Between smartphones, netbooks and HDTVs galore, to say 2009 was a busy year for the high-tech industry is an understatement. But from eReaders to 3D televisions and tablet PCs, it’s obvious that the technology biz doesn’t plan on slowing down in 2010 for a second. In advance of this year’s annual gadget and technology extravaganza, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we asked Digital Trends’ own resident editor, Scott Steinberg, to peer into his crystal ball and make some predictions. “From the rise of eReaders to the advent of USB 3.0 and dawn of video games that do away entirely with the controller, the future is now,” he asserts. Here’s a sneak peek at the top technology trends you can expect to see in coming months, Steinberg says, each guaranteed to amaze and delight tech enthusiasts in 2010 and beyond:
While 2009 brought the rise of eReaders (digital tablets designed to play eBooks and simulate the ink and paper reading experience), Steinberg says 2010 is really the year when these devices really come into their own. Despite the popularity of units such as Amazon’s Kindle 2, Barnes & Noble’s nook and Sony’s Reader Daily Edition (the former two among last holiday season’s bestsellers), a slew of advanced competitors are expected shortly. Already options such as Plastic Logic’s QUE, Hearst/Sprint’s Skiff and Asus’ color, dual-touchscreen equipped models are making headlines, with still more choices arriving shortly from Alex, Cool-er and alternate providers as well. Among the innovations next year’s units will bring, Steinberg says, are Android OS-powered choices, more affordable models and full-color eReaders with extensive touchscreen and 3G/wireless support. “Who needs hardbacks?” he laughs. “With new options in terms of both dedicated devices and software solutions such as Blio, which let you enjoy eBooks on any platform, be it PC, netbook, portable media player, tablet or smartphone, let’s be frank… Pretty soon, wherever you travel, you’ll be able to pack an entire virtual library’s worth of reading material along for the ride – and without courting a potential hernia at that.”
While 4G smartphones won’t blow 3G options out of the water just yet, Steinberg says 2010’s cell phone market will still be a busy and exciting one, with new Android-, WebOS- and Windows Mobile-powered options all but inevitable. What began with devices such as the Motorola Droid, Apple iPhone 3G S and Palm Pre will be expanded upon in 2010 models, he says, as cell phones continue to gain in power and flexibility, evolving to become potential laptop replacements. Not only will these devices add faster processors, better graphics capabilities and still more third-party downloadable apps, introducing a broader array of functionality, says Steinberg. “They’ll also become more of a must-have in 2010 as both individuals and businesses find their lifestyles more mobile and hectic.” Already he points to Google’s Nexus One (a speedy, powerful smartphone with an intuitive interface and considerable potential for expansion) as an example of where the field is headed.
Sharp, Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic… If they’re a TV manufacturer, you can bet they’re eagerly eyeing the success that Hollywood has had experimenting with footage that’s viewable in three dimensions. “Everyone’s getting behind the concept of 3D television this year,” Steinberg says, insisting that it’s going to be a major running theme with vendors at CES. But while he remains skeptical about the technology’s immediate potential, given prohibitive costs and limited hardware availability in 2010 though, the success of films like James Cameron’s Avatar does point to growing interest in the category. As such, you can expect to see a variety of 3D sets on display this year, as well as cutting-edge Blu-ray players capable of powering three-dimensional movies as well. Alas, enjoying featured shows and flicks will still require using those goofy glasses.
“Netbooks, or low-cost, ultra-portable computers that emphasize function over frivolity, were amongst 2009’s most popular sellers,” Steinberg explains. But in 2010, he says, these devices will come under greater fire from both increasingly powerful smartphones and new tablet (touchscreen) PCs such as the one Apple plans to introduce shortly. As such, they’ll respond by boosting processing and graphics capabilities, offering greater power and performance, and ship in sleeker, more transportable designs – all for pennies on the dollar. Still, the category will also face continued challenges on other fronts, as prices continue to plummet on more powerful standard notebook systems. Not that it will keep dozens of manufacturers from Acer, HP, Dell, Sony and Toshiba from staying busy in the space, Steinberg asserts, much to consumers’ ultimate delight.
So much for idly spending hours in the basement leveling up in World of Warcraft or blowing through BioShock and God of War. “Active, or motion-sensing, games – titles that make interactive outings a more social activity and invite players to get up off the couch and moving – are going to be even more prevalent in 2010,” explains Steinberg. What offerings such as Tony Hawk RIDE, Your Shape and Guitar Hero: Van Valen and consoles such as the Wii started will be furthered by Sony’s new motion-sensing wand and Microsoft’s Project Natal, a 3D camera system that eliminates the gamepad entirely. “Going forward, your body will increasingly be used to take the place of a controller,” Steinberg says, citing it as another welcome step towards eliminating technical barriers to entry that have kept casual players away for decades.
“Welcome to the era of wirelessly interconnected devices,” says Steinberg, pointing towards Internet-ready HDTVs and streaming media extenders as the shape of things to come. (Multifunction units which play movies and/or games, plus enable on-demand audio/video downloads being the future, he says, rather than dedicated single-function devices.) “In 2010, you’ll see more online-equipped Blu-ray players, WiFi-enabled televisions, and of course living room-ready network attached storage (NAS) solutions,” Steinberg says. Wireless streaming of multimedia should only become more prevalent across all devices from external hard drives to video game consoles, making it easier than ever to push media throughout the home, much to audio/videophiles’ delight.
Despite inherent security risks, Steinberg sees a sunny future for cloud computing applications, which are processed remotely by distant servers, then retrieved in real-time over a high-speed Internet connection via desktop client or Web browser, effectively allowing users to login and access their workspace from anywhere. “As we’re seeing with current solutions such as Google Docs, Zoho Suite and Microsoft’s Office 2010, the option to retrieve data on-demand and collaborate in real-time is becoming increasingly attractive for both home users and businesses alike,” he says. Coupled with the impending launch of Google’s Chrome operating system, which puts Web-based applications first, Steinberg admits, you can expect to see even more interest in the category going forward.
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