It is that time of the year,the time to take stock of trends that worked for tech companies and the ones that didnt. It is becoming increasingly tough for them as product cycles get shorter and consumers more demanding. In 2013,things changed faster than most of us expected. What was predicted to be a trend at the beginning of the year was nowhere to be found by Christmas. New ones emerged mid-year and became stronger as the months passed. Here are three trends that impacted you the most in the year that was.
This was the year in which smartphones started selling more than feature phones. And the credit for this has to go to affordable Android phones powered by cheap processors from companies like MediaTek,and Nokias Lumia 520 which has made Microsofts Windows Phone operating system affordable. In India,you can buy an Android smartphone for as low as Rs 4,000 though the performance of such devices does not compare to high-end models. But that is immaterial when you consider that these phones are democratising not just smart devices,but also taking the internet to places it has never been before. The result: More Indians access the Web from phones than from computers.
The smartphone has also become smarter than before. Yes,it is evolution,but the march of the smartphone has been at the cost of many devices,ranging from point and shoot cameras to radios. The smartphone can now be an assistant,not one that needs to be spoken to like iPhones Siri,but one that will speak to you like the Moto X. Voice control has been there for a few years now. But 2013 will be remembered as the year in which it was perfected,well almost. Smartphones have also become intelligent to the extent of being able to take some decisions on their own. The calendar on iOS when working at full capability will tell you how long it will take you to reach from one meeting to the other,and reschedule the second according to the expected time of arrival. It will even send a text message about the delay to the person you are supposed to meet. Apple also ushered in a technology that might change our lives in a couple of years. The finger print reader on the new iPhone 5s could be the death of passwords as we know it. Soon you might just need your finger to get through to your email,bank account and app store.
The two-in-one is not dead and buried. In fact,the term made a re-appearance this year. Not as a music system that you could carry on your shoulder,but a laptop that could become a tablet when needed. The first wave of Windows 8 devices that could turn,twist or tear to bring the screen close to the user to make the best of the touch-optimised operating system appeared this year. But despite their flexibility,they did not really fly off the shelves,as they were expensive at one end of the scale and underpowered on the other. By the end of the year,what has started out as ultrabook convertibles and tablet hybrids is being branded as 2-in-1s. Rest assured,you havent heard the last of these devices.
The biggest visible change in personal computing was the advent of touch,thanks to Windows 8. Now,even entry-level devices have touchscreen options. It is not that you cannot use Windows 8 without touching the screen,but it is definitely a better experience. It also helped that touchscreen panels became affordable as their numbers started increasing. There are still laptop screens without touch,but this added feature will soon become a standard as the price will hardly make a difference.
We have all been talking about cloud computing for years now. This year,however,the cloud literally came down with the Google Chromebook. This new breed of computers,which have finally made their debut in India,are among the most affordable PCs as they keep almost everything in the cloud,right from the software to your files. Microsoft too has made cloud the default in its new operating system,as far as saving files is concerned. And,you might not have realised it,but almost all of the internet services you use are enabled by the cloud.
Everything is Wireless
When Nokia Launched the Lumia 920 in 2012 with Qi wireless charging,many thought of it as a gimmick. A year down the line,there are more phones from the company and many others that support this feature without the need to tout it. With the last frontier in wireless technology almost breached,you will now see this feature coming to all sorts of devices,from cameras to electric cars. Finally,a way out of the tangle of wires that we find ourselves in.
Wireless technology,meanwhile,has made inroads into a lot of new device streams,from cameras to televisions. Digital cameras can now share an image they have shot and corrected without help from wires or a computer to which it had been fettered since their inception. Televisions,on the other hand,now link up directly to the internet,thus shrugging off their dependence on programmed content. Many people now just watch YouTube on large screen televisions,not bothering with what local channels have to show.
The wireless capabilities of devices are ushering in what is being called the internet of Things,characterised by their ability not only to go online but to talk among themselves. A typical example are smartwatches which are synced with smartphones,letting you take and make calls,see messages and even keep a tab on your engagements. My cameras,too,can now talk to phones and the computer. The dialogue has truly begun.
In these days of flux,it is difficult to stick your neck out and predict what will happen in the coming year. But we are putting ourselves under the guillotine and noting five trends:
1. Larger smartphones: The phablets smartphones larger than five and smaller than seven inches will become the norm,as there will be no real reason to buy a smaller device when the larger one will cost the same.
2. Smaller tablets: The larger 10-inch tablets will become a niche product as the seven and eight inches will become the sizes of choice since they are easier to handle. Most of them will also be able to make calls.
3. Newer ways to communicate:Voice has been conquered,now the focus shifts to gesture and a more natural experience on touchscreens. You will see a push towards better ways of communicating with your devices than pushing buttons.
4. Wearable devices:From intelligent fabrics to goggles and smartwatches,the market will soon flood with stuff that can be worn and wont need to be carried around. It remains to be seen if they can actually replace popular devices.
5. Intelligence inside: More devices will connect to the Web on their own and talk to their smart counterparts to make life easier for you. Cars,home appliances and security devices are first in line for this makeover.