The past year has seen great new gadgets like Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad, the first 4G phone from Sprint, and motion gaming innovation Xbox Kinect. 2011 may not be the year of the Apple so much, but we can look forward to some pretty cool tech anyway:
Rumors abound as this year draws to a close. According to most sources, the next iPad will drop some time in the first half of 2011. With new features like a 9.7″ Retina display, a front-facing camera and Face Time, and tighter integration with AirPlay and Apple TV, many of the few final complaints from users will be settled. The current entry-level iPad sells for $499 and the next model shouldn’t be far off that mark.
Sprint may have been first to market with a 4G-class cell phone, but most folks are eagerly awaiting Verizon’s offering. After announcing their 4G solution, LTE, in 30+ cities, Verizon released a couple of 4G USB modems. After testing one in my laptop, I can vouch for speeds of about 7Mb up and 2Mb down. With that kind of bandwidth in a cell phone, data usage charges will make Verizon a very sucessful company. The combination of Android apps, 4G connectivity, and new hardware (phones with NFC, dual-core CPUs, and Retina displays), the carrier will be hard to beat. LTE modems sell for about $100 and phones will likely retail for about $500 month-to-month or $199 with a two year contract. Data plans will start at $50 per month.
Near Field Communications
A little microchip built into cell phones will likely explode in usefulness next year. iPhone started a trend with “bumping” phones to transfer contacts and Near Field Communications (NFC) will bring easy payment and identification options to the masses. You may have seen point-of-sale terminals that allow you to tap your credit card rather than swiping it – NFC technology allows you to do the same thing with your cell phone.The technology won’t likely add any cost to the retail price of consumer devices.
The Xbox Kinect came out this year, so why is it on the 2011 list? Modders. Lots of people have come up with cool new applications for the technology built into the Kinect system, like 3D video capture or remote digital puppetry. Thanks to the ubiquity of Microsoft environments in today’s world, and the ease with which Kinect can be modified, expect to see tons of innovative modifications next year. You can get your own Kinect to add to your Xbox system for about $150.
The much lauded Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, is due out in 2011. Honeycomb will offer new capabilities such as tablet optimization, a new email interface, and video chat. Thankfully, the Android OS will continue to be free and programmers all over the world will continue to test its limits.
It may seem like a last gasp for air before sinking into the deep, but Research In Motion just won’t give up without a fight. Fortunately for them, their latest combatant will come out swinging. 2011 will see the make-or-break round for RIM in the form of its tablet offering, the Playbook. With impressive specs and an immediate attraction to corporate business users, the $399 Playbook will be a true contender in the tablet wars of 2011.
3D movies exploded over the last year. New digital technology in movies like “Avatar” and “How To Train Your Dragon” led to a revolution. Though there were a few stumbles (“Clash of the Titans”), 3D has been quite successful. Now, companies want to take a bite out of the 3D market in your living room. 3D HDTVs jumped out of the gate early, but met a lot of resistance when buyers realized they didn’t want to squeeze the entire family right in the center line of viewing and be forced to wear heavy, uncomfortable, expensive glasses at home. The new tech to watch for is 3D that doesn’t require wearing any special glasses. Toshiba, NEC, and Sony have already proven the technology and home sets in the $2,500 to $4,000 price range won’t be far behind.
Apple, Inc., http://www.apple.com
Microsoft, Inc., http://www.microsoft.com
Google, Inc., http://www.google.com
Research In Motion, http://www.blackberry.com
Verizon Wireless, http://www.verizonwireless.com