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Tech Trends You'll See in 2012

From data-only cell phone plans to HTML 5, these ten advancements are ready to go mainstream in the year to come.

By Megan Geuss
December 29, 2011 10:33 AM ET

PC World - We're living in an exciting time in technology: From consumer products such as phones and tablets to the way your home computer accesses the Internet, everything is changing, and mostly for the better. We predict that next year the following ten developments will change the way you interact with the digital world.

1. Dual-Core Processors Become the Norm in Smartphones

In 2011, the Motorola Atrix and the Droid Bionic were the first commercially popular smartphones to sport dual-core processors. In the fall, Apple's iPhone 4S followed suit--and now it seems unlikely that any smartphones unveiled in 2012 will be competitive unless they can offer the same processing power that Apple's phones do.

As a result, you should expect to see a surge in dual-core mobile devices. ARM executive James Bruce, whose company licenses the designs of chips that find their way into almost every mobile device in the world, said in a May interview that dual-core processors would be a huge part of making smartphones not just powerful but also battery-efficient.

"If you look at handsets today, we've seen dual-core handsets reduce power consumption," he says. For example, if you're sending a text message, dual-cores have the potential to effectively streamline the lower-power functions of the phone through one core, while reserving the other core for more power-intensive functions, like gaming or navigation."

And don't expect chip development to stop at two cores. In December, Nvidia announced its first quad-core processor for tablets and smartphones, the Tegra 3.

2. Optical-Disc Drives Disappear From New Laptops

If you could download a movie in 2 minutes at any airport or coffee shop, or access hundreds of family photos from any network connection, how often would you use your laptop's optical drive? For most people, the answer is "not often."

That's why, in 2012, you'll see fewer laptops with optical drives. And the superlight classes (such as MacBook Airs and Ultrabooks) won't be the only ones abandoning them--larger-screened portables will, as well.

Ali Sadri, president of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, which is working to propagate 7-gbps wireless on the 60GHz band of the spectrum, says that faster wireless will certainly change the way that laptops look, for good. "Multi-gigabit connectivity gives us all sorts of uses. Suddenly you don't need to have all these bulky devices. A very light laptop doesn't have room for an HDMI cable port, or a docking station."

In 2012, regular-size laptops will be able to ditch their disc drives--and even many of their ports--without losing too much functionality. MacBook Airs don't include optical drives, and larger MacBooks will likely follow suit this year. Laptops from other manufacturers, such as Asus, Dell, and Toshiba, will join the trend. Of course, some laptops will retain drives, but in 2012 new laptops with optical-disc drives will become harder to find.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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