As the old year winds down a sense of hope arises that the hints and inklings of new products and services that have been leaking out over the past months may actually materialise in the New Year. Some of them are products that vendors have solidly promised and assigned release dates to, some are part of vaguely marked road maps and some are simply pipedreams fuelled by persistent rumours. Others are services or intriguing situations that could arise. Regardless, here are some of the ones that have caught our eye and that we hope turn out to be as eye catching in reality.
Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft already sells the Surface RT tablet/notebook hybrid (that’s one in the picture), but the Surface Pro is something very different even though it will look similar. It will have the full version of Windows 8 on it rather than the version that supports only touch-centric Windows Store applications. Surface Pro supports them, too, but also welcomes any app that runs on Windows 7. The 1920x1080 pixel display supports 10-point multi-touch and stylus input. With that screen and an Intel Core i5 processor this could be both an excellent tablet and laptop.
Depending on the rumour, the iPad 5 started production in December 2012 or alternatively will be available sometime during December 2013. Regardless, it’s expected to be lighter and thinner than the iPad 4. Contributing to the sleeker lines may be GF DITO, otherwise called GF2, touchscreen technology borrowed from the new iPad Mini and that makes it possible to slim down the devices.
This is all based on various rumours, but the release of any new iPhone is a much anticipated event. Rumours have the device available sometime next year, as early as June, some say. It might have a radically new oblong touch-sensitive Home button that allows navigating left to right with a swipe of the thumb. Some say it might have an A6X processor, some say an A7. Nobody knows much for sure about iPhone 6 including the name. It might be iPhone 5S. The photo is a concept image from Yanko Design.
Microsoft Surface Phone
More rumour. A report by the Wall Street Journal says Microsoft has been talking to makers of phone components to spec out its own smartphone design. (The one at left is a concept design by Jonas Daehnert.) Maybe it’s just testing the waters, but if Microsoft does make its own phone, it would fit with its move into hardware a la Surface tablets. Sort of like Apple a la iPhones and iPads.
Blackberry 10 smartphone
Hyped as the device that will save Research in Motion, Blackberry 10 is set to officially launch January 30, with availability scheduled sometime in the first quarter of 2013. This device embraces the full touchscreen of iPhones and Android smartphones but boasts enterprise-friendly software that enables tight management and segregation of personal and corporate data. Already 5,000 alpha versions of the devices have been given to developers to start working on apps. No word yet on price.
Key Lime Pie
The big expectation is that Google will reveal the next major iteration of its Android operating system May 15 at Google I/O. While there is virtually nothing confirmed about what the new release might contain, there are lots of shortcomings users find in the current version that they’d like to see addressed. These include better support for video formats, displaying two apps onscreen at the same time, a less chaotic user interface, better integration with Google’s own services, better organised customisation tools and better battery life.
802.11ac access points
With wireless data rates starting at 433Mbps, new wireless routers based on 802.11ac will more than triple wireless speeds, giving the technology the nickname Gigabit Wi-Fi. Already Netgear, Asus and Belkin have produced what they describe as 802.11ac routers based on the specifications agreed to so far. Cisco promises that next year it will ship a module for its Aironet 3600 access points (pictured) that will transform them into 802.11ac devices. Others will follow, creating an opportunity for faster networks but potentially significant infrastructure prep to support them.
Cisco’s programmable networks strategy known as Cisco Open Network Environment has been evolving during 2012 and should show results during 2013 as it adds support for the Cisco ONE API to products running its IOS, IOS XR and NX-OS operating systems. Similar to Open Flow and Software Defined Networking, Cisco claims its variation will be more flexible than competitive schemes by taking into account more layers of the network when customising flows. Given Cisco’s widespread deployments in business and carrier networks, the impact on operations and performance could be huge.
Rather than a product, Talko is a startup working on mobility and communications software and tools for Android and iOS devices. The company and whatever it comes up with warrants attention because its founder is Ray Ozzie, who’s success developing Lotus Notes and taking over as chief software architect at Microsoft after Bill Gates left the post make just about anything he does worth watching. Based on job postings by the company, social networking seems to be core to whatever Talko is up to. The company changed its name from Cocomo to Talko in 2012 when it raised $4 million from investors.
T-Mobile vs AT&T
Wireless carrier T-Mobile is targeting AT&T customers, hoping to lure them away with the promise of better coverage and the ability to bring their current iPhone with them. T-Mobile’s Value Plan that charges just for services and not for subsidising phones, makes the scheme even more attractive. T-Mobile will still sell phones, just bill for them separately from cellular services. The company’s feisty slogan: You love your iPhone, you hate AT&T.
The technology exists for display screens that bend and 2013 could see the advent of commercial smartphones that highlight the feature. Given their flexibility, these screens could help reduce damage to phones that get dropped, banged or otherwise abused; they’re made to respond to impact by yielding. (Check out the Philips concept phone in the picture.) No phone manufacturers have announced plans to launch such products, but given that the technology exists plus the coolness factor, these devices may debut in 2013.
This smartphone is HTC’s attempt at making a big splash in a market crowded with remarkable devices. Specs for this device call for a five-inch HD screen, a 13MP camera, 2GB of RAM and a Snapdragon S4 Pro Quadcore processor – what sounds like a competitive bundle. This could launch in March.
Eta Devices power amplifiers
Doubling battery life for smartphones could be just a power-amplifier chip away. Eta Devices, run by two MIT professors, is expected to commercialise its energy saving technology in 2013, halving the energy phones eat up when transmitting data. It calls the technology asymmetric multilevel outphasing, which keeps standby power as low as possible and thereby extends battery life. Power amplifier chips are needed for each wireless technology a phone supports (in colour boxes in the photo), and Eta Devices plans to support CDMA, GSM, and 4G/LTE in both phones as well as the cellular ground stations they communicate with.
OS X 10.9
The next major release of Apple’s desktop/laptop operating system (codenamed Lynx) will come out sometime next summer, observers believe, and could mark a shift toward bringing it more features that are in common with its phone/tablet operating system iOS. This could include Siri, the intelligent personal assistant, and Maps, its somewhat tarnished capability for embedding mapping in applications.
NSA Bluffdale, Utah data centre
In September the National Security Agency is scheduled to open its $1.2 billion data centre that will also serve the Department of Homeland Security. The site will store all the data the NSA gathers and will have a supercomputer designed to decrypt data that has been gathered but whose encryption cannot yet be cracked. The 65M Watt technical data center occupies 100,000 square feet and has its own power, water and sewage systems.
Postini to Google Apps Migration
Google’s Postini customers buying Message Security and Message Discovery will shift during 2013 to Google Apps and Google Apps Vault, as the services are consolidated under the Google Apps brand. Email security and protection services are incorporated in Google Apps now, and that’s where Google wants to migrate its Postini Services customers. This consolidation will set up Google Apps to better take on other cloud based productivity suites such as Office 365.
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