And coming up.....
It's that time of year when all and sundry (especially journalists, hacks, pundits and loudmouths) make predictions about the future, and in particular the next twelve months.
So here's my personal take on what will happen next year: some is informed guesswork, some is speculation, and some will accidentally turn out to be fact.....
Apple will release an iPhone 5 (probably Q3/4) with integrated plastic bumper so that it actually makes phone calls, and which is even more closely integrated with Apple's cloud offering and iTunes. It will have better voice recognition, improving on Siri, and a better display - OLED so that blacks are properly black. It will be about the same size but thinner. It may also have sketch recognition capabilities, live video broadcasting capabilities when connected to wi-fi, and possibly automatic translation for international phone calls.
As well, Apple will release an iPad3 - probably Q1/2 - with high-resolution display (and not much else being different), a 15" MacBook Air to replace the 15" MBPro (though that will run alongside for a while - but the biggest change will be a move to the high-resolution retina displays on laptops too, as well the standard upgrading of processors etc.
Other PC manufacturers will continue to rush to copy Apple.
Google's Android will be hit hard by a virus and security incursions, leading to a more secure, locked down approach being developed. But the phones will get better and cheaper, making it an increasingly attractive alternative to the iPhone - and if Apple drop the ball in terms of their design-led desirability (a possibility, given the different person at the top of the company now, who may well have different priorities to that of the late, lamented Steve Jobs), they could become the devices of choice. Already Samsung are challenging in this space. Apple will also launch a dedicated iTV product - and the new CEO will be judged on the success (or more likely not) of this product, leading to a dramatic fall in Apple's share price later in the year. (But I'm not a financial advisor - you make your own decisions!)
Google could go two ways: it could continue to invest in interesting projects, both in the search and internet space, and elsewhere - in which case it will cost it some money but develop itself into a global brand covering most aspects of our lives in 10 years time - or it will worry about the recession, and stop investing, and see its innovation and leadership leach away. And in the age of the internet, that can happen within a few months. Not that it will be in any trouble, but it may mark a change in fortunes for the company. I think it'll hiccup, then continue to innovate.
Expect to see a big consumer cloud offering from Google - an easier-to-use Dropbox.
Facebook will have an IPO and will surge initially - and will then drop back starkly. Facing strong competition, unless it sorts outs its privacy issues and regains full trust from users, 2012 could see the beginning of the end for the social networking site. It's main chance of survival is in embedding itself deeper into the other activities we do, so that working with Facebook becomes an integral part of working on computers: the social networking will stay, but not in such an explicit, focussed form).
Patent wars will continue; products will be crippled; innovation will find ways around; new companies will produce new offerings.
Mobile operators (Vodafone, O2, etc) will suddenly reappear in the public consciousness offering services and products that strongly differentiate themselves: at the moment it makes little difference who you're with, but this will dramatically change as some move into social media more effectively, others embrace mobile data in cost-effective ways across multiple platforms, and others provide intelligent, location-aware services targeted at individual behaviours and people - anything from cheaper car insurance because of where you drive, not where you live, to niche advertising in the moment.
Large numbers of TV's, many of them 3D TV's , will be sold in the run-up to the Olympics, and, after watching a lot of TV on them, people will decide that, actually, they don't like them very much. Most people who own them will watch them in non-3D mode for most of the time.
The UK economy will drop back into recession, and make a sluggish attempt to come out of it, dribbling along at the 0.1-0.5% growth at the end of next year. Osbourne will become a sacrificial lamb.
Social disorder will occur in minor ways, but the banks will be reformed as the public finally demand that they reign in bonuses and executive pay. Some will leave the UK, but it will have less impact than expected since they will have been found to have been doing dramatic tax deals with the authorities and paying much less tax than many expected.
The Euro will still exist, but without all the current members. Hungary may be an interesting country to watch. France and Germany will fall out after French Presidential elections. In terms of delivering a solution, political will will be a misnomer - political won't is more likely to be appropriate.
I was going to write 'in conclusion', but that seems wrong. So, in anticipation of a challenging year for the economy, a bright outlook for the development of knowledge and moves towards easier, more intuitive interactions with cleverer technologies that actually start to enhance our lives, I'd like to wish you all whatever you wish for yourselves for the next year. But do be careful what you wish for.....