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10 technologies that will define 2011

This is the time to both look back at 2010, which is ending, and look forward at 2011, with hope that we will exit it as well off as we did this one. Given current conditions this, unfortunately, may be an overly aggressive goal. In any case, there is a lot of cool stuff coming next year, I’ll try to pick the things that will play pivotal roles.

Personal cloud

The idea of your stuff being available to you wherever you are and on any device you want is becoming vastly more popular. With efforts like SugarSync, Apple’s MobileMe, and Microsoft’s Live Mesh, it is spreading broadly to the major vendors, and has at its core the realization that you want your stuff when you need it, and not just when you are on your PC. This is likely where the cloud becomes real to all of us, and will make new products like the iPad far more useful over time.

Tablets

I’ve seen the challengers lined up for early 2011, and most of them suck. An increasing number of us wonder if we should agree with Roger Kay and pronounce that, like the iPod, the market for this new device is owned by Apple. Still this little product is getting a lot of folks to look at the market differently, but Google and Microsoft won’t have a good response until at least 2012, Notion Ink is still way too small to compete with Apple, and HP doesn’t have a great record coming through in this area either, but it ironically may be the best bet in 2011. I say ironically because HP came the closest to taking out the iPod early on, which was why Jobs talked HP into doing an HP-branded iPod. This could be payback, but the smart money remains on Apple. Outside of HP and Apple, I don’t expect much of anything.

OnLive

This will be the make-it-or-break-it year for OnLive. The company has proven that the service works, and in 2011, it will begin to take it to the next level. Part of this is their version of streaming movies and videos. The advantage with OnLive’s approach is that it use an extremely thin client, allowing the service to more easily move across platforms than alternatives, which require more client-side technology. This could open the door to blended entertainment where the lines between movies and games are truly blurred. OnLive represents the biggest threat to the client-side status quo currently in market, and in 2011 it should hit its stride.

4G

While it is not clear yet if we can even agree what 4G is, clearly 2011 will be the year we are inundated with this name. We are heavily bandwidth constrained with 3G, and if we want to be able to use services like OnLive on our phones, 3G just doesn’t cut it. I doubt 4G will be enough either, but just like 3G took the market by storm the year the iPhone launched, 2011 is the year that 4G becomes the favorite way we do stuff.

Windows 8

Yes, I know most of us just got Windows 7, but in 2011, we will start getting ready for Windows 8. Right now, we don’t yet know that much about the platform, other than it is designed to run against products like the iPhone and ChromeOS. This will undoubtedly be as big a rethink of the Windows platform as Windows Phone 7 was of Windows Mobile. Expect sweeping changes of the user interface, an even bigger diet than Windows 7 got, and just a little bit of magic, because this round Microsoft has some marketing people in the mix, and that typically means less “what were they thinking” and more “oh wow.”

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