There's not much time before we end a sour 2012, which has largely been a muddle-through year for business and technology. So, in no particular order, here are 20 questions that might be fun to consider before Dec. 31:
1. Will the real profit center of Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) not be its e-retail apparatus or its Kindle family of tablets but Amazon Web Services, which continues to grow like Topsy and generate a far richer profit margin than the other parts of the company?
2. Will Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), which reinstituted a small quarterly dividend this year, announce some dramatic use of its $117 billion pile of cash and investments, such as a major acquisition or a special dividend?
3. Will Nasdaq OMX Group (Nasdaq: NDAQ) or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disclose what happened on May 18 when shares of Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) started to trade at $43.15 and then stopped trading for 30 minutes?
4. Will Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) make enough progress to announce a successor to CEO Paul Otellini, who announced his early retirement at only 62, the first time in 44 years the No. 1 chipmaker hasn't also announced a replacement?
5. Will Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), the No. 1 computer company, find still more financial surprises and pre-announce still another writeoff in the current quarter, much as she's taken mega-charges for the $13 billion acquisition of EDS in 2006 and the $10.2 billion acquisition of Autonomy in 2011?
6. Will the panel of 11 U.S. District Court judges who held a preliminary hearing on class-action suits stemming from the Facebook IPO on Sept. 20 ever set a venue and date for trial on the dozens of suits brought nationwide?
7. Will private companies such as Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or Space X, continue to be successful launching rockets and manned spacecraft as NASA for now adheres to an unmanned strategy?
8. Has Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), the No. 1 software company, laid an egg with Windows 8? November data from NPD Group suggests so, unless the problem relates to overall weak PC demand.
9. Will scientists announce anything as exciting as International Business Machines Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) accomplishing the first demonstration of quantum computing?
10. Now that Apple, Samsung Electronics (Seoul: 005930) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) have acknowledged labor abuses in the Chinese factories of their contractors, will a group such as the National Council of Churches or the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism urge adherents to think twice before purchasing an iPhone 5 or PlayStation for the holidays?
11. Will either HP or Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) devise a really cool tablet to compete with the iPad or iPad Mini, aside from HP's business-oriented ElitePad scheduled for January shipment?
12. Can BlackBerry developer Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), whose shares vaulted 53.2 percent in November (and 73 percent in the past three months) keep up the momentum until it finally ships BlackBerry 10 on Jan. 30?
13. Will one of the new cloud storage companies challenging Amazon, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft, such as Dropbox of San Francisco or SugarSync, of San Mateo, Calif., announce an IPO or be acquired?
14. How will newspapers that suspended daily publication, including the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and The News in Birmingham, Ala., for a mix of online and some-day publication, survive?
15. Will Laurene P. Jobs sell the 7.7 percent stake of Walt Disney Co. (INYSE: DIS) that her husband, Steve Jobs, got for selling Pixar to Disney in 2006 for $7.01 billion? Valued at $7.34 billion on Friday, the sum could be used to establish a foundation, although that wouldn't fit with Jobs' outlook in life.
16. Will the U.S. Federal Communications Commission either unleash new spectrum for the burgeoning mobile market or discount claims that there's not enough available?
17. Will university and local libraries considering rebuilding or modernization switch to all-electronic models or strike some balance between books and electronics?
18. Will a developer such as EnerSys (NYSE: ENS) or Exide (Nasdaq: XIDE) devise a truly long-life battery for mobile platforms?
19. Will any other of Facebook's newly rich investors copy CEO Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to the public schools of Newark, N.J., with a similar gift?
20. Is there any private company whose IPO will be as eagerly anticipated as Facebook's was this year: Twitter? Tumblr?
David Zielenziger is a veteran editor and journalist who has written for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun, Asian Wall Street Journal and EETimes, as well as for...