Personal Tech 2008: Top 10 Trends

This year everything gets intelligent, social, cheap, mobile and wireless.

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7. The year of reading on-screen

Books, newspapers and magazines will take a huge leap toward electronic "consumption" this year. Several trends are conspiring to bring this about. The first is the growing size and quality of cell phone screens. Thanks in large part to the Apple iPhone, cell phone screens are becoming so good that reading Web-based versions of newspaper and magazine articles and even e-books on a cell phone is becoming not only possible, but pleasurable.

Amazon's Kindle e-book reader will for the first time ever drive e-books into the mainstream. This move is helped by new advances in e-ink screen technology. Tablet PCs and superportables will drive the trend toward screen-reading as well.

Meanwhile, the Internet's assault on the traditional print magazine and newspaper business model will continue thanks, in part to Craig and his list, the growth of Internet advertising in general and the rejection by young readers of print-based media. High gas prices, concern about global warming, and other factors will make print publications more expensive to distribute.

Like the paperless office and paperless bathroom, we'll never see the paperless book, magazine, and newspaper industries. Print publications will be with us forever. But electronic reading will get a big boost in 2008.

8. The year of social everything

No longer a hangout for teenagers with bad taste, social networks and social sites of all kinds will explode in 2008. Google's OpenSocial initiative will start chipping away at the walls that separate different social networking sites.

Social networking will become so ubiquitous and mainstream that people will be participating in it without even thinking of it as social networking. Business colleagues will stay in touch. Public relations will be transformed. Hobbyists, bloggers, journalists, vacationers, families, politicians, and others will all boost the quality of their interaction through social networking tools.

Life-streaming -- bloglike, real-time lists that keep you updated with the activities of friends, family members and colleagues -- will first become useful, then necessary.

Random services will be increasingly transformed through social participation. GPS turn-by-turn directions, restaurant and movie reviews, and all kinds of other opinion-based information will be improved by the collective wisdom of strangers.

9. The year of haptic feedback

When playing console video games, your handheld game controller shakes and rumbles to coincide with on-screen explosions, crashes, gunshots and grenade detonations. Motion conveys subtle information to the user. That "force feedback" is called haptics.

Haptics will show up with shocking frequency this year in cell phones and other mobile devices. In some cases, haptics will help compensate for the disappearance of buttons in cell phones. A little vibration will tell your fingers when you've successfully pressed an on-screen button as a substitute for the tactile feedback from a real button that actually moves. But haptics will also return to its roots by improving game play on cell phones.

At the start of this year, there were only two cell phones with haptics available from major U.S. carriers -- the Motorola RAZR2 V8 and the LG Voyager. By the end of the year, there will be dozens. The feature may even show up in a new iPhone this year. (Apple patents indicate a great deal of interest in haptics by the company.)

One way or the other, haptics will shake up the gadget industry in 2008.

10. The year of cell phone TV

Watching TV on a cell phone will go mainstream in 2008, even as watching TV on a TV continues to plummet. Blame Apple, which both created the video-friendly iPhone and sells TV shows via its iTunes store. You can also blame the coming wave of Internet advertising, which will make streaming TV shows worthwhile for networks. And, finally, lay some blame on the traditional greed of cell phone carriers, which will look for creative ways to drive up data usage.

Editor's note: Curious to know how many of the author's predictions for 2007 came true? Check out last year's "The new hotness: Personal tech in 2007."

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.

Forecast 2008: IT Trends & Predictions for the New Year

How'd we do in '07?  See last year's Forecast 2007.

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