We live in interesting times – where our life, our personalities, behaviour and our very being is influenced by technology. It’s never happened before, as in the last 100 years, technology played a side role. But today, the influence of gadgets and devices is part of our very core. And 2011 will play an even more important role. Many have called this the year when technology will explode into a radical new entity. Time to go into crystal ball mode then, and gaze into the future for the bounties of products, devices and technologies this new year will bring.1 Win Phone 7 Vs Meego
Actually there will be many battles in the OS front but this one seems like the most fun. Windows Phone 7 has pulled off quite a coup with its complete redesign and the fact that it’s making up for missing features and lost ground every day. Plus, it’s Microsoft’s last chance to dent the mobile market, so a lot of muscle will be used here. Meego is Nokia’s big chance of survival. With Symbian 3 not doing too well, Nokia needs Meego to be the God OS. With Intel’s backing and Nokia’s super thrust, Meego will need to fire. And the even more interesting part: both Windows Phone 7 and Meego will also make their appearance on Tablets. The stakes are high. Let the battle begin.
2 Nintendo 3DS
Boy, does Nintendo need a winner right now. After blazing a new trail with its motion control Wii and leaving enough gaps to make sure that Sony and Microsoft better it, Nintendo is between a rock and a hard place. With no new console on the horizon and sales dwindling, the 3DS is all it’s got. This is a handheld gamer that does naked-eye 3D. No glasses required, great screen, good concept, demo games have been fantastic and the price point may well be lower than expected. Now if they could also announce the Wii HD in 2011, that would be a tasty double whammy.
3 Netbooks: Survival mode
Tablets from one side, more powerful mobile phones from the other and laptops with price points that lower every month from the third. Yes, Netbooks are in trouble. Can they survive and most importantly, can they have the numbers they need to keep the price points compelling? The short answer is yes. Netbooks are a great start point towards mobile computing and they still have that advantage. Better battery life, easy to carry, cheap and also innovative – in 2011, Netbooks should evolve even more. Hybrid Netbooks that fold over to become a small tablet, the small computer that has an e-ink second screen, the double screen Netbook and the Netbook that breaks the R5,000 price barrier, all of
these will keep the Netbook market scalding hot!
4 Solid state hard drives
Sometimes better technology doesn’t necessarily mean successful technology. SSD hard drives are one such category. They are far more reliable and much faster with a zero wait state, use low power, have no physical moving parts and almost no chances of failure. Yet, they haven’t taken off as they should have. The main reasons are lower capacity and much higher prices. Large order take up, economies of scale and better production facilities means that all of this will be redundant and 2011 should see more laptops and tablets with SSDs come out with no real price penalty to pay. The whirring sound of the old hard drive as it starts up may well be the sound of history winding down.
5 Broadband that follows you around
The constant hunt to stay connected seems akin to living in the dark ages. Away from an office or a home, the task of having a live data connection is frustrating. This year may change that. Away with the GPRS on our phones and our USB dongles – 3G shall conquer all! And there will be more goodies. LTE, WiMax 2 and others may live in harmony. By the end of 2011, having a 4 MBPS data connection that follows you around and gives you blazing speeds may be commonplace.
6 Blackberry Playbook
The dark horse of the Tablet category. An OS that is Tablet oriented from the ground up, super powerful, add-ons and apps that make this a real workhorse and a price point that is very competitive – this may well be the first true competitor to the iPad and one that takes a completely different approach. While the simple Tablet hit the Netbook market, a powerful, all-enterprise Tablet may even hit the laptop market and the first one with enough under the hood seems to be the Playbook. If only they would change the name – Playbook is a terrible tag for a corporate warrior to carry under his arm!
It has reduced headaches to a massive degree. And it’s just in its first year. Never has a first generation category been so successful. 2011 will see this mature fast. The iPad 2 should dominate headlines; the Blackberry Playbook may play the power card; Acer and even Samsung may have multiple OS Tablets; Notion Ink’s Adam is finally available for pre-order; Android 3.0 Tablets should carry forward the momentum; Windows, with a pared down Windows 7 and a Windows Phone 7 Tablet will give it their best; Meego and others will throw down the gauntlet; and a few new entrants will play for massive stakes. It is estimated that more than 100 companies will introduce a brand new Tablet in 2011. Hopefully about 10 should be super hits!
8 Social networking
Facebook fatigue, Twitter turbulence. The two biggies of social networking have an interesting year ahead. Studies show an older generation taking to Facebook more and the younger lot not spending as much time on it as before A paradigm shift could take place. Facebook will need to reinvent itself slowly to make sure that the number growth is also leading to more time spent on the site. On the other hand, Twitter as a great news and information dispenser, is unquestioned. Yet, many who made Twitter what it is (read celebrities), seem to be slowly weaning off. There may well be a next big thing coming up in 2011 that doesn’t involve FB or tweets!
9 The iPad 2 and the iPhone 5
Apple is always good with second generation devices. Thus a front and rear camera that enables FaceTime video conferencing as also augmented reality apps, a retina or equivalent higher resolution display are some iPad 2 add-ons. The iPhone 5 is a mystery right now. Most say it’s a complete form factor and product change; that it looks nothing like the iPhone 4. I doubt there will be such a radical departure from a successful product, but the iPhone has upped the stakes every year.
10 OLED TVs
One more technology to come and muddy our LCD, Plasma, LED triangle of confusion. But the coming of OLED is a good thing and one that we’ve been waiting for for a long time. This is true display technology at its best. Truly green, low power, extremely high contrast, super razor blade thin and resolutions that can make simple HD look shoddy. OLED TVs have been showcased before as demo pieces and some ridiculously small size TVs have even been introduced in retail at exorbitant prices. But real customer traction will start from 2011. 32-inch+ screens should hit by mid year and prices, while high, will not be silly. TV watching will never be the same again.
Lots of biggie, uber Android phones – the next level of Droids from Motorola, maybe the Nexus 3 from Google, the Desire 3 from HTC – will be launched in 2011. But that’s not the real story. With the give-away business model of Android and the fact that hardware prices are going down, the real Android story will be the sub R3,000 smartphone. And that is huge! Imagine a world where a normal feature phone is about R2,000 and an Android smartphone, with all its wiz-bang, for just a bit more. It will change the mobile phone landscape, force other smart phone OSes to bring down prices and a whole new billion will own a powerful mobile device, changing our way of communication forever. Plus, Android 3.0 will be Tablet friendly and the Android app store is getting bigger and more powerful by the minute. Hail Android, it is finally coming!
Many other things will keep us excited. The momentum of gaming will be high with Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move evolving; small second screens on our phones will run our apps and keep us updated on news; the new Chrome OS may spawn a new culture of instant-on super smartbooks; battery life will still be weak; dedicated e-ink based readers may be hit this year; our mobile phones may become our most secure credit card with NFC technology and 160-inch Ultra Super HD LED TVs will be available for less than R50,000. Okay, maybe the last won’t happen, but can’t I wish?
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
- From HT Brunch, January 2
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