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With the new year upon us, it's a good time to go out on a limb and predict what lies ahead in 1997.

1. A backlash against the Internet will develop in the press because many wild promises that have been made about the World Wide Web won't be fulfilled in the near future.2. People will scour the Internet for security and privacy problems and find a small number that will be heavily touted. The scrutiny and publicity will be healthy because they'll encourage safeguards and policy debates.

3. Advertising revenue on the Internet will soar but not as high as some expect. Companies developing advertiser-supported content for the Web will be disappointed when only about a quarter of the total ad revenues they anticipate actually materialize.

4. Despite these setbacks, the Internet will continue to grow in importance. By the end of the year many people will recognize the historic dimensions of the global interactive network.

5. Various attempts will be made to try to tax the Internet. These efforts are unlikely to succeed if they single out the Internet rather than also taxing other forms of communication equitably.

6. The rate schemes used to pay for telecommunications in the United States will change dramatically. Regulators will end the current practice that forces phone companies to undercharge for local service and overcharge for long-distance service. As a result, heavy users of the local telephone network - including people who keep computer modems connected hour after hour - will see bills rise. Meanwhile, long-distance telephone prices will fall sharply once the Federal Communications Commission rules that long-distance carriers no longer have to pay local telephone companies per-minute access fees.

7. Most corporations will employ electronic mail systems by the end of the year, and employees will typically send or receive e-mail several times a day. Corporate cultures will continue to rapidly adapt to the advantages of electronic mail.

8. Video conferencing will become important, but not nearly so important as the emerging practice of simultaneously sharing documents - and conversation - across corporate networks and the Internet. "Net meetings" will explode in popularity once people realize how readily and in-ex-pen-sive-ly they can use networks to discuss and edit documents that appear on two or more screens simultaneously.

9. By the end of 1997 it will be widely recognized that PC technology can take on even the most demanding and important corporate computing tasks, and that PC-based solutions can scale up to compete with any computers in existence. (This is a self-interested prediction, since I'm a champion of the PC, but I think it's absolutely true.)

10. The boundaries betweenpersonal computers, network computers and TVs will get fuzzy as new machines begin to mix capabilities. For instance, some PCs connected to networks will be diskless, and some networked PCs will use disks solely as caches-storage areas that help deliver information rapidly.

11. Laptop computers and other portable PCs will continue to grow as a proportion of the market. As prices fall, many people who would have bought a desktop computer will purchase a laptop instead. When these mobile workers are in their offices or homes, they may plug their laptops into docking stations that let them use large monitors, external keyboards and external mice.

12. Hand-held PCs will grow in popularity by more than 50 percent. We'll see at least another 500,000 in use by year's end. Within a few years, "wallet PCs" will be more popular than cellular phones are today.

13. Three-dimensional graphics will become mainstream for users of new PCs. In 1996 there were demonstrations of 3D graphics, and a few machines and games supported these realistic images. But in 1997 impressive 3D graphics will be a big reality, a development that will help to transform the everyday experience of using a PC.

14. There will be great PCs for sale for less than a thousand dollars. More important, the total cost of owning a PC - including training, upgrades and support - will fall sharply for organizations that configure and administer their PCs across a network.

15. My final prediction is that some of the preceding 14 predictions will prove too optimistic.

A year is a short time, so some of these predictions may not happen until 1998. For example, while I'm reasonably confident that new FCC regulations will curb long-distance telephone rates and increase the tab for most local service in the U.S., the issue may get tied up in the courts, pushing the change off a year or more.

If I had to guess which of my predictions are certain to happen this year, I'd say numbers 4, 10 and 14. And number 15, of course.

Questions may be sent to Bill Gates by electronic mail. The address is askbill@microsoft.com. Or write to him care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. Bill Gates regrets that unpublished questions cannot be answered individually.