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Tech predictions for 2013

This week, I go out on a limb again to make my tech predictions for 2013. Actually, the limb is not so long, since many of these predictions are becoming self-evident.

We’ll continue to see a huge growth of tablets as they continue to replace notebooks for many consumers who don’t require a full computer. Tablets also appeal to a much wider age range of users, from 2-year-olds to the elderly. And it’s not uncommon to see two or three units in a single household. While their sizes vary from 7 to 10 inches, expect to see a large majority in the 7- to 8-inch range next year, led by the Apple iPad mini. We’ll also see an iPad mini with a higher resolution display in March.

Last year I predicted we would see a lower priced iPad for about $349. Today you can buy models for $329 and $399.

But I also predicted that Google would introduce its own tablet with some clever new features in an attempt to inject life, but it wouldn’t get much traction. I was half right. Google is selling a 7-inch tablet. Its clever new feature is a low, low price ($199), and it’s selling very well. I’ll predict that Google will introduce another 7-inch model in 2013 with a price of $99.

In 2012, the new iPhone prediction did pan out, and in 2013 I expect to see a new version of the iPhone 5 with a few minor embellishments and more colors. Apple will also bring out a much lower priced phone for $99.

Expect to see new phones from Samsung, with some unique displays that are curved and unbreakable. Next year the iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones will continue to be the top-selling models, while the companies continue their lawsuits against one another. No letup in sight, with more acrimony than ever.

In the meantime, Google will add new capabilities to its Android OS that will offer proactive information by looking at your calendar and anticipating your needs, something envisioned in this column almost two years ago. Alerts will tell you when to leave for an appointment, knowing your location, where you need to be and the time it will take, even accounting for traffic and weather.

Microsoft did introduce its first notebooks with a touch display, as predicted, with Microsoft’s introduction of its Surface tablet with Windows RT, an edition of the new Windows 8 operating system. But whether it’s the best of both worlds remains to be seen. Why? I expect that these products will have disappointing sales in 2013, allowing Apple to make new inroads into the business community.

Many of the above predictions aren’t particularly venturesome, but here’s one that might be a surprise. Remember Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry? Expect to see RIM’s new BlackBerry models with a new operating system and hardware. I predict these will be well-received and will find new customers who have given up on phones that have on-screen keyboards. In fact, real keyboards will be the trend in 2013.

I had expected privacy to be a big issue this year, with a lot of criticism directed at Facebook for constantly treading on privacy concerns. I was wrong, as few users seemed to care. Facebook has won this battle and, sadly, privacy will continue to become less important to most consumers.

Apple will introduce a gorgeous new TV in 2013. Expect it to be a less-than-50-inch HDTV with the ability to buy movies and TV shows as well as to play music and display photos, all controlled from your iPad and iPhone. It will even allow you to cut loose from cable. It will cost about $1,500, be ultra-thin, and will be a huge hit. Of course, I predicted this last year, but this year it will happen.

Expect to see a new crop of cameras emulating the Sony RX100, putting a large sensor into a small body. Caught between the improving cameras on the smartphones and the large DSLR cameras, this new class of products will be very hot next year.

Other than Apple’s new connected TV, we won’t see many new categories next year, as we’ve seen some past years. It will be more about improving the specs on existing products. With an increased focus on conserving our resources, that’s not a bad thing. Maybe we don’t need to buy the latest gadget just because it has few improvements over what we have.

But there will be one exception to this. For the first time, there will be a rival to Apple iTunes from the music industry that will offer music of astounding quality, reminiscent of vinyl. Unlike photography, video and printing, in which the transition to digital has brought higher quality, digital music has become much worse. We’ll see an exciting reversal of this in 2013.

Best wishes for a very happy holiday season.

Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer" published by Financial Times Press and available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers. He has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others; holds 30 patents; and is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Baker can be heard on KOGO AM the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor. Baker's blog is blog.philipgbaker.com, and his website is philipgbaker.com.

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