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The hardest part about predicting the future has nothing to do with interpreting the stars, reading tea leaves, or making heads or tails out of what you see in your crystal ball. Instead, the most difficult part comes 12 months down the road, when those predictions that seemed so sensible a year ago have failed to pan out.

Last year we assembled a panel of Macworld contributing editors, technology writers, and Mac experts to tell us what we could expect for 2001. And while our panelists may be well versed in clock speeds, RAM requirements, and software shortcuts, they'll be the first to tell you that clairvoyance isn't among their strong suits.

That said, our prognosticators fared OK with their 2001 forecasts. Some of their predictions were right on target. Others just barely missed the mark. As for the rest, well, let's just say our panelists will be mighty pleased if you didn't hold on to a copy of last year's predictions.

Right On

Lighter Portables: Contributing Editors Adam Engst and Stephan Somogyi and New York Times senior writer John Markoff didn't have to wait long to be proven right--Apple unveiled the 1-inch-thick, 5.3-pound Titanium PowerBook G4 in January. And, just for good measure, the iBook underwent an equally slimming redesign in the spring.

Important Software: Every one of our panelists correctly tabbed OS X as the most important software to ship in 2001. But Contributing Editors Henry Bortman and Franklin N. Tessler deserve special mention for their forecasts about a Carbonized version of Microsoft Office. The productivity suite wound up winning Macworld' s Software of the Year award, after all.

OS X Ship Date: Give gold stars to Contributing Editor Tom Negrino and San Francisco Chronicle writer Henry Norr for correctly predicting a March release for OS X. Or, if you insist that the operating system wasn't truly ready until the release of OS X 10.1, then the September release predicted by TechTV's Leo Laporte rates an honorable mention.

Close, but No Cigar

Faster CPUs: Last year Contributing Editor Christopher Breen called for a Mac desktop that "seriously exceeds today's 500MHz G4 limit." But his hope that Macs would reach 1GHz in 2001 was off by a few megahertz--the clock speed of the G4 topped out at 867MHz when Apple revved the Power Mac line last summer.

Consumer Electronics: Engst wasn't completely on target when he predicted that Apple would make "striking forays into the world of consumer electronics and perhaps even household appliances, all based on a low-cost variant of AirPort wireless networking." But when Apple announced the iPod, Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson did hail it as a "groundbreaking foray into the digital device arena." Eerie.

Guess Again

Redesigned iMac: Norr's prediction of "a major makeover" for the iMac went unfulfilled. Unless you want to count the Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian color schemes.

Intel Inside?: Whether it was Markoff predicting a second processor architecture, Tessler pining for a Mac powered by a non-Motorola CPU, or Laporte wishing for OS X to run on an Intel processor, none of it came to pass.

Steve Jobs Resigns: Norr predicted the Apple CEO would step down in 2001. Twelve months later, it appears that Jobs's place at the head of Apple remains secure--at least until the next round of year-end predictions.

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