10 technologies that will define 2011

Electric and hybrid cars

We will be up to our armpits in electric cars this year. However, most of us will still realize that the ecosystem for electric cars is years from being complete, and will end up with a new class of hybrids headed by the Chevy Volt which favors electricity over gas. This will allow us to drive the cars much like we did our old, gas-only vehicles, while still having enough performance to dust a Prius, to laugh at that all-electric cars stuck at the side of the road with dead batteries, and the poor sucker filling up his Hummer at the gas station. Those who have the right car will be grinning their way to the bank. Those who don’t, won’t be smiling as much.

Outdoor-viewable displays

It looks like 2011 will be the year we can finally use our technology outside, as outdoor viewable displays like Qualcomm’s Mirasol, Pixel Qi, and HP’s unnamed secret display make it to market in ever increasing numbers. This will allow the lines between e-readers and tablets to become increasingly and irrevocably blurred, as both devices cross over into the territory of the other. Battery life will improve, weight will drop, and we can finally watch our movies, browse the web, and get skin cancer at the same time. Whee!?! Actually, I love working outside, and I’m really looking forward to this.

IE9 and the race for hardware acceleration

The first fully hardware accelerated browser drives through the market in 2011, and Web pages will likely respond by becoming vastly more graphically rich, and much more exciting. This will undoubtedly drive some really interesting responses from Google and the Firefox folks as the competition in this area heats up in 2011, but you’ll finally have a reason to buy better PC hardware.

AMD Fusion

Yes, 2011 is the year AMD strikes back with Fusion, which is the blurring of the CPU and GPU. You’ll see a ton of Fusion laptops at CES, which sport both long battery life and decent, high-definition graphics, including DX11 support, which IE9 requires for full hardware acceleration. They have positioned nicely around IE9, and for a company that for years couldn’t spell mobile, they have what could be the best blend between performance and battery life in the market.

App stores

Apple started it, Google followed, and now even Microsoft is on board. 2011 will be the year we begin to say goodbye to traditional retail for software, and we begin to move to app stores as the primary way we get software on our PCs, tablets, and phones. No more wandering down aisles, no more installing and then patching for longer than it took to install. You just pay, download and go. Almost, depending on your bandwidth, instant gratification, and this is just the start.

Wrapping up: The wild card

The year 2011 will see us more connected, more able to enjoy our content anyplace we are (inside and outside), enjoying a richer Web, and playing with some of the coolest hardware we have ever seen. But there always is a wild card, and I think, in 2011 it will be robotics. Robots have been increasing steadily this year, and becoming more intelligent. Witness the Neato robotic vacuum vs. the Rumba, the Neato uses technology that came out of self-driving cars, the Rumba is more like an old bump and go toy. Things can get smarter in 2011, and they undoubtedly will. Hopefully, they won’t get so smart they wonder what they need us for.

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