Bill Gates, president and chief executive of Microsoft, eager to keep his company?s marketing machine ticking over during the Christmas break, has gone public with his predictions for 1997.
Unsurprisingly, Gates? soothsaying, as expounded by the 'New York Times', centres on the Internet and the growing popularity of the PC - useful speculation when his business is based on both.
In his view, although the Internet will grow in importance, there will be a media backlash because many promises made about the Web will not be fulfilled in the near future. People will start looking for and emphasising holes in Internet security and privacy, but this will encourage policy debate.
Attempts will also be made to introduce Internet taxes, but these will fail unless other forms of communication are also taxed. US telecommunications payment rate schemes will change radically, with local phone calls no longer being undercharged and long distance calls overcharged.
The use of electronic mail will rocket in corporations and videoconferencing will become more important, but not as significant as sharing documents across corporate networks and the Internet - especially as people realise how cheap and easy to do this is.
By the end of the year, PCs will be able to undertake even the most demanding and important of corporate tasks and scale up to compete with any existing computer on the market today. Three dimensional graphics will also become standard for users of new PCs.
The boundaries between PCs and network computers will blur as some networked PCs become diskless.
Portables will continue to grow as a proportion of the market, especially as prices fall and the market for handheld computers will grow by 50 per cent.
But, within a few years, 'wallet PCs' will be more popular than cellular phones today.
* During 1997, Microsoft promises to ship a range of key products. Windows 97 and Internet Explorer 4.0 will go into beta in the first quarter, for shipment in the third and second quarter respectively. Office 97 will ship in January, followed by Visual Basic 5.0, Exchange and Transaction Server in the first quarter and Internet Information Server 4.0 in the second quarter.
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