A year ago we identified the following ten trends, in no particular order, as being the most potentially influential on the technology business in 2010:
- Mobile operating systems
- Mobile app stores
- Social networking
- Set-top boxes
- The enterprise sector
- The recovery
Tablets ended up superseding smartbooks, Mobile OSs and app stores are, in retrospect, inseparable, and set-top boxes morphed into Internet TV platforms, but on the whole these trends were all significant.
So here's this year's top ten, this time listed in order of anticipated importance.
10 - 4G
With smartphones and tablets now increasingly being used to consume media on the go, the strains on mobile networks are increasing exponentially. The need for a network to handle all this data-rich content will reach a critical juncture and the first networks to deliver 4G to the masses could be at a distinct advantage.
9 - Patent litigation
So high are the stakes in the mobile Internet land-grab, that even former allies are mobilising their legal forces against each other to secure useful incremental revenues from the technologies behind it. These cases usually involve out of court settlements, but if any get acrimonious enough they could lead to certain crucial technologies being denies some of the players.
Also in this category we should mention acquisitions. There's a lot of spare cash out there just waiting for a worthy home, and mobile Internet companies will be top of most shopping lists.
8 - ‘Superfast' broadband
BT and Virgin Media are locked in mortal combat over the UK broadband, with BT having the advantage of the incumbent and an apparently sympathetic government, but Virgin offering the greater speeds. 100mbps has the look of being the marketing focus and whichever of the two can claim a big advantage at that bandwidth could score a decisive victory.
7 - Location-based services
Google's apparent attempt to buy Groupon shows the importance of the local advertising market to the big players. Additionally the evolution of other location-based services and technologies like augmented reality, not to mention, social networking and mobile commerce, will mean we increasingly use our phones for local commercial purposes. Again this is a huge market and getting an early lead is desirable.
6 - Fusion
2011 will be the year that AMD finally delivers on the promises of the ATI acquisition. While Intel already produces hybrid CPU/GPUs, AMD's version promise superior graphics and a greater degree of integration, potentially allowing their use in smaller form factors than the Intel equivalents.
5 - Moorestown/Medfield
Intel has been taking up its mobile chips almost as long as AMD has Fusion, but there's still no sign of them. Moorestown was launched this year, and was predicted to appear in tablets, and Medfield is the next iteration, expected to be low-power enough for phones. Can Intel afford to let another year go by without seeing its mobile chips making their way into real devices?
4 - Tegra 2
NVIDIA is another semiconductor company that has been talking up its mobile offering for some time with little end-product on the market to show for it. But unlike Intel, NVIDIA is well set to have a breakout year with Tegra 2. Not only has the first phone running it been announced, but it looks set to be the default platform for the next generation of Android tablets.
Honourable mention goes to the impending dual-core chip offerings from Qualcomm and TI, while it will be interesting to see where Apple and Samsung go with their own in-house mobile chips, and what further goodness ARM and Imagination Technologies have for us.
3 - Internet TV
The ‘digital home' holy grail will come one step closer to reality at this year's CES as many companies unveil their Internet TV platforms, which will offer a whole order of magnitude more choice when it comes to accessing content in our living rooms. However, Google TV is struggling, Apple has kept its ambitions limited for now, and things still look pretty fragmented. So the opportunity is there for whoever can offer something coherent and easy to use.
2 - Honeycomb
This is the name of the next version of Android, which promises to be optimised for tablets. Apple has pretty much owned the tablet market this year, and Android looks like its only viable competitor. If Honeycomb can not only catch up with iOS, but offer some stuff that makes it more desirable, then we'll have a really competitive tablet market on our hands.
1- Other mobile operating systems
Hopefully it won't be all Apple and Google in the mobile space this year. Yes, Microsoft has come up with a decent effort with WP7, but a lot of other players still have to either release their mobile OS, or revamp existing ones sufficiently to compete. The most significant of these is MeeGo, as the fortunes of both Intel and Nokia in the smartphone/tablet market rest on it. But there's also webOS, BlackBerry, Symbian, Chrome OS, and a rumoured mobile version of Windows 7 to come.
So there you have it, ten ingredients to ensure another action-packed tech year, and we didn't even mention the still-struggling global economy. Let us know what you think of these predictions and flag up any you think we overlooked. See you next year - and don't drink too much tonight.