BlackBerry will be toast. Android will spork. Amazon will rule the cloud. Agile will be hybrid. And OSGi will remain obscure.

Those are a few of the SD Times editorial predictions for 2012. Let’s look at the full list.

• Microsoft will buy a phone manufacturer, perhaps Nokia, in its battle to take market share away from Apple’s iPhone and the newly Motorola-enhanced Google. Third-party phone makers, like HTC and Samsung, will continue to focus on Android.

• Microsoft will back off from the Metro UI in Windows 8 in the face of poor reviews and a lack of big-customer enthusiasm. Windows 8 will still focus on touch, but will look more like Windows 7.

• RIM will become marginalized as a niche player targeting specific vertical industries and international markets. Don’t worry, if things get sufficiently bad for RIM, Hewlett-Packard will buy it.

• Apple will survive the loss of its iconic leader, Steve Jobs, and will branch out into new markets, like television. Mac OS X will come to resemble iOS, which will annoy existing customers but delight new ones.

• Another million words will be written about the Cloud, but adoption will not change significantly. Amazon will still continue to dominate the public cloud, and will make strong headway into the private cloud.

• Hewlett-Packard will end 2012 in continued disarray, and despite making high-profile acquisitions, will still lack a coherent software strategy.

• Despite Google’s best efforts, Android will continue to fragment into myriad “sporks”—hardware-specific forks that confuse consumers and developers.

• At the Eclipse Foundation, the Orion tools-integration project will gain a quiet following. However, OSGi will continue to labor in obscurity.

• For agile developers, this will be a year of customization and hybrid methodologies; Scrum and lean/Kanban will push out most other alternatives.

• Tablets will continue replacing laptops, especially for those who already have desktop PCs. And the general-purpose tablet of choice in the enterprise will remain the iPad.

• Oracle and Google will settle their lawsuits about Android, but Apple will continue to sue every Android device maker on the planet. Meanwhile, Oracle will continue demonstrating that it’s a much better steward of Java than Sun ever was.

• Single sign-on will finally become a reality for most consumers—and for many businesses—using Facebook, Twitter or Google. Enterprises will find a way to support this for their employees.

• Despite efforts by Google with near-field communications and its Wallet system, the Internet will not converge on a leader or standard for e-payment systems.

• While many tech publications, like eWeek, continue to euphemistically “move to the Web,” one major magazine will demonstrate that print is not dead: SD Times.

Thinking outside the mouse
With a gesture, corporate computing is escaping the tyranny of the mouse—and it’s about time.

Mice took over the enterprise with Windows NT 4 and Windows 95. Before the mid-1990s, nearly all corporate workers sat in front of a text-based interface, with input from a keyboard and output using a CRT. While there were a few alternative devices, such as Macintosh computers in the graphics department using a mouse or a digitizing tablet, those were rare.

Mainframe and minicomputers ushered in the keyboard-driven era; CP/M and DOS-based PCs put the keyboard on every desk. But for at least 15 years, the mouse (and the trackpad on notebook computers) have dominated the WIMP user interface. We now have windows, icons, menus and pointing devices everywhere.

Times are changing, and as computer scientists, we should welcome and embrace this change.

Touch was truly the first to break free of the mouse, and it unlocked mobile devices in ways far beyond what the Palm’s stylus could do. Touch is a major factor in the success of smartphones like the iPhone, and then tablets like the iPad and Xoom. While those touch-based platforms certainly have icons, those devices have largely done away with overlapping windows and drop-down menus.

Touch is more than mobile; we are seeing it migrate to the business desktop, initially using Windows Vista and Windows 7 on devices like the popular TouchSmart PC family from Hewlett-Packard. Touch will become ubiquitous—and may lose the WIMP user experience—on a much wider array of hardware. The flagship for desktop touch will be the forthcoming Windows 8 and the Metro interface.

What next? Gesture. Game platforms like Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox with Kinect have demonstrated that a three-dimensional space offers an even more robust user experience than even the touchscreen.

Of course, while we don’t expect CEOs to call up budget projections by waving their arms any time soon, we can imagine a Minority Report-like experience in the not-too-distance future, along with more robust voice control and three-dimensional displays that don’t need special goggles. Add those to the SD Times list of predictions, though not for 2012.