There were a ton of awesome products and technologies that made their debut (or gained tremendous popularity) in 2010. I’ve gone through and selected my choices for the year’s top consumer devices and trends, as well as technologies and software that will be enhancing our life in the coming year.
Top Consumer Tech of 2010
In 2010, Apple reigned supreme. They delivered exactly what consumers wanted and needed, and what they didn’t realize they wanted or needed. A combination of sales, good reception (positive reviews), and innovation earned these products these spots.
1. iPad—The iPad has changed the way we look at mobile computing. It initiated the tablet revolution, and is the candle to which all current and future models are held (at least for now). The selection of premium apps designed specifically for the device continues to make it shine over Android OS competitors.
2. iPhone 4—Retina display, FaceTime, Antennagate issues aside, it’s a magnificent phone that, again, is used as a benchmark for other 2010 smartphones.
3. New MacBook Air—It’s an absolute feat of engineering. It’s so light, so slim, while still providing a good quality computing experience. The 13” is powerful and speedy enough to act as the main machine for most folks; the 11” is better as a lightweight travel machine that offers a more traditional experience than a smaller netbook or tablet.
Most Popular Tech Trends of 2010
1. Wireless Technology—Wifi and Bluetooth have dominated the consumer electronics device scene this year. Apple TV, smartphones, portable speakers—just about everything is connected now so you can stream data to or from a device.
2. Capacitive Touch Screens—Nearly every touchscreen device that’s come out in the past 12 months has sported a capacitive touch screen. For now, it’s far superior than other alternatives, allowing for a high degree of responsiveness and multitouch capabilities.
3. 3D Technology—With the popularity of Avatar and other 3D releases—and their subsequent jump to 3D DVD and Blu Ray—3D tech in the home has seen a big push, primarily in the form of large 3D TVs. The technology still needs a lot of work (I mean, who really wants to wear 3D glasses in their own home?) but for now, there seems to be enough interest in the area to keep developing and improving it in the future.
4. Apps—Easy (and quick) to download and pay for, apps began gaining popularity with the revolutionary iPhone and have quickly spread to other smartphones, portable devices, laptops, and computers. Even smartpens, like the LiveScribe Echo, have a marketplace for apps. The app revolution has been fought and won: with three billion download just in Apple’s App Store by January 2010, app based user experiences are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
Technologies to look forward to in 2011 and beyond
1. Projector technology—Pico projectors, projected keyboards, and projected touch interfaces started making a splash in 2010; I look forward to these technologies being more fully developed and available for consumers to enjoy in 2011. I think that the success of the Microsoft Kinect, and the wide variety of hacks users have performed, indicate that gesture based tech is in demand. Star Wars, Minority Report, and a dozen (or more) other sci-fi films have predicted the use of projected, gesture based technology in the future. We’re finally here. Let’s see user interfaces move from its passive place behind a screen in cyberspace to right in front of us: malleable, swipe-able, touchable.
2. Responsive Touch Screens—A step or two behind projector technology (coolness-wise), but nonetheless interesting, is touch screen technology that provides tactile feedback. A subtle rippling when the display is tapped, a slight vibration as an object is dragged across the screen—it’s another step towards a more interactive user interface. Patents from Microsoft and others hint that these may be appearing in devices in the not-too-distant future.
3. The Rise of Alternative Energy—At an engineering conference I attended a few months back, a keynote speaker likened our search for and progress in developing greener, alternative fuels to the space race of the 50s and 60s. This is our generation’s great engineering dilemma. Tremendous strides have been made in photovoltaic technology in 2010 alone, making the possibility of home appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers, and water heaters, and entire homes, running off renewable energy far more viable. Other renewable energy sources like wind and water have also seen great strides and increased funding, as have biofuels. I hope that, in 2011, we’ll see larger, energy-hungry appliances and electronics running off of renewable energy sources.
Rising Stars in the Software Sphere:
1. Android 2.3, Gingerbread—Will the faster, more efficient successor to Android 2.2 Froyo be the saving grace of Android devices? The current batch of Android tablets made less of a splash and more of a dull thud into the market. So far, the Nexus S seems to be faring more successfully.
2. Windows Phone 7—The new kid on the block in terms of mobile operating systems, WP7 devices are gaining momentum with positive reviews. Products running Windows Mobile 7 are sure to gain an even bigger place in the market with continued good reception and increased app development.
3. The Cloud—With the recent announcement of Chrome OS and Google’s Chrome OS running netbooks, we can look forward to the cloud becoming an increasingly prominent part of our computing experience in the future. Cloud based technology isn’t anything new. There are plenty of online services that already utilize the cloud (Dropbox, Windows Live SkyDrive, Flickr, Simplenote, and XMarks, for example). However, that number is poised to grow. A lot.
Agree with my choices? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.