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Prediction: 10 percent of your online “friends” will be replaced by robots

We knew this day was coming. First the bots befriend us, then they replace us. Gartner has released a series of predictions for IT organizations and users to watch out for in the next five years. While most are boring to anyone who isn’t ordering cooling fans for a server farm, a couple predictions caught our eye.

It seems that computer bots are going to be filling a significant portion of social networking chatter by 2015. That’s right, your new friend “Starbucks” may not be a real person for long.

Gartner predicts that many businesses will employ social bots to engage customers on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The social bots will be able to read and respond to known requests and will likely be very cordial, much like the proliferation of AIM instant messaging bots some years ago. Unfortunately, these bots will probably be dumber than a pile of rocks.

Though one can hope for actual robots typing on computers, automated programs will have to do for now. The bots will be a step up from the current crop of lazy companies that only post RSS updates on social sites and fail to respond to fans. They will not, however, change the fact that the companies who use social media proactively and creatively, with humans, will be the ones who see the most improvement in their bottom line.

Tablet power

Along with social bots, businesses will begin supporting tablets in the workplace. By 2013, Gartner predicts that 80 percent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets. This isn’t to say that tablets will be the main mode of productivity, but they will be tolerated at minimum, and IT staff will give them appliance-level support and network connectivity. More progressive businesses will more heavily integrate tablets into their daily routines.

So, just how happy are you that your Twitter friend “Marshall Fields” may soon be a bot? Would it be better if companies employed a farm of actual robots sitting at desks?