As 2002 draws to a close, IT experts are indulging in that annual tradition of forecasting the future of technology. Research organisation Gartner is no exception and it has released its predictions of the Key Technology Advances from 2003 to 2012.
So what can we expect from the next few years? Well it should come as no surprise that Gartner doesn't put the desktop at the heart of our personal IT infrastructure, instead seeing a future built around portable, wireless devices that allow us to access always-on broadband content wherever we may be. "The wired world [will] give way to a predominantly wireless one through 2007 to 2010," anticipates the report.
Companies are already starting to toy with intelligent devices in different form factors, such as the tablet PC, Smartphone and Smart Display we seeing coming from the Microsoft stable. But Gartner sees this trend as getting much stronger and much smarter in the future, with "embedded computing power in everyday objects and places".
If you thought Web advertising was annoying now, things are set to get even worse as the marketers of the future leverage such clever, all pervasive technology devices. Gartner sees our environment developing Bladerunner-style, with omnipresent computer screens used in retail outlets and even product packaging.
Thanks to a wireless network that will connect to wearable devices, Gartner predicts a rise in electronic, automated transactions from hotel check-ins to route planning, and micropayments from e-wallets based on mobile phone accounts. Perhaps by the time the UK decides whether or not to adopt the euro, it will have evolved into the e-uro?
Because of the changing way in which technology will be used, form factors will change in recognition of different input methods. Gartner seems to think Bill Gates has backed a winner with his digital ink-based applications on the tablet PC, although speech recognition will compliment this as electronic devices are increasingly introduced into mainstream life.
Alternative power sources will be required to keep such mobile devices running, with Gartner mentioning fuel cells as one option.
It's not just our personal lives that will be transformed by future technologies, as Gartner sees working practices changing in recognition of the increased focus on knowledge workers employed globally via high speed internet connections. "The notion of the office as a fixed location [will] give way to a situation where 'office' is just the act of paying attention to work through always-on access," the report explains.