Good news for modern professionals – the future of high-tech is here, and it’s rife with opportunities to enhance communications, maximize productivity, and revolutionize the way the way that business is done on nearly every front.
As previewed earlier this year at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a wired wonderland where the hottest gadgets and technology trends of coming months are revealed, the future truly is now. From WiFi-ready, touchscreen-equipped cars to app-enabled home theater components and Skype-compatible TVs that let you videoconference right from your living room screen, there’s no end to the commercial possibilities in sight. Imagine selling software programs direct to shoppers right on their 3D HDTV, marketing copies of your latest book for download via digital eReader or filling customers orders’ right from a shiny new tablet PC.
Having sifted through the year’s hottest gadgets and gizmos thus far and combed the far reaches of the Internet for echoes of future developments to come, we’ve come to the following conclusion. Not only do the cutting-edge selections below represent several of the best new gadgets available to business owners and working professionals in 2010 – they also point to where the high-tech industry’s headed as a whole. Read on for your glimpse at a brighter (read: increasingly online connected, high-resolution) tomorrow:
Despite some lukewarm press as of late, Google’s Nexus One smartphone – a speedy, intuitive handset that offers slick speech recognition capabilities, five customizable home screens and animated backgrounds – remains a tech industry darling. Not only does the Nexus One represent the search giant’s first expansion into hardware and e-commerce (the devices are sold direct to consumers online for $180 with a two-year contract with T-Mobile, or $530 unlocked). It also seamlessly integrates with most Google software services, makes Internet access paramount and threatens to free shoppers from wireless carriers’ service contract stranglehold. Although well-publicized customer service issues have cropped up with the device, it still remains among the most iconic consumer electronics launches of the year thus far.
Trend: Increasingly powerful smartphones that continue to push towards becoming laptop replacements, and serve as a Trojan horse that influence professionals to use a greater number of functions that reside in the Internet cloud. Also speaks to the fact that this is Google’s year to shine, with all sorts of gizmos powered by the Android operating system, those that feature YouTube widgets and Internet-connected devices (which should only hope grow Google’s online search market share) about to flood distribution channels.
Call it a two-for-one deal. Lenovo’s sporty IdeaPad U1 hybrid acts as a 1.6-inch, Linux-powered tablet PC (touchscreen-sporting unit you can scribble on like a notepad) on its own. But plug the slate into a docking base, and it also becomes a fully functional 3.7lb notebook with multi-touch capabilities that boasts an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Expected to sell for $999 on June 1 and packing an attractive 11.6-inch display, the device functions well in either mode, offering five hours of battery life, plus email and web surfing capabilities to go. As such, it should appeal to mobile professionals looking for a more versatile computing solution.
Trend: Speaks to both the rise of tablet PCs (see: Apple’s iPad, although a lack of multitasking, Flash support and hardware expandability leave us dubious about its potential as a business device) and slim, portable and powerful notebooks that continue to fall in price. Expect both to be major trends in 2010, courtesy of continued offerings from vendors ranging from Dell to HP and Toshiba.
Set aside for a second worries that the iPad – capable of providing similar functions through its iBooks app, including added multimedia streaming support – may undermine the entire eReader category out of the gate by offering a multitude of features, not just the ability to browse digital literature. As upcoming units in this category go, Plastic Logic’s entry into the crowded eReader market (already bursting at the seams thanks to rival units like the Skiff, Alex, COOL-ER, Kindle and nook) is the one most squarely aimed at working professionals. Speaking to this design mandate, the eBook player doesn’t just come with a 10.7-inch shatterproof touchscreen that’s perfect for road warriors. It also displays email, calendar appointments and – most importantly – books, magazines and newspapers in a more graphically-oriented greyscale format that mimics print versions’ actual look and feel. Still, with its high price tag ($649 for a model with 4GB of memory, WiFi and Bluetooth or $799 for an 8GB unit with built-in 3G AT&T modem – both due April 2010) we can’t help but wonder. Even with the support of publications such as The Wall St. Journal and Fast Company, given the potential rise of software platforms that threaten to bring eBook playing capabilities to all devices, will audiences buy in?
Trend: While we’ve previously cautioned about diving headfirst into this market, given that gadgets you already own (e.g. netbooks, laptops, tablet PCs and smartphones) may prove more practical for browsing digital literature than dedicated single function devices, realize. As a category, eReaders are everywhere in 2010, and only going to get bigger – even if a large chunk of the market may soon be ceded to the iPad, as alluded above. Check out this recent video from the CES 2010 show floor to see hands-on impressions of the QUE proReader from yours truly’s standpoint.
It might not seem the most intuitive connection, but imagine if you will a streaming media extender that lets legions of everyday TV viewers effortlessly download Internet content straight to their living room set. While pushing multimedia throughout the home isn’t a new concept, making it accessible to the general public – not just technophiles – is. D-Link’s Boxee Box ($199, due in the first half of 2010), which connects to home networks via wired or wireless 802.11n connection, lets home audiences do just that. Providing millions with the ability to effortlessly pull down YouTube clips, Netflix films and Facebook updates on-demand or plug in USB keys and SD memory cards packed with digital content, keep in mind. Nearly any compatible widget or streaming media a business owner can design (especially since the remote actually comes equipped with a QWERTY keyboard on its back) may enjoy a potential audience of millions.
Trend: Streaming multimedia and interconnected devices will be near-ubiquitous throughout 2010, from wireless-enabled home theater components to DVD players that support mobile TV broadcasts. As such, dozens more potential distribution channels just opened up to businesses, as did the opportunity to extend the life and reach of any viral video marketing piece. See here for a hands-on video demonstration of the Boxee Box in motion.
Let’s dispense with the formalities: Yes, Samsung’s LED 9000 series of television sets is pencil-thin (0.3 inches wide) and sports the ability to display 3D images or up-convert 2D content into the third dimension. But we could be less concerned with featured models’ whiz-bang tech specs, what with manufacturers pushing more for the upgrade to 3D than consumers. (And, of course, high associated price tags, the need to wear goofy glasses and a lack of compelling 3D film and TV content.) Instead, we’re more impressed by the fact that these sets (and complementary components such as the BD-C6900, a Wi-Fi enabled 3D Blu-ray player) offer support for downloadable apps, just like you’d find on the iPhone or Nexus One. These bite-sized applications – all served through an open development platform, meaning any entrepreneur can create content for it – can add immense functionality, taking the form of everything from social networking clients to downloadable games. Promising to add considerable value, extend TVs’ out of the box shelf-life indefinitely and change the very way we interact with the boob tube, there’s a massive potential market here that clever companies can exploit.
Trend: Apps everywhere. In 2010, you won’t be able to turn without bumping into a device (eReader, smartphone, television set, Blu-ray player, etc.) that supports them. Suddenly, what the App Store did for a legion of bedroom coders on Apple’s iPod and iPhone, these devices may do for hordes of entrepreneurs intrigued by other consumer electronics categories as well. Here’s a firsthand video breakdown of connected TV trends.
As you may have noticed, micro/mini projectors from manufacturers such as 3M, Microvision and others will soon be available for a variety of devices – the iPhone included. But why settle for such units’ often inferior display performance when pitching an important client? Thankfully, this handy 3.4-inch x 2.4-inch boxlike accessory, designed for use with BlackBerry smartphones, ships later this month for $199. Simply attach it to a projector or monitor and you can use Blutetooth connectivity to display Microsoft PowerPoint 2003 and 2007 slides straight from your handset. Presenters have the option to pause images as they lecture, set slides to automatically swap at prearranged intervals and even enjoy the benefit of accurate reproductions of most visual and animated effects.
Check out our Blackberry Presenter Review.
Trend: Smaller, lighter and more portable devices – from netbook computers to cellular phones and digital tablets, it’s the year of the incredible shrinking gadget.
- How the 2010s changed music (and listening to it) forever
- How to turn on Bluetooth in Windows
- How HP made the new Elite Dragonfly one of the most sustainable laptops ever
- Neuro-symbolic A.I. is the future of artificial intelligence. Here’s how it works
- Ten years in space: Remembering a decade of achievements in the final frontier