I've been sorting through the buzz to get a handle on what's coming in the new year from the tech world that might have the same sort of impact as some of this past year's winners. And the harder I look, the more some of the efforts being mounted by the big names in the industry look like things they promised in 2010...or earlier.
For example, everybody wants to compete with the Apple iPad. I've already reported on a number of these efforts, but the biggest of them is the one being led by Microsoft, which promised a wave of Windows-based "slate" computers last year. Only one of note really shipped, just a few months ago, from Hewlett-Packard—with hardly anyone noticing. But with the determination of Daffy Duck, Microsoft is saying that 2011 is definitely the year for the Windows-based iPad killer. This time, for sure! Right?
The tech and market odds-makers are not exactly sure about that. Bloomberg reports that many market experts are skeptical about Microsoft's chances of making even the slightest dent in Apple's lead. Keith Goddard, the CEO of Capital Advisors Inc. told Bloomberg, "By the time Microsoft gets it figured out everybody will already own an iPad. That train has left the station."
What that means for you: buying a Microsoft-based competitor to the iPad in 2011 is probably not going to be a good idea, unless you own Microsoft stock and are trying to make their numbers look better.
Microsoft isn't the only company with designs on the iPad. Eight companies have confirmed tablet releases coming in the first half of 2011— including Apple, Research In Motion, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, as I've reported before. Motorola, HTC, and Asus also are in the running. But most of the new promised devices (aside from HP's rumored Palm-based tablet) are based on Android, with only a few slated for Windows 7.
Another retread from last year: 3D TV. The first 3-D high-def televisions were on display at last year's CES, and many shipped in 2010. And there are now a number of 3D-ready Blu-ray players on the market. There were even some early examples of 3D sets with lenticular screens that make it possible to watch 3D television without goggles. But in 2010, it was all very expensive.
In 2011, the price of 3D TV will drop some, as the technology becomes less expensive. But until there are ways to enjoy 3D at home without having to buy expensive goggles for everyone in the family—and more 3D content on Blu-ray, cable and over the air to watch—there's really not going to be mass appeal for 3D. What it means for you: considering Blu-ray is just now starting to become affordable and more popular, 2012 may be the year of 3D TV—but not 2011.
Here's another, better retread: Skype may be introducing video calling for smartphones. Rumor has it that the internet chat, video and phone service is finally going to make its video call service available for the iPhone. Google Android users have been able to do this for a little while (with limited success, depending on their wireless service), and Apple and others provide a video chat service that is limited to phone-to-phone video calls. But video Skype for the iPhone (and iPad, once the iPad ships with a forward-facing camera) will mean that you can video chat with people on computers from those devices as well. What it means for you: you'll be able to use Internet video chat with relatives who are uncomfortable with computers just by giving them an iPod Touch or (next generation) iPad.