'10 Tech Trends

As the calendar turns to a new year, Tech Tips ponders what we will be reading about on the technology front in 2010.

Tablet PCs look like a hot topic with early-year buzz regarding the pending announcement from Apple about its newest device, Apple iPad. Tablet PCs have been around for years, but have been pricey at best. The idea behind them is to provide a more compact laptop. You use a touch screen instead of a mouse, substituting a stylus or your fingers to do your pointing and clicking, even using an on-screen keyboard to type. Very handy in cramped spaces, like the subway.

Another portable device that gained momentum in 2009 and will continue to grow in 2010 are eBook readers. While Kindle and Sony Reader have dominated the market for the last few years, the Barnes and Noble Nook is selling well and new versions are in the works from Samsung and other manufacturers.

Cell phones in select cities are already getting a boost from 4G wireless, which is a faster, more internet-friendly system than the current 3G network. More cities will see a boost to 4G this year, with nation-wide rollout not far behind.

For those of you that like to worry about only one portable device, all-in-one gadgets will be emerging this year in the form of more advanced smartphones and new smartbooks. Smartbooks are upgraded netbooks (the mini laptops) that work on a wireless phone network to provide internet and GPS service.

Two tech improvements that will help manufacturers provide smaller, more powerful portable devices are long-life lithium ion batteries and solid-state hard drives. Current li-ion batteries last up to 10 hours and can work in a device for 1-2 years. Manufacturers are working on a version with a special buffer that helps prevent chemical decay so the battery will last longer on a charge and work for many years longer than current batteries. As for the hard-drives, solid-state technology is what is used in flash drives and memory cards for cameras, but has been limited to about 16 GB until now. Newer drives can hold 100 GB or more of data, making them ideal for portable devices since they won’t skip or damage like a traditional hard drive.

Speaking of cameras and their storage, this year looks like the year when digital cameras won’t add pixels, but will add more advanced features instead. The 12 MP cameras on the market are professional-grade and more than the average user needs, so look for camera manufacturers to innovate by adding more user controls and options like smarter autofocus.

If you prefer to stay at home with your technology, three entertainment gadgets will be hot this year. The home will become more connected with streaming media devices like internet connected Blu-Ray players, TVs, Boxee, and more on-demand video options on PlayStation and Xbox. In all cases, the device uses a wireless internet connection to call-up music, video or photos from either your computers or from the internet.

Body-controlled video games will take the Wii concept further into the future. Both Sony and Nintendo are working on advanced controllers to be released in 2010 or early 2011. The controllers use a camera and special attachment to sense your movement, which would mean players can do more than just hit a baseball or bowl, they could also kick a soccer ball.

Just when we were all settling in with HDTV, manufacturers and broadcasters have announced they will start offering 3DTV. Just like the movies, you need to wear the glasses. FIFA has announced that this year's World Cup will be broadcast in 3D.

- Laura N.

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