Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tech Predictions for 2012

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Tony Hoffman
Prediction: Mobile printers, projectors, and scanners make headway
In 2012, we will see several small photo printers built specifically to print from iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets. Although by the end of the year most new Wi-Fi printers will be compatible with Apple's AirPrint, few people will use it as most printer manufacturers will have their own, more powerful mobile printing apps.
More projectors will include docks for iPhones and other mobile devices. LED-based palmtop projectors will blossom, gaining market share over the smaller pico projectors. Projector-phone hybrids won't gain traction, but we will see projectors integrating more tablet features. Wi-Fi connectivity will become commonplace on projectors. The market for portable document scanners, including ones that can scan to the cloud, will grow. —Tony Hoffman, Analyst, Printers, Scanners, and Projectors

Neil Rubenking
Prediction: Android malware creeps to prominence
Because PCs are ubiquitous and vulnerable to attack, they've been a favorite target for cybercriminals. Android devices are now ubiquitous and possibly even more vulnerable, so this year will see a continuing rise in Android malware. Email spam and phishing attacks won't diminish, but fraudsters will pile on with spam and financial fraud via text message. More consumers will recognize that a mobile device, especially an Android device, needs security software just as much as a PC does. —Neil J. Rubenking, Lead Analyst, Security
Sara Yin
I predict someone in your family is going to download a virus on his or her Android phone. The odds are totally against me—Android malware has only affected a couple percent of its user base so far—but Android malware is so potentially lucrative to make (seed money: a $25 Android developer's account; potential payout of a Trojanized Android app: several thousand dollars), that figuring out how to replicate and monetize mobile malware is just a matter of time. —Sara Yin, Junior Analyst, Software
Eric Grevstad
Prediction: Ultrabooks take center stage
Super-slim ultrabooks will be everywhere, though they won't be affordable until the second half of the year. Apple will smack down the ultrabook competition with an ultra-desirable new MacBook Air. Amid all the hype about Windows 8 and touch interfaces, speech recognition will make waves and vendors will sell a gigaton of surprisingly good under-$300 laptops. —Eric Grevstad, Lead Analyst, Laptops
Jill Duffy
Prediction: On-demand streaming video content space endures disruption
On-demand, subscription-based streaming video services, like Netflix and Hulu Plus, will undergo huge disruptions in 2012, largely to the benefit of the consumer. A quick look at the recent history of the space dictates why: In the last year, streaming TV and film content surged toward critical mass, only to be thrown for a loop when the leader in the space, Netflix, completely botched its business. Following an abrupt price hike announcement, the company further upset customers by trying to spin off an arm of its business (DVD-by-mail), rebrand it, and charge a whole lot more for it. Customers went berserk, 800,000 of them actually kicking Netflix to the curb and canceling their subscriptions. That single change in the market opened up a huge hole that competitors would surely love to fill.
For streaming content providers, the hardest trick to pull off has always been convincing television and movie studios to get on board and license their best content, the dearth of Academy Award-winning films on Netflix being one shining example. Some streaming businesses are catching on and getting their own original content, which marks one of the biggest changes coming to the space, the disruption that will ultimately change online TV for the better. I believe—and hope!—that streaming services will attract more creative unknowns to develop original shows, webisodes, short films, and whatnot. If a streaming service could attract amazing and innovative content creators and lure them to sign exclusive deals (probably for less than what Hollywood would pay, but then again, Hollywood is tough to break into), viewers could see a real value proposition in different streaming services. What if the best of the best creators on YouTube got paid to make content exclusively for Crackle, Hulu Plus, or Netflix? That's the kind of disruption I'd like to see the software and Internet industries have on entertainment, and I think it will start to happen in 2012. —Jill Duffy, Junior Analyst, Software
Natalie Shoemaker
Prediction: The laptop optical drive continues to decline
I think for 2012 we shall see the integrated optical drives continue to dwindle due to the rise of Intel's Ultrabook initiative. I also feel like vendors are beginning to realize that consumers' priorities lie in better battery life, lighter systems, and more powerful systems, which can only be achieved by shaving an unnecessary internal component. —Natalie Shoemaker, Junior Analyst, Hardware
Brian Westover
Prediction: Windows 8 for the win
Windows tablets will have a fighting chance thanks to Windows 8, but will anyone buy them? – Brian Westover, Junior Analyst, Hardware

Joel Santo Domingo
Prediction: Touch screens get cozy on PCs
Touch screens on desktop and notebook PCs will finally take off in 2012. Yes, we know that touch interfaces have existed since the touch screen killed the digitizer/light pen requirement last decade. However, the touch screen-oriented OS juggernaut Microsoft Windows 8 will be released in 2012, and the combination of that nugget and the prevalence of smartphones means that normal users will finally have an incentive to use touch on their PCs. Children just encountering technology will consider touch screens to be the "normal" way to access what they're looking for, and that will tip the balance for everyday computing. Just make sure you invest in some screen cleaning wipes. —Joel Santo Domingo, Lead Analyst, Desktops
Alex Colon
Prediction: A new Apple iPhone looms
Now, I'm not saying when I think it's going to happen, but I think we're going to see a new iPhone from Apple in 2012. This time around, I think it's actually going to have many of the features that were endlessly rumored to appear in the iPhone 4S: namely, a substantial redesign and support for 4G. Whether or not Siri will be used for anything other than a gag at parties remains to be seen. —Alex Colon, Junior Analyst, Mobile
Matthew Murray
Prediction: Effects of Thailand flooding persist
The flooding that hit Thailand this past fall will have implications in at least the first half of 2012 that we aren't able to foresee. System builders and upgraders are aware of the impact the floods have already had on hard drive prices (in some cases they've more than doubled), but once current hardware stocks run out, even major manufacturers could feel the pinch. Prices could skyrocket even more and getting new systems and other devices could take longer than ever. The good news is that some of the trouble has already abated, and hard drive companies are resuming production in some of the affected factories. But given how fast the tech world moves and consumers' ever-growing need for storage devices and other components, chances are the worst and most annoying aspects of the slowdown are yet to come. —Matthew Murray, Lead Analyst, Components & DIY
Samara Lynn
Prediction: Single-band routers get ousted
Single-band router ownership will slip further into decline as today's users are becoming more aware of wireless home networking and demand the robustness that 5 GHz delivers with dual-band routers. We will also start seeing 802.11 ac, very high throughput devices come to market end of next year. —Samara Lynn, Lead Analyst, Networking

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