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October 7th, 2010

In a Sept. 2007 article, TechRepublic made four Tech Predictions Past and Present - Part 2predictions about technologies of the (near) future. In Part 1, we looked at the first two predictions, “green tech” and tiny PCs, while in today’s Part 2, we will deal with the promise of “the wireless office” and the continuing spread of broadband.

3. Wireless promised land

The TechRepublic article predicted that “the advent of Certified Wireless USB and Bluetooth 2.1, over the next 12-24 months,” would unleash a tsunami of wireless monitors, docking stations and cameras to go with the wireless printers. Since cameras had already gone wireless, the real interest was in the other devices on the list, which have yet to materialize in any big way. Also touted were new “short-range wireless technologies [with] Universal Plug ‘n’ Play (UPnP) to make the devices much easier to recognize and configure” without having to deal with the “major headache” of Bluetooth setup.

Well, we’re still waiting. Most of the office all-in-ones and printers on the market today use either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and better software has made setup a snap for most people. The prognosticators in the 2007 TechRepublic article also thought everyone would have wireless monitors by 2009. In fact, the only wireless monitors you’ll find now (approaching the end of 2010) are used for security/surveillance and baby watching. Some progress has been made, however. You can buy a set of adapters that lets you cobble together your own wireless display, but it would cost you as much as a new 22-inch monitor – and, quite honestly, your monitor cable is usually short and out of sight, right?

4. Broadband everywhere

WiMAX, the TechRepublic article said, is going to be “the next great broadband technology, at the very least — and potentially the next great leap in computing.” Many pundits predicted that the battle would be between WiMAX and 3G cellular. Sprint was supposed to launch WiMAX service in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C. by the end of 2007, but it just came out … last week!

Three years on, the story has evolved in a different direction. Once again, human ingenuity and unexpected developments got in the way of a good prediction, and the battle for mobile broadband, such as it is, is between 4G (not 3G) and something called LTE (Long Term Evolution). Enough tech pros and pundits are jumping on the LTE bandwagon to make “Tomorrow will belong to LTE” a curiously common headline on blogs and forums – but if you check back in three years, you’re likely to get a different prediction. Human beings, and their actions, are simply impossible to predict with much accuracy – but we do have a lot of fun trying!

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