Top 10 technology trends of 2010
Shane Richmond, Emma Barnett and Matt Warman take a look at the best technology trends of 2010.
This is my gadget of the year, without a doubt. For casual web browsing, ebook reading, games and even light office work, the iPad is a revelation. It’s more comfortable to use on the sofa than a laptop and the screen is more practical than a smartphone. What’s more, the iPad trumps other tablets because of Apple’s typical attention to detail; it’s simply a joy to use. Can you manage without one? Of course, but if you’re anything like me, once you’ve used one for a while you won’t want to be without it again.
The 3D renaissance has been both miraculous and a non-event. Up to 15 per cent of John Lewis’s TV sales in the run up to Christmas have been 3D sets, the department store says. But analysts also observe that around the world 3D sales have not flown as high as they had hoped.
Even David Attenborough – paid a considerable sum by Sky for their fantastic 3D Christmas nature programmes – says that the technology is likely to be reserved for special events.
In fact, of course, 3D is reliant on cost, and content people can watch. Sport, some films, nature and other specific commissions already work well on it. In due course, it’s likely to become more widespread: 2010, for now, is likely to go down as the first year 3D began to go mainstream, but it’s a long way from mass market.
Facebook has had its biggest year yet, crossing the 500 million registered member mark. The social network has successfully kicked its once major rivals out of the water, with MySpace’s chief finally admitting to The Telegraph that the site was no longer a social network but a social entertainment portal and AOL having off-loaded the ailing Bebo for a fraction of the huge price it paid for the asset two years ago.
Facebook has continued to innovate launching Facebook Places, a location tool, a new type of inbox to rival email and additional profile page features. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing during 2010, as the site was forced to simplify its privacy settings, after online campaigners complained that Facebook was forcing its members to unknowingly share private information.
It may be that 2010 comes to be seen as the turning point for e-readers. After several years of predictions that these devices would take off, Amazon finally seems to have the makings of a mass market product with its new Kindle. The new Kindle is light, quick and, most importantly, cheap. An awful lot of people will be unwrapping one this Christmas. Meanwhile, Sony has updated its range of readers and several other manufacturers have jumped into the market. While bibliophiles might be reluctant to give up their printed tomes, casual readers look ready to switch to ebooks.
Google’s year has been a mixed one, but overall the company has gone from strength to ever greater strength. On the one hand, Google has been forced into complex machinations with information commissioners around the world over the way its Streetview mapping cars inadvertently surveyed unsecured wifi networks. It’s also being investigated by the European Commission, which is trying to discover whether the company’s search engine gives its own services an unduly high rank.
But in every other sphere, the firm’s ongoing dominance has shown it to be well ahead of its rivals: from new updates to maps, to search itself and to its apps means the company is racing ahead. Although Facebook is also surging ahead, and people are going online in the developing world for the sake purely of social networking, Google has lost none of its edge.
6. iPhone 4
A minor kerfuffle about reception problems that the iPhone 4 suffers when held in a certain way seems to have been forgotten. Equipped with a stunning ‘Retina’ display, the iPhone 4 really shines when it comes to video - it offers HD video with easy editing facilities - and graphically demanding games, such as Epic’s astonishing Infinity Blade. In FaceTime, its video chat application, Apple has the makings of a powerful product. Google’s Android operating system will appear on still more handsets in 2011 and give Apple a run for its money but right now the iPhone 4 is unmatched.
This was most definitely the year of the ‘check-in’. Due to the advent of smartphone adoption and several services in the location space: Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla, millions have been ‘checking in’ everywhere – from their local coffee shop to their bedrooms. However, there is still very little benefits available outside of the US to checking in – such as a discount in a book shop or coffee shop once a person has checked in their a number of times. This has left many people with ‘check-in’ fatigue. All the players need to address the benefits on offer to those faithfully still checking-in during 2011 for this to become a meaningful and compelling exercise.
The big question hanging over Spotify has been when it will launch in the US. It now seems certain to miss its 2010 deadline for a US launch but, nevertheless, Spotify is doing fairly well in Europe. The addition of social elements earlier this year, particularly Facebook integration, has made the service even better. There are plenty who doubt whether Spotify can get enough paid subscribers to keep the record labels happy and whether it can pay out enough to artists but the fact remains that Spotify is better than the alternative, which is piracy and no revenue at all. So for all its problems, Spotify remains in pole position going into 2011 but threats loom from a possible Google Music service and from innovative newcomers such as Mflow.
If any one mobile operating system has had the best of 2010, it’s surely Google’s Android: 300,000 Android gadgets, mostly mobile phones but tablets too, are now activated around the world every day. But in 2010, too, a whole new trend emerged: Google’s become frustrated with the fragmentation of the market, which means some phones still run on version 1.6, others on 2.1 or 2.2. Consumers legitimately dislike the feeling of being out of date, so the search giant’s new, impressive
Nexus S mobile phone is marketed as “Pure Google”. The message is simple: if you buy an HTC phone or a Motorola phone, the manufacturer’s additional tweaks are not as good as Google’s original ideas. This, for 2011, could become a fascinating race.
The service continued to grow during 2010, adding a further 100 million new registered accounts and is now valued at $3.7bn, post a recent round of funding. The site underwent a total redesign, significantly improving the layout, discovery tools and search capabilities. However, most significantly, 2010 was the year that Twitter, six years on from founding, finally launched a commercial model and started generating revenues outside of its search index deals. Its advertising model, called promoted tweets, went live in the US in April and was spearheaded by then chief operating officer, Dick Costolo. He then was made chief executive a few months later; a move which shocked many as co-founder and former chief, Evan Williams, moved into a product-only role. 2011 will be the year in which the microblogging site will be forced to prove its worth.