Beyond iPhone: The top five gadget trends of 2007

Better, cheaper, faster is the order of the day

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A new interface emerges

One of the most intriguing aspects of the iPhone is its multitouch interface, in which fingers are used to open, close and launch applications and media. In addition, Microsoft recently introduced its Surface user interface, which does the same thing on a larger scale; Microsoft said it expects to release computers for public places such as hotel lobbies using that interface later this year.

That means that this new type of interface, which iPhone will surely make more popular, portends a shift from the standard text-and-icon fare of Windows and the Mac operating system to a new way of computing.

"This is a step toward natural and direct manipulation of information," Rubin said. "It presages new ways of working with information."

Never get lost: GPS everywhere

Competition is driving down GPS prices, and the technology is being built into mobile phones. The bottom line is that GPS is becoming more available and less expensive.

Rubin, who tracks such information, said the average price for GPS systems last October was more than $400. That dropped to under $200 for the holiday season, he said. Since then, prices have increased only slightly.

Another trend, exemplified by the recently introduced BlackBerry 8800, is GPS built into mobile phones. That has enabled cellular carriers to start offering mapping and location services. Carriers like Sprint and AT&T offer either $10 monthly plans, or you can buy mapping service by the day for just a few bucks. That means that you can mount your mobile phone on your dashboard rather than buy a dedicated device.

Also on the horizon is the Dash Express from Dash Navigation, which could further change the GPS market.

"It'll have a cellular modem built in so you can use Yahoo Local and type in 'burrito' and get back a list of Mexican restaurants in the area and how to get to them," Rubin said. "Plus, you'll be able to type in an address on your PC and send it to the device so you don't have to enter it right into the device, which can be a hassle."

The device also will enable users to upload traffic-condition reports that will be available to other users in the area. It is expected sometime this year.

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