The tech predictions for 2012

3 Jan 20123 Shares

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Siliconrepublic.com editor John Kennedy goes through his tech predictions for 2012 from the fabled Apple TV and iPad 3 to the impact of Windows 8 and hybrid cloud on the enterprise.

Apple iTV

Writing in his biography of the late Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson told how the Apple co-founder realised he had “finally cracked it” in terms of how he would reinvent the TV for a world made weary of multiple remote controls.

In the wake of Jobs’ passing much of the world’s tech press began to speculate once more on the likelihood of an Apple-made TV. Not to be confused with the existing Apple TV – a wireless home hub product that brings digital content from the web to the home TV in high definition – the view is that since Apple has cracked music, smartphones and most recently tablet computers and was already a master in terms of display technologies like Retina, an iTV (suggested name) would be a natural stretch.

Ally this with new breakthroughs like Siri’s artificial intelligence voice capability then maybe remote controls could be made a thing of the past.

Veteran Apple analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray told a recent Business Insider ‘Ignition Future of Media’ conference that he believes the first Apple television will arrive in the fourth quarter of 2012, but won’t be cheap. A 40-inch, flat-screen TV today costs around US$800, an Apple TV is likely to cost around US$1,600 Munster said.

Munster predicted the Apple TV will debut in the market in time for Christmas 2012.

Whatever Apple is working on, it is being kept a closely guarded secret. It is understood that the fine minds that designed the iPod, iPhone and iPad are hard at work on the project and Apple is on the hunt for unique chip technologies in Asia that will help reinvent the TV.

Smarter TVs

Speaking of TVs, the TV represents the last bastion of traditional media in need of a shake-up and in recent years the addition of web apps should be enough to spice up the market.

2011 was pretty much the year of the 3D TV. 2012 should see the advent of more TVs that will be converted into home hubs for internet content. This means putting greater computer processing power and wireless technologies into television sets.

However, the biggest advances are occurring in and around the TV itself. Look at the latest Microsoft update for the Xbox 360 that brings with it a whole bevy of home entertainment apps for HD TVs such as Muzu.TV, YouTube, Zune, Love Film and many others.

Online video rental player Netflix will be launching in Ireland and the UK early in 2012 allowing users to stream the latest movies and their favourite TV shows back to back for a modest  monthly fee through their gaming consoles, laptop computers, smartphones, tablet computers, you name it.

Also keep an eye on the digital TV providers. No doubt 1 December 2012 will be Ireland’s digital switchover date and consumers with aerials will switch to new services like Saorview, don’t forget that more than 60pc of TV viewers in Ireland access their services by satellite and cable.

Expect players like Sky and UPC to come up with a range of new interactive services to complement the increasingly digital lifestyle around the home. Sky is already active in the HD and 3D space and has numerous catch-up apps, and UPC will become more active in these areas. In 2012 UPC is also expected to bring out its new ‘Horizon’ home entertainment hub that will combine interactive TV with wireless internet connectivity throughout the home.

Social enterprise and B2B

I regard social networking as the irresistible revolution. Whether you regularly use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the fact that billions of people around the globe are connected via these networks makes social media hard to ignore.

Social media is in fact turning traditional media inside out and via people’s ability to share content and see what others are consuming, could be the very saviour of a media industry devastated by the financial downturn.

What’s obvious about social media is the impact it is having on the consumer world and therefore marketing, but perhaps what most pundits and analysts are missing the real point on is the impact social media could have on the business world.

The old term business-to-business (B2B) is going to be back with a bang in 2012 as new tools for enabling firms to mine data, communicate better, target customers and analyse their own performance on a real-time basis will enter the fray. 2012 will be the year of the social enterprise.

Closer to home keep an eye on companies like Connor Murphy’s DataHug which just raised US$1.5m recently and makes relationship management technologies for businesses.

Another firm worth watching in this space is Redeem & Get which recently won the ESB Electric Ireland Spark of Genius Award at the Dublin Web Summit. Focusing on the daily deals space dominated by players like Groupon, it helps businesses manage customer details and group vouchers to prevent overloading their company.

Windows 8

The much anticipated operating system from Microsoft is a complete departure from the past and will exist as an operating system that will flow seamlessly across tablet computers, notebook computers and desktop computers.

Not only will the operating system look entirely different – being optimised for touchscreen devices as well as traditional mouse-control – with its Metro-style interface, but it will represent an exciting new way for businesses, workers and consumers to get their hands on software apps.

Steve Ballmer said recently that when Windows 8 ships in 2012 there will be an installed base of some 500m personal computers that can be upgraded to the new operating system, ensuring a viable potential market for firms creating apps for this space.

What will be the stand-out features of Windows 8 when it arrives? Well it will come with a new way of putting in your password if you wish – you can draw a shape around a familiar photograph as a way of unlocking the computer or private documents, for example.

A key feature will also be Windows 8’s green credentials. It will enable instant boot-up and each of the tiles on the home screen will be able to receive dynamic push content such as news, weather, video, etc, without actually draining your computer’s battery.

A new feature called Touch-first browsing puts websites at the centre of new Windows 8 devices.

Ultrabooks

The ultrabook form factor is going to be a major game changer in 2012. These are razor thin, but really powerful notebook computers that can run for days on a single charge.

While Apple was the first to market with its MacBook Air computers, competing products that will arrive on the market in 2012 from Dell, HP, Toshiba, Samsung and many others promises to make elegant, stylish eco-computing a right for everyone.

Intel predicts that ultrabooks are likely to make up 40pc of notebooks that will ship in 2012.

While MacBook Air and HP Folio 13 devices are already in the market, a key propellent for the ultrabook genre will no doubt be the arrivel of Windows 8.

Power management is going to be a big game changer in Windows 8 – ultrathin PCs and tablets will be able to turn on instantly and run all day on a single charge – while staying connected. In addition, next-generation system-on-a-chip technology support will enable extended standby and low-power states.

Battle of the Tablets

The jury is still out, however, on whether ultrabooks will make it to 40pc of devices sold in 2012. While the advent of tablet computing thanks to Apple’s iPad did sew disruption in the market and certainly helped to kill off the poor old netbook, the year 2012 will see tablet computers continue to grow and grow.

Last March Apple revealed a thinner, more powerful iPad 2 and it is most likely the iPad 3 will arrive in March 2012. What shape this will take is a hot, hot topic.

Again, only Apple knows the real answer, but speculation centres on two possibilities. A 9.7-inch iPad with a Retina display and possibly even more powerful processing power beyond dual-core, or a smaller 7-inch device that will be equally powerful but with a Retina display.

My money is on Apple maintaining the same screen-size but going for even denser technology capabilities. It may come with 4G mobile capabilities for countries that have LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks up and running, such as the US.

The difference this year, I predict, will be more meaningful competition for the iPad from manufacturers who will make devices powered by Android and Windows 8.

Although Apple will continue to own much of the market for years to come, I expect – as hinted recently by Eric Schmidt – Google will bring a more solid operating system for tablet computers to market.

Windows 8 is being designed with tablets in mind, so expect the tablet wars to be intense in 2012.

Smarter smartphones

The ultimate personal computer is your smartphone. So where will they go in 2012? The only way is up, I’m afraid.

Expect more to happen with displays – 3D phones are already beginning to filter into the marketplace. Perhaps holographic displays will be some time away but newer capabilities in terms of being able to beam HD content onto a surface as well as capture content in 3D will feature on many devices in 2012.

Processing power will also go up considerably. At the moment dualcore chips are the state-of-the-art but there are rumblings of quadcore chips being developed for mobile handsets.

Who will win in this market? The two-horse race between Android and iOS will dominate 2012 like it had in 2011. Windows Phone will steady Nokia’s hand and with its global footprint, distribution and brand loyalty it may be able to use the operating system to good effect. This is exactly what Microsoft has been waiting for. It has a steep mountain to climb with Windows Phone, it knows this. But if Nokia keeps its nerve, they can scale that mountain together. It’s very possible.

So what will happen with BlackBerry? It will need to bulk up its sliding valuation to ensure any sale or merger will deliver value for shareholders. While it may have rejected Amazon’s advances so far, I suspect the e-commerce giant hasn’t given up hope.

Also, expect to hear more talk about a Facebook smartphone. Facebook’s new Timeline will drive demand for more mobile apps and eventually the social network giant will need to take even greater control of its mobile future. Will a Facebook phone emerge in 2012? It will be talk for most of the year but towards the end of the year the rumour mill may give way to credible evidence that something is in the works.

The most hyped and coveted new gadget of 2012 will no doubt be the iPhone 5 which will debut in either Q3 or Q4. Since the iPhone 4S retained the shape and form factor of the iPhone 4, expectations are high that the next iPhone device will feature a different shape and display. It will need to be future-proofed so expect LTE capability and the ability for Near Field Communications. The latest iPhone 4S already has an 8-megapixel camera which is pretty spectacular and pretty contemporary, will 2012 see Apple come up with an iPhone with a 12-megapixel camera? Not likely, that might be something for 2013.

The smart wallet

Your smartphone is going to be the wallet of the future, no doubt about it. The 2012 Olympics in London will see a lot of activity in the area of Near Field Communications (NFC) as an enabler of mobile commerce.

In the US Google Wallet has already met with considerable success and it will begin rolling out around the world in 2012.

While contactless payments are standard in many markets, locally in Ireland this form of payment technology has yet to be introduced. Perhaps NFC will overleap the need for contactless cards since forthcoming Android and iOS devices are expected to come with built-in NFC chips.

Hybrid cloud

Cloud computing is a natural evolution for the technology world and it is likely more consumers are using cloud computing in their daily lives via apps and services like Facebook, Hotmail, Dropbox, iTunes Match, Evernote and Gmail than their business counterparts.

The consumerisation of IT is causing many changes to happen within enterprises and is in fact helping the adoption of cloud computing become more widespread in business.

However, until now cloud computing has been caught between public cloud and private cloud adoption. Public cloud means accessing your firm’s data hosted in data centres via web apps like Salesforce.com or Google Docs, while private cloud means you access your data which is still stored within your premises via cloud interfaces.

Prevailing trends such as desktop virtualisation and greater adoption of remote working policies in firms will mean firms will want the best of both worlds – the flexibility of public cloud and the security of private cloud.

Hence the arrival of hybrid cloud services in a big way in 2012.

BYOD

As mentioned, the consumerisation of IT will continue on its merry march and firms will embrace ‘Bring Your Own Device’ strategies to allow them to better focus on more pressing concerns like security and better data management.

This is an unspoken compromise between workers who would prefer their trendy smartphone and laptop to staid, but reliable old machines previously bought in bulk by their companies. Younger workers want to work on iPads and stay connected at all times to social networks.

Firms will encourage this in two ways – let them bring their own devices they already own or give them the budget to buy machines that meet a certain specification in terms of being able to work with apps and corporate servers.

The return of e-government

Electronic government will return to Ireland’s agenda after a seven-year hiatus. At the heart of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin TD’s new measures to make savings for Ireland’s public purse will be the use of cloud computing and shared services.

As well as a Public Service Card the internet will be at the heart of a slew of new services planned, including a new single awarding authority for student grants that will include an online application process that will commence in the 2013 academic year.

New online services will include online voter registration, national rollout of fixyourstreet.ie and a central portal for more than 300 public services.

Public accountability will be a key factor and building on the Healthstat initiative the State will embark on a wider GovStat initiative during 2012.

In recent weeks Howlin revealed plans to appoint a Public Service CIO Council to assist and drive ICT and e-government initiatives across the public sector, beginning this quarter.

Open Data

Across Europe, there’s some €40bn worth of unlocked value waiting inside government and local government vaults for clever software coders and app developers to create meaningful and useful apps to enrich and improve the lives of citizens.

By getting access to critical data, citizens will feel more involved and aware of planning applications, the impact of their homes and businesses on energy consumption, where the nearest bus is in relation to where they are standing and point out to local authorities in a dynamic fashion if there’s a pothole on their street.

While the Open Data movement has met with some success in the US and UK, reluctance by civil servants to open up data sets here will start to be swept aside in 2012 as new opportunities to create meaningful services and apps will unlock value and create businesses and jobs.

The revolution starts now.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com