Sledgehammer, cool Apple, sneaky Linux: Predictions 2000

by Alan Zisman (c) 2000. First published in Toronto Computes, January 2000

They twisted my arm and made me dust off my crystal ball, to see if, by looking into its murky depths, I could predict what we have in store for The Year 2000? in the computer store, that is.

Prediction?s always a dicey business?more famous computer commentators than I am, for example, spent the last few years of the 1980s predicting that within a few years, we?d all be running IBM OS/2 on our computers. OS/2 has a lot of powerful features, but in 1998, the last year I?ve seen statistics for, it had about 1% of the US sales for desktop operating systems.

Luckily, predicting for the coming year is safer than predicting a couple of years ahead?you?ll rarely go too far wrong predicting ?more of the same?. On the other hand, if your predictions are for a couple of years down the pike, odds are good that hardly anyone will actually check back to see how wrong you were.

So, you?re welcome to save this page, put it on the fridge, and check back a year from now and see how many of these come true. Here?s the crystal ball?s Top Ten for 2000:

1. The year 2000 will be OK. More or less. If you?re reading this now, then I assume we all made it safely through The New Year That Was. Power, water, gas, buses, trains, and planes are all running in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and more. Elevators and pacemakers, and most importantly, the personal computer on your desktop all still work.

There will be some glitches over the next few months, as problems in other companies trickle back here?but you can safely start to eat and drink the canned and bottled supplies in the basement.

2. Computers will continue to get faster and will continue to get cheaper?a year ago, a Pentium II 450 was a top of the line PC processor. As of this writing, Intel?s fastest runs at 733 MHz, while AMD just topped it, releasing a 750 MHz unit, and low end models are running as fast, or faster than last year?s speed demons. That trend will continue, with high end models pushing 1 Gigahertz by year-end.

3. At the low end, Intel and Taiwan?s VIA (who purchased cheap-CPU manufacturers Cyrix and Centaur in 1999) both are promising models that integrate a CPU with video capabilities and other features all on a single chip?making it cheaper than ever to make a basic computer.

4. And at the real high end, both Intel will release its first 64-bit processor?the oddly-named Itanium, before year end. AMD will be hot on its tail, with their incompatible 64-bit processor, currently code-named Sledgehammer. Neither of these will make the slightest difference to computing as you and I know it?at least not this year.

5. CD-ROMs will vanish from all but the cheapest computers, replaced by DVD-ROM. CD-RW will continue its growth, however, as the removable media of choice?at least for this year. Planning to buy a new computer? Get a DVD-ROM drive and a CD-RW drive. In 2001, however, expect to see DVD-RW start to take off.

6. Microsoft will release Windows 2000 on schedule in February (though the higher-end server versions will be delayed). And for version 1 of a Microsoft product, it won?t be bad. (Remember, it?s not really version 1, it?s really NT version 5). Many businesses will (slowly and cautiously) switch to Windows 2000 Server, and Windows 2000 Professional will be pre-installed on most of the desktop computers destined for large businesses. But should you care? Not really. Instead, keep an eye on Microsoft?s Millennium project?aiming for the next generation of the Windows 95/98 series. Despite the name, the crystal ball suspects that one will show up early in 2001.

7. Open Source operating system Linux will grow, partly due to efforts like Corel?s to make it easier to use, partly by sneaking in behind the scenes as a server operating system, or on point of sale systems, and the like. But as Judge Jackson predicted in his Microsoft judgement, it will remain a somewhat-geeky niche-product, that doesn?t quite breakthrough to the mass market. And efforts to make it more user-friendly will alienate some of its hard core users, who will move to systems like Free-BSD.

8. Apple will ship OSX, its next generation operating system, along with a continuing series of cool desktop and notebook computers. And its market share will push past 10%-- bringing it back to the position it held in the late 1980s. But ?real men? still won?t be caught dead carrying a ?girly? iBook?especially in Creamsicle-coloured Tangerine and White.

9. Apple?s coolest technology, wireless AirPort networking, will have a big impact in homes, schools, and small offices?especially when it becomes available for PCs. The profits won?t go to Apple, however, as a bunch of PC peripheral companies market the technology from AT&T research arm Lucent.

10. RAM prices will continue to stay high. Or they?ll get even higher. Or they?ll come down. Sorry?on that one, I just don?t know what?ll happen.

Wait a year and see how I did. Let me know.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan