMZN), the king of online marketing. Groupon's market share will dive.
5. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be shown the exit.
When Ballmer took charge 11 years ago, the stock traded near 44. It now trades near 26. Microsoft (MSFT) has missed or fumbled most every major new idea in tech the past decade, from browsers to smartphones. Its portable music player was a joke, as was its Windows Vista operating system . Xbox is a winner, but the video game console market is troubled. There's little innovation at Microsoft and Ballmer gets the blame. (The same could be said of Dell's (DELL) Michael Dell, but no prediction there, yet.)