As with any good year in the tech world, 2010 brought a lot of excitement, surprises, and brand new trends. But it also gave us a bunch of teases about what to expect in the next year.
We're already gearing up for what 2011 will bring, so get your game face on and take a look as we take a look at the paths we'll be trailblazing over the next 12 months:
The Wii came out in 2006. It's now (almost) 2011. If we were talking about any era before now, we'd say it's damn well time for a successor to this old thing. But this gaming generation is very different than those before it, thanks mainly to the PS3 and Xbox 360, and kind of not at all to the Wii. The Wii was built as a Gamecube successor, but its competitors were built as brand new pages in the gaming industry. The industry likes to call it the feature of being "future-proof." Thanks to firmware updates and sophisticated online options, the PS3 and 360 can live far longer than their predecessors and still remain entirely relevant. The Wii, meanwhile, has only a shell of this feature and is using it just enough to barely hold on.
Nintendo has confirmed it's working on a new home console, which is something Microsoft and Sony aren't even talking about at all. We're almost positive some details will emerge this year about the Wii 2, which is most certainly not what it will be actually called (though we're far too un-creative to suggest what it might be). Nintendo's sales are falling, and it's realizing all good things must come to an end. We want to see a Nintendo home console that actually has high-definition output and a much more socially driven online infrastructure.
The iPad 2
Go back in time a year and ask anyone if they want an iPad. You'd get a bunch of blank stares. But today, almost anyone in the country would jump at the chance. In a matter of months - some may even say days - the iPad became the defining device of the year. While it was mocked as nothing but a huge iPhone, and its name made some think of feminine hygiene products, that derision was quickly changed to admiration as Apple sold millions upon millions of the revolutionary tablet product.
Nevertheless, we're left feeling underwhelmed with a gadget that has no USB ports, no camera, and no external storage capacity. If it wasn't Apple, no one would be talking about the damn thing. So Apple's got another year to do it right this time, and actually make a version of the iPad that doesn't leave the eager buyer lamenting when he opens it up, saying, "Oh, it doesn't have this and it doesn't do that?"
Early speculation already suggests the new iPad will have USB connectivity and a camera - maybe even two - plus a whole bunch of other improvements. It'll make the iPad you got for Christmas seem totally irrelevant. Yay for Apple.
By this time next year, we'll think it was funny that in 2010 everyone just used the expression "3D." It'll seem the same as saying "home video" during the years of Betamax vs VHS. The idea of one kind of 3D will seem ludicrously outdated as other alternatives crop up in 2011. The one sure to get the most attention is autostereoscopic 3D, or more popularly known as "glasses-free 3D." This technology makes it possible for you to get the same kind of viewing experience as you get watching a 3D movie, but without wearing glasses.
The technology comes in the hardware of the display itself, which unlike traditional TVs, uses thousands of tiny crystals to create an intricate system of mirrors, making it appear as though the image on the flat screen has depth. It'll first become big when Nintendo's 3DS system launches, but TV companies that aren't heavily invested in the current round of glasses-required 3D will be quick to make its competitors look irrelevant as they launch 3D TVs that don't require expensive or goofy-looking glasses.
It will either help the 3D movement by converting those who think 3D glasses are dumb, or it will cause permanent harm by confusing consumers even more.
Mobile Games That Are Actually Cool
And finally, as 2011 steams through we'll look back and laugh at the days when Angry Birds was considered an awesome mobile game. Thanks to huge advancements made in the mobile gaming industry in just the last couple months, expect to see mind-blowing, neck-snapping, eye-popping visuals coming to iPhone and Android games right away in 2011, and watch them only improve as the year goes on.
People are finally convinced that mobile phone games can be profitable, so now it needs to be proven that these games can actually hold a candle to the other systems out there. Yes, mobile games could actually give the PS3 and Xbox 360 a run for their money. It's hard to believe and sounds crazy, but developers are just now starting to use the same basic development engine they use on consoles, for the mobile platforms.
All in all, we expect 2011 to be just as chock-full of newsworthy and noteworthy stuff as this year was. With CES right around the corner, the trends start early and only grow as the days, weeks, and months fly by, so just remember as the big ball drops in Times Square, not only do you have to start remembering an extra "1" when you write your checks, you have a whole new year's worth of tech innovations to prepare for. Saddle up because it's gonna be a fun ride.