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