The noughties are gone and so is a lot of the technology it spawned. It was the decade when no sooner was a new technology or device launched that it was immediately superceded by the next big thing. Certainly a lot of stuff we were sold by the big technology companies didn’t live up to the hype.
However, the next ten years could be the era when emerging technologies really come into their own. If you want to keep up with the digital Joneses here’s what you need to be looking out for this year and beyond.
1. 3D TV
Still raving about your 50 inch LCD flat screen? Get over it! This year is all going to be about 3D TV. Blockbusters such as Avatar have already whetted our appetite for 3D TV and the trend looks set to continue. Believe it or not, 3D has been around in one form or another since the early 1900s, but it’s only recently that Toshiba and Sony have showcased 3D television sets that actually deliver what they promise. Panasonic too, is set to expand its solar cell 3D TV production. With Sky 3D already broadcasting in Korea and set to launch in the UK in Spring, 3D may very well leapfrog HD to become the format of choice over the next couple of years.
2. Android phones
Believe the hype. This year’s most awaited phones are all going to be powered by Android technology. The Google Nexus One is the one to really get the ball rolling. As with the iPhone, there are already hundreds of mobile applications for Android out there and these are set to multiply this year. It’s not that the Nexus One does much differently than the iPhone, it simply does it better.
3. Transparent Laptop Screens
There’s a trick whereby you can put a visual on screensaver that matches your background, giving the illusion that your laptop screen is transparent. That illusion has now become a reality with Samsung’s new 14 inch OLED, said to be the world’s first see-through laptop screen. Even powered off, it’s 40 per cent transparent. What’s to be gained by having a transparent laptop screen is questionable, but one thing is for sure, it’s certainly very cool.
4. Project Natal
Nope, it isn’t some secret US government project for building a UFO, although it does come from one of the biggest organisations in the world, namely Microsoft. Project Natal is the codename Microsoft has given the development of a controller-free environment for the Xbox 360 Console. Now you can control your Xbox using gestures and spoken commands. In some ways, it’s the Wii taken to the next level. Expect it to be just as popular.
5. Social CRM
We’ve all heard the analogy that if Facebook was a country, it would be one of the largest in the world. There’s no doubt that social networking has been one of the greatest innovations in the digital world over the past decade, but it’s only now that corporate business is really seeing the potential. Chatter is one example of the new ways in which the media is being developed. US company, Salesforce, has created a private social network for businesses to interact more effectively with their customers. Look out for others in the coming year.
6. Tablet PCs
The iPad has been a long time coming from Apple. So much so, that countless other companies are working on their own version, most notably Hewlett Packard with their Slate product. Imagine, if you will, a laptop, stripped down to its most basic web surfing functionality; a hybrid of touchscreen smartphone and Netbook. With launch dates scattered throughout the coming year, you can be sure the marketing campaigns will be hard fought. Right now, which product comes out on top is anyone’s guess.
7. Contactless Payment Cards
In retail technology, the next big development is going to be contactless payment cards. Based on London Transport’s Oyster card, ‘contactless’ is a bit of a misnomer, as the system is a method of making small payments by tapping the card against the merchant’s terminal, which interacts with a radio antenna built into the card. Visa is already trialling the technology successfully in the UK and Ireland. It may not be long before you could be waving goodbye to a pocket full of shrapnel.
8. Chrome OS
Let’s face it, Windows has been taking a lot of flak recently, leaving the path clear for Google’s faster web-oriented operating system to make real in-roads into the market. Using Chrome, most of your applications are stored in the ‘Cloud’, giving you accessibility to your applications wherever you go, simplifying navigation and making many back-ups, even hard drives redundant. Certainly if, as things look, applications are set to become more Internet-focussed, Chrome looks set to be a killer app for devices such as Netbooks.
With GPS chips becoming ever more common on mobile phones, 2010 could very well be the year of geolocation. Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are already getting set to utilise geolocation data in all sorts of applications.
E-Readers have been around a while in many formats, but have so far failed to take off. All that may now be about to change with the latest devices, such as the Plastic Logic Que E-Reader. Using touchscreen technology, this could be the first real digital newspaper/magazine. Manufacturers, Plastic Logic, have already set up hundreds of agreements with newspapers and magazines.
11. 3D Camcorders
They aren’t going to be cheap, but neither were DVD players when they first came out. Panasonic are set to release the first 3D camcorder for the consumer market in Autumn of this year. Finepix’s first 3D stills camera, the Real 3D W1 might be more within your budget, but bear in mind you’ll need to fork out for a special viewer to display your pics.
12. Home Media Centres
Ye olde HTPC has been enjoying a new leash of life recently and this is set to continue with the launch of the D-Link Boxee. If you still haven’t taken the leap, then this might be the one to convince you. A powerful no-fuss media centre in a stylish case, free downloadable software and an easy-to-use remote makes this one a no-brainer for the media centre novice.
2010 could very well be the year of the Netbook. Although closely related to their heavyweight cousins, the laptop, these itsy-bitsy PCs are lightweight, low cost and don’t come with cumbersome CD/DVD drives, making them super-portable and ideal for accessing the net on the go. What’s more, Netbooks are becoming incredibly stylish. Check out Lenovo’s S10-2 range designed by Vivienne Tam; more a digital clutch than a computer. Tech-heads might scoff at them, but girls are going to adore them.
14. Dell Adamo XPS
And speaking of laptops, we simply had to mention the ridiculously thin Dell Adamo XPS, a stunning looking lappy less than 1cm in thickness and with a keyboard that fits inside the screen. Its design makes overheating almost impossible under normal conditions. But that’s nothing compared to the opening mechanism, which involves sliding a finger along a heat-sensitive strip.
15. The Canon Mark IV
This list simply wouldn’t be complete without a stills camera and our choice is the Canon Mark IV. It has it all for a digital SLR: 16 megapixels, HD video at 30 fps, ISO sensitivity up to 102400 (practically nightvision).
16. Light Touch
Although not commercially available yet, the Light Touch promises to convert any surface into a touchscreen computer using holographic laser projection. If successful, the commercial possibilities could be endless. Whether it spells the end of keyboards and monitors is a different matter.
17. Mobile broadband
Mobile broadband is another technology that is finally coming of age. After years of slow speeds and unreliable connections, will mobile broadband finally find its way with 4G and Wimax? Could the launch of these newest forms of mobile broadband do for home broadband what the mobile did for landlines? Watch this space.
We’ve been waiting for the latest upgrade for HTML for some time now, and HTML5 is it. HTML5 reduces the need for plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight. In fact, some are saying it could spell the end for Flash. Expect to see it built into more and more websites from this year onwards.
19. Dual Touchpads
Asus’ dual touchpad technology is just coming onto the market now. As yet, we’re still not convinced of its usability, but you can bet your pinkies that the IT retail industry will be doing their best to convince us that we need it.
20. The Cloud
Finally, as we head into a new technological decade, Cloud computing is already taking the IT world by storm. With space and power becoming premium commodities for business, the Cloud is taking hosting to the next level. All your applications, information and data storage is accessed via the Internet. In fact, you might not know it, but you’re already using Cloud computing when you use one of Google’s online services. Just about every major IT company have Cloud products in the pipeline.
These are just a few of things we know will rock our digital world in the coming years. Most likely, the biggest innovations will be the ones that we cannot predict. The past ten years have seen massive unprecedented changes. Expect more of the same for the next decade.