Fu­ture stock

What does the fu­ture hold for new tech­nol­ogy in 2010 and be­yond? Richard Con­rad takes an ed­u­cated guess. . .

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Extratech -

AS AL­WAYS, tech­nol­ogy will amaze us this year with its rate of change— and how some things stay the same. Here are ex­trat­ech’s bold pre­dic­tions for what’s in store this year and the decade ahead.

just one thing

RUMOURmills

have pep­pered the in­ter­net with claims the Next Big Thing from Ap­ple will be the iSlate: a small 3G (wireless broad­band) tablet­style com­puter with am­bi­tions of snatch­ing the huge net­book mar­ket.

Sim­i­lar ru­mours of some-such prod­uct from Ap­ple have sur­faced reg­u­larly for many years, but ex­trat­ech’s best guess is the pun­ters will be right this time.

The iSlate will be launched this month— prob­a­bly at an event in San Fran­cisco on Jan­uary 26— with units in stores in the US and other ma­jor over­seas mar­kets by March.

Aus­tralians should fac­tor in de­lays to the lo­cal release date from cus­tomis­ing hard­ware for lo­cal 3G spec­i­fi­ca­tions and hag­gling with car­ri­ers over deals for bundling built-in 3G with the iSlate.

Ap­ple may seek a cut from the car­ri­ers’ data us­age tak­ings as per the iPhone, but tel­cos shouldn’t fall for that iCon again.

Clues in­clude the iSlate.com ad­dress shar­ing the same do­main name reg­is­trar (MarkMon­i­tor.com) with the Ap­ple.com and iPhone.com do­mains, but iSlate was reg­is­tered in Oc­to­ber 2004 so Ap­ple may have been se­cur­ing their op­tions and long since come up with an­other name.

Best guess for the iSlate is a de­vice weigh­ing less than 1kg with a 10-inch touch­screen set in a solid white or black body (about 15cm by 22cm and very thin, with no lid) with rounded cor­ners and per­haps sil­ver trims. That look would be in line with Ap­ple’s iPhones and MacBooks.

The op­er­at­ing sys­tem will most likely be a souped-up iPhone set-up rather than a slashed-back Mac OS X be­cause Ap­ple will want to drive more shop­pers to their on­line App Store. The iSlate will have many uses: web browser, mu­sic and video player, eBook, GPS and ev­ery­thing in­stalling apps (short for applications) en­ables.

There’ll be a full-size vir­tual key­board on the touch­screen that’s far eas­ier to use than the iPhone’s, plus wi-fi and Blue­tooth as well as 3G, one or two USB ports, and built-in speak­ers, we­b­cam and mi­cro­phone. An­noy­ingly, Ap­ple will stick with a built-in bat­tery in­stead of one users can switch and re­place as needed.

Ex­pect ac­tual bat­tery per­for­mance to fall short of claims.

En­vis­age a huge af­ter-mar­ket in Ap­ple-li­censed ac­ces­sories— es­pe­cially pro­tec­tive cases.

The iSlate’s 10-or 11-inch screen would be far bet­ter than the iPhone or iPod touch for watch­ing videos and also an ideal size for use ver­ti­cally as an eBook— which opens up a whole new hugely lu­cra­tive po­ten­tial rev­enue stream sell­ing eBook ti­tles the way iTunes sells dig­i­tal mu­sic.

This could be a di­rect chal­lenge to Ama­zon’s Kin­dle, which fi­nally made it to the Aus­tralian mar­ket late last year— or Ap­ple could li­cense an Ama­zon Kin­dle ap­pli­ca­tion for the iSlate and pocket a cut of Ama­zon’s prof­its on eBook sales.

Which brings us to an­other Big Thing in 2010: eBooks.

ebook mark

RE­PORTS

of the death of printed books are greatly ex­ag­ger­ated, but— es­pe­cially if Ap­ple’s iSlate does even­tu­ate— 2010 could be the year eBooks fi­nally take off.

Ama­zon’s Kin­dle (be­low) leads this emerg­ing mar­ket against ri­val elec­tronic read­ers in­clud­ing Barnes & Noble’s nook, Dy­mocks’ iLiad eReader, Sony’s Reader se­ries and the lo­cal ECO Reader.

Could eBooks do to tra­di­tional pa­per books what dig­i­tal mu­sic down­loads have done toCDsales?

Ex­trat­ech sus­pects hard­back and pa­per­back books have at least five years of mar­ket dom­i­nance left be­fore be­ing over­taken by eBook sales, de­spite this al­ready hav­ing hap­pened within Ama­zon’s mi­cro­cosm.

Here’s hop­ing we’re wrong and the elec­tronic in­trud­ers prove a short-lived nov­elty.

There’s noth­ing like the joy of hold­ing, read­ing and lend­ing pa­per books— mot­tled yel­low­ing pages, sil­ver­fish and all.

tv in 3D

VIDEO

res­o­lu­tion and for­mat is­sues have been re­solved, with clear win­ners: for re­ally big tele­vi­sions, the best res­o­lu­tion is Full HD(high def­i­ni­tion)— also known as 1080p. For smaller tele­vi­sions, 720p is quite suf­fi­cient.

For video recorded on to discs, the good oldDVD­for­mat is fu­ture­proofed by com­pat­i­bil­ity with su­pe­rior Blu-ray Disc play­ers. Some peo­ple think Blu-ray play­ers won’t play their DVDs. Wrong— they do.

How­ever, sourc­ing videos on­line — legally and in breach of copy­right laws— will con­tinue to erode over­the-counter sales and hir­ing, es­pe­cially with bet­ter broad­band deals from ISPs mak­ing down­load­ing high-def­i­ni­tion videos less daunt­ing.

Video sales for do­mes­tic view­ing have long been a ma­jor rev­enue stream for movies; some­times out­strip­ping ini­tial box-of­fice tak­ings.

With more and more block­busters such as Avatar and Up screen­ing in 3D at the mul­ti­plexes, it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore 3DTV tech­nol­ogy en­ters our home cin­e­mas.

Sony will lead the charge through a deal to record and broad­cast up to 25 World Cup soc­cer matches in 3D in June-July, screen­ing the 3D footage in spe­cial booths around the world to pro­mote its tech­nol­ogy.

Ase­nior Sony ex­ec­u­tive was re­cently quoted as say­ing 3D Blu-ray Discs and play­ers could be on the mar­ket by Oc­to­ber.

Philips is also qui­etly work­ing away at 3DTVtech­nolo­gies (above) and may sur­prise us with a do­mes­tic model this year.

Ex­pect many more LED-back­lit LCD TVs, though the jury’s still out on their pic­ture qual­ity: are they as bright and are the colours as true? Some say not, but there’s no ar­gu­ing LED back­light­ing uses way less power— and that’s a big plus.

smarter phones

AC­CESS­ING

the in­ter­net from smart­phones to browse the in­ter­net, check emails and post to so­cial net­work­ing sites will grow rapidly this year.

That’s be­cause smart­phones will be­come a lot more in­ter­net-friendly, and in­stalling lots of applications on mo­bile phones for a wide range of uses will be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar.

We’re not just talk­ing about Ap­ple’s iPhone— RIM’s Black­Berry, Ap­ple’s An­droid, Microsoft and Nokia are all get­ting into the ‘‘apps’’ act.

As well as pro­vid­ing its An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem (OS) for mo­bile mak­ers such as HTC, Google has just an­nounced its own Google-branded mo­biles, too.

They will be sold on­line, but there’s likely to be a long wait be­tween the over­seas release and their avail­abil­ity on the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Microsoft’s long-over­due Win­dows Mo­bile 7OS for phones— the com­pan­ion to Win­dows 7 for PCs— will fi­nally ar­rive later this year with the aim of claw­ing back some of its shrink­ing share of the mo­bile OS mar­ket.

Blue­tooth ver­sion 4.0 will ar­rive later this year in a wide range of new prod­ucts, in­clud­ing Nokia mo­biles.

This new wireless spec­i­fi­ca­tion will de­liver much lower power con­sump­tion, which will re­sult in a lot longer life for the but­ton-cell bat­ter­ies in small Blue­tooth de­vices such as head­sets used with mo­biles— plus en­abling many new uses for Blue­tooth tech­nol­ogy, well be­yond the mo­bile and PC mar­kets.

The Blue­tooth lobby says ver­sion 4.0 has an en­hanced range (‘‘pos­si­bly’’ more than 100 me­tres), 1 Mbps data trans­fer rates, faster cou­pling, strong se­cu­rity en­cryp­tion and opens new mar­kets in health­care, fit­ness, se­cu­rity and home-en­ter­tain­ment prod­ucts.

groovier games

SOMEWHEREin

the vast Nin­tendo em­pire, IT boffins are beaver­ing away at a leisurely pace on a high-def­i­ni­tion re­place­ment for their wildly pop­u­lar Wii games con­sole.

Ap­par­ently, the Wii’s low-res­o­lu­tion graph­ics aren’t seen as a prob­lem in ur­gent need of a so­lu­tion. Cus­tomers aren’t com­plain­ing— ei­ther they know no bet­ter or they rel­ish the retro charm of the lo-res look.

They’re in no hurry while the cur­rent Wii shifts by the shipload at a highly com­pet­i­tive price. Be­sides, anHDver­sion would be more ex­pen­sive, forc­ing Nin­tendo to tighten its profit mar­gins to com­pete with other con­soles.

Nin­tendo also will be looking ner­vously at what Microsoft has up its sleeve.

Microsoft is pre­dicted to release its Project Natal gam­ing sys­tem by the end of 2010. Project Natal is a bit like a Wii— but with no re­mote to wave about

Shift­ing your body and limbs around are all you need to do for Project Natal’s sen­sors to work out where you are and how you’re mov­ing. They then cap­ture and trans­late this in­for­ma­tion into three­d­i­men­sional im­ages on the screen for play­ing action games.

But wait, there’s more! Ges­ture, fa­cial ex­pres­sion and speech recog­ni­tion are on the draw­ing board. Po­ten­tial applications are mind-bog­gling— if it can all be made to work to­gether smoothly, as planned. I N2010 mak­ers of dig­i­tal cam­eras will start squeez­ing the fea­tures and im­age qual­ity of a dSLR into the bodies of com­pact mod­els, and cap­tur­ing high­def­i­ni­tion video footage us­ing H.264/AVCHD for­mats.

Sev­eral brands will bring out cam­eras a bit big­ger than com­pacts, but with man­ual con­trols and dSLR-qual­ity APS-C sen­sors in­stead of the much smaller 1/2.3-inch sen­sors now found in most com­pacts.

Buy­ers will learn sen­sor size is as im­por­tant as the megapixel count.

First off the rank in this new cat­e­gory is the NX10 from Sam­sung (be­low). The brand lacks the ca­chet of other cam­era mak­ers but is shift­ing huge num­bers of units at the mar­ket’s ‘‘af­ford­able’’ end.

There’s no pric­ing yet for the NX10, which is ex­pected here late March. Hav­ing tested a pre-pro­duc­tion unit, ex­trat­ech can rec­om­mend any­one in­ter­ested in up­grad­ing from a stan­dard com­pact to at least con­sider the NX10.

Fea­tures in­clude a 14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOSsen­sor, a bright, glare-re­sis­tant, 3-inch OLED dis­play, an elec­tronic viewfinder, 720pHD(MPEG-4. H.264) video cap­ture, 100-3200 ISO, built-in pop-up flash, HDMI­port, lens-shift OIS, full man­ual con­trols and a smart auto func­tion. There are three lens op­tions to start with: an 18-55mm stan­dard zoom, a 50-200mm tele­photo and a 30mm fixed fo­cus lens. More will fol­low later in the year.

Its suc­cess will de­pend on price, be­cause it’s hard to see many se­ri­ous cam­era buy­ers se­lect­ing a Sam­sung over Canon, Nikon, Pen­tax, Olym­pus, Ri­coh and Pana­sonic un­less the NX10 is as cheap as chips.

Sony is likely to be the next brand off the rank with an APS-CCMOSsen­sor in a com­pact body. Olym­pus and Pana­sonic will stick with their Mi­cro Four-Thirds sys­tem in com­pacts.

cooler cam­eras

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