Lists of tech predictions for the year ahead are super abundant at this time of year, and it’s true we are just as guilty of delivering them. In our defence, these types of lists are always popular, probably because it’s nice to have a set of common themes to frame your understanding of technology. It’s also nice to feel you are informed before forking out on the latest tech trend.

Big data, cloud computing, social everything, hot new mobile devices — the problem is we’ve heard it all before. On the company front it’s grim for RIM, Apple is going to get stale and Google Android may or may not achieve world domination. It all depends on which commentator you believe.

But among the oft-repeated trends, there are a few shining predictions that stand out for their gutsiness, and we thought it was worth summarising them. These are the predictions we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the year ahead.

1. Apple’s share price will halve in 2012

Europe’s Saxo Bank produces a list of 10 outrageous predictions every year, on everything from US politics to individual market economies. One of its predictions for this year is that Australia will go into recession. Don’t tell Wayne. But it’s the bank’s predictions on Apple that caught our eye, including the bearish view that Apple’s share price will plummet 50% from its 2011 high.

Saxo says Apple’s profit margins are about to be crushed by competition from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung, and reminds us that no sovereign or corporate empire has ever maintained its superior position for long because attacks mount and loyalty fades. But the bank hasn’t been the best forecaster on Apple, last year predicting the tech giant would use its massive war chest of cash to buy Facebook.

2. Microsoft will acquire RIM, merge with HP

Blogger Rod Trent is not alone when he predicts RIM will not survive 2012 without being bought by someone. But he takes it a great leap forward by suggesting, tongue-in-cheek, that it will be Microsoft to step up, and that HP will also come into play. Why? Because Microsoft needs a manufacturer for its smartphones, and Microsoft and HP would work well together on cloud computing. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

3. Social media will lose its sizzle

Washington Post columnist Vivek Wadhwa says the party’s over for investors and start-ups in the social media space, with the big growth behind us. Pointing to “thousands of start-ups” that are either dying or on the ropes, but failing to actually name one, Wadhwa is clearly sceptical of the social media hype, encouraging investors to jump on the next bandwagon instead.

The only problem is, this year we’re expected to see one of the most anticipated IPOs in history: that of social media company Facebook. With analysts generally in agreement that the IPO will raise $US10 billion, it’s hard to see how, rightly or wrongly, 2012 couldn’t be full of sizzle for social media.

4. Intel will become a mobile player

For ZDNet editor in chief Larry Dignan, 2012 is the year when power and performance will really start to matter for mobile devices. Intel leads on this front, so why not enter the mobile arena?

It’s an interesting theory but even Dignan admits there are some major obstacles in the way, such as the industry’s widespread adoption of ARM architecture.

5. DVDs and Blu-ray discs will disappear

Over at IDG, it’s worth taking a look at the comprehensive list of predictions from the group’s network of tech publication editors. Most are fairly benign, but IDG TechStyle editor and Macworld Spain director Daniel de Blas gets the award for calling it early with his prediction for the total disappearance of optical discs including DVD and Blu-ray.

Solid-state memory is getting faster and cheaper says de Blas, competition is growing among content providers to bring the big screen to homes, and game consoles are going to become media centres. Netflix may be huge in the US, and iTunes may be gaining ground with Apple TV, but we can’t see discs disappearing in Australia in the next three years, and globally it’s likely to take even longer.

6. Google will launch a 7-inch tablet to beat the Kindle Fire

When Google chairman Eric Schmidt told an Italian newspaper in December that “in the next six months we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality”, it drove all sorts of predictions about whether he was referring to a simple marketing campaign or a Google-branded tablet.

Less than a month later, Taiwan’s DigiTimes is reporting on sources who say Google will launch its own-brand tablet PC in March-April, featuring a 7-inch panel and Android 4.0 with a price tag under $US199,  to compete against Amazon’s Kindle Fire. But, as Business Insider points outDigiTimes has a very hot and cold record when it comes to reports such as this.

7. Apple will launch a 5-inch tablet phone hybrid

Mashable editor in chief Lance Ulanoff says he’s deliberately gone beyond the likely, beyond the possible and deep into the world of the implausible with his list of “crazy tech predictions for 2012”.

Forget the iPhone 5 or the iPad 3, it’s a hybrid device we’ll next see from Apple, with the added bonus of it operating as a fully functional HDTV. Crazy is right — can you imagine how different Apple would have to be to merge all those product opportunities into one device?

*This article first appeared on Technology Spectator