Technology in 2010

Combine consumer devices, the cloud and great software and you can expect many interesting innovations in 2010.

(“Birds” from Soffia. Taken in Rijoa Spain – visit soffia.net)

This is the time of year to look back and reflect on the past, and it is also time to look forward. Here are some technology trends that I believe will be important in 2010:

The cloud will continue to grow as it has for some years. More services will be offered and we will see some maturity of these services. What was once only available with installed software becomes available from remote servers. In 2009, it seems that every site was to offering APIs. This will continue but the challenge for 2010 is to make use of these APIs.

The growing market of hosted solutions will also attract more players. I would not be surprised if some of the traditional computer and software companies enter the game and offer some hosting services.

Among the hottest cloud services will be digital content management like for music and TV, with books also picking up. We have seen how the internet is swallowing all markets that produce digital content and this will continue. So far content services have been scattered and limited in functionality. However, the software for arranging digital content is going to be very important, as we have seen what iTunes does for the iPod, so we could expect some interesting innovations in how to use services that offer digital content.

But software is not enough. I would expect to see some really cool hardware for “content experience” or home entertainment boxes, with great software in the box but primarily built to utilize the cloud. And I’m not talking about a low-end, slow and frustrating STB. I’m thinking real computers dressed up as special purpose consumer devices. Granted, there are already many boxes available, but my guess is that we have room for cool innovations in the design of the services these products offer. The real challenge is in the software and the use of the cloud, but also in the way these service get distributed on multiple home devices or screens within the home. I believe there is room for improved services and someone will take that market opportunity in 2010.

Home entertainment is also about games. We have seen innovation in input controls pioneered by the Wii. This spurred a new category of games. Microsoft has done lot of research in both surface technologies and in projects like Natal which allows input with motion detection. Both these technologies will be important in gaming.

Another factor driving the use the cloud is how people access it. Consumer devices like netbooks, e-readers, and smartphones will drive the need for cloud based services. We are also likely to see tablet devices reenter the market. This is supported by the Apple Tablet rumors. Tablets are not new. Microsoft tried to push them few years back but they did not take off. What could make the difference now is how input and display technologies have improved, in particular touch screen, as well as the ubiquitous network access and cloud services. If Apple or other computer manufactures were to release a tablet, something like an oversize iPod Touch, we could see tablets (or computers that are basically the screen) enter the market as an addition to the popular netbook.

Tablets could make the e-reader market interesting. This market started to take off in 2009 and will continue, but the big question is if special or dedicated devices will win. Some believe that people will want a special reading device while others claim that people don’t read and will want a more generic device. Another outcome is that both will prevail, and the special reading device will tailor to a select group that is passionate about reading.

One  of the things that could make tablets a success is the ubiquitous network access. Today we have wireless networks, your WiFi and wireless phone networks. These will merge into the same set of standards. Your phone will use WiFi and your computer will use 3G or 4G, depending on which is available. We will see this start to unfold in 2010 but it might take longer time for seamless experience.

Augmented Reality generated some hype in 2009 but we will see more applications popping up in 2010. Mobile phone applications will be the perfect medium since many of them have web cameras and geo-location capabilities. But I would not be surprised to see totally new types of usages that will fit into this category.

AR is all about building some intelligence into our everyday live. Another field where intelligence is needed is in robotics. whether it’s in 2010 or later, but the robotics revolution will eventually move into the consumer space. We have already seen some interesting toys with robotic capabilities and this will be an interesting market, although it is very price sensitive and with low profit margins.

In other less glamorous fields of technology, battery technology will finally see some significant improvements. This is driven by rise of consumer devices and also by electronic vehicles.

These are some of the issues that I think will be important in 2010. However this develops, I think in 2010 we will see great number of new innovations. It seem that we are at some tipping point in cool consumer technologies. With great devices, software using state of art user experience design, and cloud services we can expect to see some cool products this year.

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