Other than the passing of Steve Jobs, 2011 will be little remembered, tech-wise. Just like in the movie business, there were a lot of successful sequels (iPad 2, iPhone 4S, 4G networks, new Androids, Google Plus, etc.), but little really original or new (except for my "Top 10 Gadgets of the Year," of course).
However, like the new born it is, 2012 holds much promise and potential for both breakthrough products and startling next-generation technologies.
I'm gonna make like Nostradamus (sans vague quatrains) and predict the top 10 trends and gizmos that will dazzle us in 2012, presented in two parts; Part I here and Part II here.
1. Mobile Digital TV.
You know the clean, crisp high-def digital TV signal you get on your HDTV? Well, your local broadcasters have been working to make that HDTV signal portable, to be viewed on on-the-go devices, even if you're speeding down a highway or railway tracks at 50 MPH.
Mobile Digital TV (MDTV) will be available on a number of devices, many under the Dyle Mobile TV brand, including smart phones and tablets – initially via an antenna dongle, later with an antenna built into gizmos with screens.
Yes, MDTV has been pending for more than a year already (see "Whatever Happened to Portable TVs?"), but I'm told by those in the know this year will finally see MDTV gadgets breakthrough. Really.
2. TV as Video Phone
Yeah, I know, another really long-simmering promise – in fact, video phones have been a promised normality for nearly 50 years. The current video phone trend has already gotten off to a disorganized start. A growing number of connected HDTVs – and a couple of Panasonic Blu-ray players – enable you to connect a set-top webcam/mic array to your HDTV to create a giant HDTV video phone.
But who wants to buy a whole new connected HDTV just to get a video phone? For the rest of us, there are two set-top webcam/mic arrays equipped with built-in Wi-Fi to turn your un-connected HDTV into a video phone: Biscotti, and another I've been playing with for a week and for which I will provide a full report on Thursday (I'm sworn to NDA secrecy until then).
TV makers know they'll have to actually build webcams/mic arrays and video chat software into their HDTVs, just like they are in today's laptops and desktop PCs. They have to build webcams into their HDTVs because they know a certain fruit-named company is getting ready to invade their space (tune in tomorrow and see trend #10) with just such a webcam-equipped HDTV. And that's what will really ignite the HDTV video phone trend.
3. Sony PlayStation Vita
With Android and iPhone establishingthemselves as popular portable gaming platforms, and the flop that was the Nintendo 3DS portable, Sony is gambling billions of dollars and yen with its Vita PlayStation portable ("Everything You Need to Know About Sony Vita").
With Vita, which goes on sale February 22, lies the fate of specialized portable gaming; if Vita doesn't make it (and sales have plummeted in Japan, where it is already available), the smart phone and iPad will reign unchallenged as the portable game players of choice.
And with Sony PlayStation mired in third place in the console gaming wars (and a new console competitor looming – see #5 below), a Vita failure could signal another trend – the decline of Sony.
4. Apple iPad 3
As if mocking Sony's attempt at breaking Android's and Apple's stranglehold on the portable gaming world, rumor has it that two days after Vita goes on sale – on what would have been Steve Jobs' birthday – Apple will unveil the iPad 3 (although rumors are circulating it could be announced as early as the end of January).
From what I hear, iPad 3 will be even thinner and run longer on a single battery charge than iPad 2, will operate ridiculously lickety-split on Apple's new quad core A6 processor (iPad 2 runs on a dual core chip), include a 5 or even 8 MP camera, include Siri, and, most likely it's biggest selling point, will sport a high-resolution Retina screen (1536 x 2048 pixels, 330 dots per inch vs. the current 1024 x 768 pixel, 132-dpi resolution on the iPad 2). Images ought to JUMP off a screen with such high resolution and dense dots.
Perhaps of highest interest to non-iPad owners could be Apple's slashing of iPad 2's price, perhaps to as low as $250.
5. Nintendo Wii U
But HD isn't the Wii U's big news. Along with being compatible with all current Wii gesture remotes and wands, Wii U includes a new tablet controller, which incorporates a 6.2-inch touch screen to view additional game details away from the prying eyes of competitors (but apparently not able to double as a portable player).
Like all tablets, the Wii U controller also includes accelerometer and a gyroscope, so how you twist and turn it affects game play. It's also got a rumble feedback feature so you can feel the game, an front-facing camera (presumably to put yourself into the game), a microphone and speakers.
There are reports Nintendo also will open an Apple/Android-like app store.
Nintendo hasn't said when they'll put Wii U on sale or for how much; some say Wii U will bloom in the spring, others speculate the company will wait for the fall to take advantage of the holiday sale season. No pricing has been announced; reports peg it at a hefty $600, but many others believe there's no way Nintendo would price it so high.
If you can't wait for my CES report, CNET took a close look at Wii U when Nintendo announced it last spring.
And that's all for today. Tune your Web machine here for the second five of my 2012 top 10 tech trends.