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Technically speaking

From phones to games, tablets to gadgets, find out what clicked and cracked this year.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2011 19:18 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani
Nokia-Microsoft

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1. Nokia-Microsoft
“We are standing on a burning platform, and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour,” said Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop in an internally circulated memo to his employees early this February. He was referring to Nokia’s archaic Symbian platform and to the company’s drastically diminishing sales figures in the wake of Apple and Google Android mobile phones. Shocking the world, Elop decided to partner with Microsoft on its new Windows Phone 7 mobile phone operating system. Nokia’s first device touting WP7, the Lumia 800, has just been launched. It’s left to be seen whether Nokia’s decision was a wise one.

2.BlackBerry PlayBook
When BlackBerry first showcased the PlayBook, it stood at the other end of the spectrum, defying the iPad and its copycat trail, with a completely new take on tablet computing. Its sprightly looking QNX-based operating system was a breath of fresh air, and the tablet had all the necessary specifications to make it a hit. However, the fact that it needed to be tethered to a BlackBerry cell phone severely limited its reach. A terrible shortage of apps was the final nail in the coffin. Figures speak for themselves: the PlayBook sold 500,000 pieces in the first quarter followed by 200,000 in the next. By comparison, Apple’s iPad has averaged on approximately 8 million per quarter.

3.Cloud storage
While Android has offered wireless syncing over the Internet through 2010, 2011 will remain the year that saw this feature become ubiquitous. With multiple offerings available across brands — such as Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud, backing up essential data online like contacts, photos, notes and even music on your mobile phone or tablet is now a cup of tea.

4. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The fifth game in a 17-year-old franchise, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that’s available on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is a rare game that actually lives up to its seemingly insurmountable hype. The game’s ability to enthral you lies not in its graphics or action-packed fights with dragons, but in its open-world nature. You can literally roam wherever you wish, up to where the eye can see. Trek to the top of an icy mountain or head aimlessly into the woods. Skyrim pushes you to explore its world and rewards you with the thrill of exploration, engaging gameplay, memorable characters and a beautiful background score.

5.Steve Jobs
October 5, this year, turned out to be one of technology’s darkest days. The co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs, passed away after a long-standing battle with the deadly pancreatic cancer. It doesn’t require an Apple fanboy to acknowledge just how influential Steve’s tastes and choices were. From personal desktop computers and 3D animated films, and music players to mobile phones and tablets, Steve’s decisions shaped and changed the industry as we knew it. Towards the end of his life, one of his last goals was it build a company that would outlive him and carry on in his name. Good luck, Apple and goodbye, Steve.

6.Patent wars
“I will spend my last dying breath, if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong... I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product.” Steve Jobs words will send a chill down your spine. In the last couple of months, Apple has sued Google and phone makers like HTC, Samsung and Motorola over patent infringement. Countersuits have been filed. In early rulings, Samsung has been banned from selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in many EU nations. HTC too has been asked by the US courts to remove the offending features in its phones. If only for our benefit, let’s hope this slugfest doesn’t get any dirtier.

Things to look forward to in 2012

1.Windows 8
Expected to release in 2012, approximately three years after Windows 7 launched, Windows 8 promises to be very exciting. For starters, it sports the, now very popular, grid-based Metro user interface that is also available on the Xbox 360 gaming
console and Windows Phone 7 mobile OS. Other features include native support for touchscreens and a Windows Store for applications, similar to the Mac App Store.

2.iPad 3
We didn’t mention the iPad 2 as one of the most important things in 2011 because we think that the third-generation iPad will be even better. Expected to pack in a ‘Retina Display’ screen with a resolution 2048x1536 — exactly four times the resolution on the current iPad— rumours go that Apple will announce the new iPad on February 24, Steve Jobs’ birthday. Other features that may be present include a slicker design, a more powerful quad-core processor and a Samsung-made AMOLED display.

3.Android v4.0
Although Google’s next mobile phone operating system, Android v4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) was technically launched this year, most Android phones and tablets across brands like HTC, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson will only be equipped with the OS in early 2012. ICS sports many interesting features like a face recognition-based unlock system, a new aesthetic-looking typeface called Roboto, overhauled email and contacts apps, and real-time speech recognition.

4.Mirrorless interchangeable lens
Over the past couple of years, Micro Four Thirds and other standards of mirrorless interchangeable lens (MILC) cameras have steadily been gaining ground as decent alternatives to digital SLR cameras. And 2012 will be definitive for this new class of shooters. End of 2012, MFTs will be as teensy as conventional point-and-shoot cameras, but with quality to rival SLRs. Over next year’s course, consumers can expect pint-sized cameras with multiple lens support that capture much better quality photos and videos.

5.Ultrabooks
Netbooks are dying a gradual but calculated death, with its slow hardware and bulky size. 2012 will see ultrabooks, like the Apple MacBook Air, sit between tablets and laptops. Already, brands like Asus and Toshiba have offerings in the market that sport Intel’s high-performance and easy-on-the-battery SandyBridge processors, along with shock-resistant solid state memory.

6.Smart TVs
Flat-screen televisions already sport apps like YouTube, Google Maps and other downloadable widgets. But in 2012, your telly will turn into a Wi-Fi-ready, multimedia machine to reckon with. LG’s next range of televisions are rumoured to feature Google TV v2.0 that sports an Android-based interface, with an announcement as early as January 2012. Samsung too may load its Bada mobile platform on its upcoming range of televisions. Finally, Apple has been attempting to reinvent the idiot box, but there is no word on it yet.