So, setting aside the life-changing diet and exercise strategies we have been looking at so far this month, what does the new year hold for us all in the online technology world? This is a tricky question, because one of the most exciting things about working in this area is the speed with which things change, and the sheer extent of the unknowns.
Businesses stake such a lot on the direction they choose to take technological developments, and when they get it right the world changes to catch up: Take Apple, who have literally created whole new categories of products people didn’t even know they needed, but then everybody had to have. But sometimes even the industry can’t predict the killer application, and service providers get taken aback – such as with the explosion of text messaging a decade ago, or social media in the past couple of years. Risky ground then, speculating about what the next big thing or big buzz might be for the year ahead. I am going to have a go, but don’t string me up if there is a game-changing product launch next week that totally re-writes the rules!
If 2011 was the year of the tablet, then this year it’s ‘ultrabooks’. That’s all about getting full laptop/pc performance into something smaller and lighter than ever. If netbooks a couple of years ago were designed to save space weight and outlay, that tended to be at the price of functionality and performance. The term ultrabook is a trademark of Intel, but I can see it coming to be a generic term for any slim sexy but powerful laptop, designed for portability and function – long battery life, full-size (even large, 14” or 15”) screens, but with a light-weight build, ultrabooks will also be built with consumer-oriented pricing.
Apple and Google are squaring up to make television viewing more interactive, online, and physically huge. The two behomoths have generally stayed out of each other’s way, one focusing on gadgets and the other the online space, but starting with tablets and now television the two elements are less distinct than they were. Competition generally is good for us as consumers – whoever comes out on top they will all be doing their best to get attractive and fairly-priced services to market fast. And the TVs themselves will get flatter, thinner and bigger – such as LG’s 55-inch OLED 3-D television, which wowed the world at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. How soon the new hardware will reach us inSpainis an open question, but for online services such as Apple TV and Google TV, the market is global – so watch this space.
Voice Recognition and Robotics
Could 2012 be the year that voice control truly comes of age? And will we get robots to do more interesting and important stuff than clean our swimming pools? The ip
Phone 4s is trying to broaden the consumer use and appeal of voice control, and other platforms are offering better and better services especially for mobile phones, such as RIM’s ‘drivesafe’ app. The way the Guardia are clamping down inSpainon phone use this can only be a good thing! 2012 is bound to see other manufacturers capitalising on the buzz around Apple’s Siri, let’s just hope the technology itself is up to consumer expectations
Sharing and Social Media
Growth may have to slow down for the big hitters here, at least in the early-adopting western markets, but services like Facebook will be looking into increasing levels of depth and interactivity. Getting you to spend more time on the site and do more stuff, will help them attract people to pay to advertise to you. So they’ll make it easier and more frictionless for you to share every move you make, and you may have to opt-out more proactively from sharing every news article you read or song you listen to or event you attend (we’ll be checking out Facebook and how to manage your privacy very shortly don’t’ worry). Users of online platforms are going to have to take increasing responsibility for controlling how and what they want shared online, as the price for using free platforms to share what they do want to broadcast.
Finally here’s a neat buzzword to drop into your next online interaction. It’s been easy for the last decade or so to think that the internet IS the world-wide-web, but it is merely a single aspect of it. The ascendence of mobile platforms has reminded us all of the potential for greater connectivity that is not dependent on shared browsers and http, and more and more people are using messaging and communication tools that are online but internet-free – like messaging apps such as Whatsapp. The hypernet is the bigger picture, and it’s becoming more and more relevant. Remember 10 years ago everyone said that one day your fridge would be on the internet, and probably just let the supermarket know directly when you were out of milk? Well, that shows the danger of making predictions… online fridges seem to have been a casualty of development direction and consumer demand, but the interconnectivity underpinning the idea is here with us now. We just BBM our spouses to get the milk instead, or maintain a household shopping list on Evernote or Omnifocus… and tell our satnavs to find the nearest supermarket and how the traffic is on the way. The hypernet connects everything, you can’t see it or touch it but you are on it!
Well, I’ll put the crystal ball away now, or maybe trade it in for an OLED nanon-surfaced digital one. What do you think is going to be the big tech buzz for 2012? Let us know @casslar, firstname.lastname@example.org – and see you next week when we’ll start digging in to Facebook.
Published in Costa Blanca News, 20th January 2012