Development of universal digital connectivity is unavoidable: People want to communicate, and economies of scale along with rapid technological development will make the connectivity possible. The connectivity will involve broadband access points that are at least as common as telephone lines are today (using, if nothing else, DSL connections on the existing lines). Low-bandwidth wireless (cell phone like) connectivity will be available everywhere else.
Most computers will be miniaturized and portable, and 'desktop' computers will be substantially smaller than they are today. Since cost per unit of computation and storage is quickly decreasing, computers will continue to be cheaper, and will become much more numerous.
Computer operating systems will become secure because security is essential for many uses. All basic software features will be implemented. Proper fault tolerant architecture and testing will ensure software stability for much of software. The operating system will prevent security vulnerabilities and viruses from overtaking the system. Biometric identification will replace or supplement ID cards.
Processors will remain backwards compatible. Processors will probably become asynchronous. In 'desktop' computers, processors will use simultaneous multithreading. Much of the new software will use 64-bit addressing. Operating systems will remain backwards compatible with applications but not with services that work closely with the kernel.
Artificial intelligence based features will be common in software. For example, word processors will include useful style and grammar checkers that actually analyze some aspects of semantics of the text. Software will continue to rapidly evolve as productivity will be heavily dependent on feature set and usability of software.
Displays will be bright, colorful, high resolution, flat (as opposed to bulky), and with precise touch-screen functionality. Mass production, innovation, and competition will make their prices low.
Television and radio will be digital and be playable on computers.
Computers will predominantly replace paper. Handwriting and drawing will be done with stylus on touch-screen displays. Software will convert handwriting into digitally editable texts and sometimes diagrams. Digital cameras and special software will allow digitization of papers and books simply by flipping pages (so that pictures of the pages can be taken). Speech recognition will be a standard feature, but will not replace keyboards since keyboards are quiet and offer high speed accurate text entry and system control. Virtual keyboards (through laser projection of the image of the keyboard and through infrared sensors) will be common. Remote data storage (with proper identification technologies) will allow access to much of personal data and electronic papers from anywhere.
Three-dimensional displays will be used for games and other applications, but will not be as ubiquitous as ordinary displays.
Digital cameras will become very common and will gain the ability to record good resolution video through powerful processors, video compression technologies, and gigabytes of flash (or other) memory. Videoconferencing will become common and will replace certain (but not all) types of face-to-face meetings. Telecommuting to work will become common: It will save money on offices and time on movement; it will allow employment of geographically separated workers; and it will be possible through broadband connectivity, compression and communication software, and digital cameras (along with displays, speakers, and microphones).
Education will use computers instead of papers. Special education software will be common, but teachers will remain necessary.
Linux will be a common desktop operating system: Linux and open
source software is rapidly evolving, and will have the desired features
at low initial cost, and with great freedom and control to the user. I
hope that Linux will be able to run Windows software and vice versa.
While this is clearly technically possible, licensing and business
issues might prevent this.
I hope that much of hardware will become standardized, that is hardware will be interchangeable without the need to change the device driver. However, the hardware will be rapidly evolving, and new hardware will arrive ahead of the standards.
The future of copyright laws is uncertain. Complete copyright
'protection' will be incompatible with user's control of the computer:
Files are easy to copy and distribute. Since users must remain in
control of the computers they own--a contrary would be a grave
violation of property, privacy, and freedom of speech rights--copyright
laws will likely be in jeopardy. The future of copyright laws will be
one of the main issues in the first decade of the twenty first century.
Legislators will probably reduce the current state of overprotection of "intellectual property" as it will become clear that things like frivolous software patents hinder innovation.
Robots will commonly be used in developed countries for manufacturing and for 'simple' but repetitive tasks.
Microcontrollers will continue to become more and more common, although some will be replaced/consolidated with ordinary computers.
It will be recognized that the key business benefit of a computer is automation of services. More and more programs will be designed for this purpose. Eventually (but not in 2009), the vast majority of the current services will be replaced by computers, and almost all manufacturing will be done by robots. Product design will envolve a high level of automation, once appropriate programs will be developed.
It should be noted that the future is subject to change. The purpose of this paper is to change the future, and to bring about the predictions and hopes described above.