Predictions for the millennium

Y2K is finally here, and it arrived with only a few bumps in the road (unless you include the several hundred billion dollars people spent fixing Y2K bugs). Those who predicted the end of the world are probably somewhat embarrassed by the world's persistence. But if history is any indication, those doomsayers will just explain that they made an error in calculation and that the end of the world will take place next year.

I'll be glad when Y2K has entirely run its course. I realized that we were getting a bit too neurotic about the date-change when I read in September 1999 that a congressional Y2K investigation committee was examining McDonald's restaurants. Apparently, McDonald's had been reticent about reporting the level of its Y2K readiness, which troubled the committee. Clearly, we needed to resolve all our electricity, water, and telephone Y2K-preparedness problems, but someone also had the foresight to protect and preserve our Y2K fast-food needs.

In addition to Y2K being the turn of a century (depending on whom you ask), it's a new year and therefore a time for forecasts. The so-called Y2K disaster didn't occur, so I'm boldly predicting what else will or won't happen this year.

Windows 2000 Will Ship
I've been predicting the release of Windows NT 5.0 since 1997, and I've been wrong every year, so I'm going to keep at it until I'm right. I predict that Windows 2000 (Win2K) will ship in 2000—and when I say ship, I mean that you can buy it at the store, not that Microsoft released it to manufacturing. However, Microsoft might stand by its promise to ship Win2K in fourth quarter 1999 and thus ship the OS in fifth quarter 1999 or sixth quarter 1999.

Y2K Isn't Over, from a Marketing Point of View
Because many Y2K fixes are simply patches that postpone the problem to a later year, Y2K-related bugs might plague us for several years. Although these post-Y2K aftershocks probably won't amount to much, those who've spent the past 3 years making a nice income doing Y2K-preparedness work will be loath to part with that income. Watch for ads and columns claiming that the sky is still falling.

Voice Software Will Remain a Curiosity
I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and typing sometimes hurts. But I haven't found a piece of voice-dictation software that is worth learning. I'd like to predict that Y2K will be The Year of the Voice, but I don't think it will be.

USB Will Go Mainstream
I love that Universal Serial Bus (USB) frees me from having to install a fifth COM port in my system, but I hate the relatively small number of devices that offer USB connectivity. Vendors released several new USB products in the second half of 1999, and Win2K supports USB. Thus, my guess is that by the end of this year, manufacturers will release as many new USB-connected products as they do serial-port-connected products.

We Still Won't Use Infrared
The infrared ports on PCs and palmtop computers have been characterized as the most unused peripheral around. This assessment is accurate, which I think is a shame. I keep hoping that someone will figure out how to build a network stack that works on infrared ports. I imagine sitting around a table with some friends one rainy day, using only infrared to play a networked computer game, with no setup necessary. We just start up our laptops, the laptops find one another automatically, and voilà—we have an instant game network.

PC Hardware Will Get Cheaper, Faster, and More Compact
I'm fairly certain that hardware will continue to get cheaper, faster, and more compact. Yes, I admit that I needed a prediction that was sure to come true. However, I feel pretty confident that I'll never have to check the accuracy of my predictions. After all, haven't you heard about the upcoming disastrous year 2001 problems?