Technology in 2011

Steve Breen

This is the time of year when prediction articles for the new year flood the web. What will be the major trends for 2011? Here is my version:

In 2010 we got a new type of device, the tablet. This market was defined by Apple and currently the iPad dominates. This will not change much in 2011 but it will still be the year of iPad clones. Much similar as the PC clones of the 80s. One player that might be interesting to watch is HP. The company acquired Palm last year. Plam had already developed the WebOS mobile OS. With Palm’s OS and HP hardware we might see some interesting tablets and even phones.

The iPad made an interesting impact last year, namely making the computer an consumer device. This trend of consumerization will likely contine in 2011. Devices that are simpler, more content focused and with better usability to use that content. Let me give one example of usability. I have an iPad and use it as an e-book reader. I use the Kindle app. To buy a book I go to the Amazon web site and, after selecting a Kindle book, I press a button called Buy now with 1-Click and the book appears in my Kindle app loading. Buying a book thus only takes few seconds. We will see this usability migrate to laptops and netbooks. As an indicator, Steve Jobs announced the Mac App Store last year.

The e-reader was a success in 2010. Amazon now sells more Kindle books than books. In 2011 we might see a new and interesting trend become important: the self-publishing e-book. Amazon already offers this. The idea is that you can upload your brand new novel and make it available as a Kindle book. Like the Apple App Store, Amazon take 30%. We can expect wannabe novelists flocking to Amazon with their potential bestsellers.

Another interesting thing that could happen is video phone calls. If Apple releases iPad 2 with front cameras for FaceTime, it could create a new and interesting use of video phone calls. Currently people video call using laptops, but not so much phones, even if they can. The tablet might be the form-factor that works for video calls. The iPad already has 3G support, why not make it a video phone device.

Google will release it’s ChromeOS in 2011 and we will see netbooks running this OS. Analysts will compare these new generation of operating systems with current Windows and MacOS based labtops and dismiss it as inferior. That is usually the case with low-end disruptive technology. If these simple, low-end operating systems, positioned between Mobile/Tablet OS and Desktop OS, are useable it will be the start of the era of simpler operating systems for computers. I would not be surprised that these web-based operating systems on simple consumer devices will find its market in 2011.

With all these devices and consumerization, one technology that might hit a turning point is the solid-state drive. 2011 might be the year where SSD takes over and becomes the default persistance technology in computers.

On the mobile side, Android will continue to get much focus in 2011. If Nokia decides to throw out Symbian and adopt Android as a base it will have huge impact on the mobile landscape. And there has been rumors on Sony PSP Phone.

One of the things I predicted last year was the rise of the home entertainment boxes. We did not quite get there although Apple updated its TV box and Google released their version. The TV market is fairly closed and in some ways similar as the telecom market before the iPhone. Difference is that the big networks, particularly in the US, dominante the content and control where it goes. The search giant is not welcome in the club – not yet. This closed model will break eventually, 2011 or beyond (depends on how fast the lawyers work). TV experience will be like computer experience. You buy your hardware and subscribe to the services you want. The set-top box (STB) is just the computer you use for viewing. You don’t even need an STB. Boxee, for example offers download version to be installed on your computer.

Another service is UK based YouView which offers developers program. You can download the technical specs and APIs and develop TV apps for the YouView box. So we are starting to see the STB model become open where developers can add new experience. This trends will only continue and with it we will see new and unexpected uses of TV.

One of these new experiences is social viewing. Imagine watching a football game at your home. You’re alone but you know that your buddies are also watching at their home, so why not join them. We could be seeing TVs with cameras where you can see your buddy and even talk. Xbox already has some feature for sharing videos.

These are some of the developments I see upcoming 2011 in technology. In fact, given how many disruptive technologies have entered the market in recent months, like Android, iPad and the tablet revolution, e-books and Amzaon’s self-publishing, and Microsoft’s Kinect to name few, I feel that we will see lots of innovations and new ideas coming in the next few years. With the tools in hand, people will invent new ways to use them.