Fast cars, powerful bikes, snazzy phones, gripping games… The new year is set to offer more than its share of goodies for gizmophiles. These are just some of the many gadgets that are likely to hit the Indian markets in 2009. We also look at the new technologies that are bound to rivet the masses.
Widely considered BlackBerry’s answer to the iPhone, this touchscreen smartphone has recently debuted in the US. It has its share of software glitches, say users, but these might be ironed out by the time the phone reaches India. Heightened security concerns in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai might see a delay in the launch here. There is no word on the India price yet, but since it costs over $500 in the US, be prepared to shell out loads.
Expected price: Rs 25,000
This is what all digital cameras want to grow up to be. The specs are enough to make even the least trigger-happy yearn for a camera: 10 MP, 20x wide-angle optical zoom, 4 fps continuous shooting, image stabiliser and 1080p high-definition video. Or, you can opt for a full manual control over aperture and shutter speed.
Expected price: Rs 26,000
This one is strictly speculation, but when it comes to Apple, anything is possible. So the rumours that Steve Jobs’s latest offering will be a low-priced ‘Netbook’ may well be right. With any luck, 2009 might see a sub-$1,000 lightweight Mac laptop like those from Asus and Acer.
The beta version is out and the formal launch is likely to be early next year. On the face of it, it appears that IE is looking to outdo Google’s Chrome. It has features like InPrivate browsing along the lines of Chrome’s incognito window, but also has some new ones like Web Slices. A personal preference: the new favourites bar lets you access not just Websites, but the Word and Excel files as well.
More good news for gamers. The hand-held Nintendo DSi, just launched in Japan, will make its way to India and the rest of the world some time next year. Reports say that the DSi is a tad thinner than the DS and also boasts larger screens. Audio enhancements, a 0.3 MP camera, SD memory card slot and a built-in browser are features that have many gamers already reaching for their credit cards. The US price for this gizmo is $180.
Expected price: Rs 9,000
Apparently, this is great news for gamers—Resident Evil 5 for PS3 and Xbox 360 is to be launched in 2009. Chris Redfield is the hero, but there’s a whole new set of enemies and a different setting. It seems that RE5 is by far the most realistic game in the franchise: leave the hero out in the sun for too long and he begins to see mirages, take him to the dark and he needs a second to adjust his vision… Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Now seriously, do you really want to read more about the Nano? Four wheels, small and very cheap. Enough said. Never mind the politics involved, never mind that Tata might not have the same ring as Lamborghini or Ferrari. It costs Rs 1 lakh and a bit more, and it moves (or so they say) at a reasonable speed. Oh, and the magic words: easy parking. Go on, you know you want one.
Expected price: Above Rs 1 lakh
This is possibly the single most useful thing to be launched—you beat the high petrol prices and virtuously conserve fossil fuel. Strictly speaking, electric scooters are already in the market, but the word is that 2009 will see the big guys enter this space. BSA has ambitious plans to launch a wide range, and Kinetic and Hero might add their bit. That could see prices fall from the current Rs 30K plus. Good news all around.
Expected price: Below Rs 30,000
Nikon calls this its ‘extreme professional’ digital SLR model. But given the way anyone with a mobile phone camera considers himself a professional photographer, a redefinition might be in order. How about ‘extremely expensive’? The camera was launched in the US a few weeks ago and costs (deep breath) $7,999.95. Of course, you get your money’s worth: 24.5 M P, sensor pitch of 5.49 microns, sensitivity from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, 5 fps continuous shooting… Yes, it’s aimed at studio photographers, and yes, most of us can’t afford it. But that doesn’t stop us from wanting one, does it?
Expected price: Rs 4 lakh
Imagine watching a 3D movie at home without those ridiculous red and green glasses perched on your nose. Not in this lifetime, you think? Thankfully, LG is not as pessimistic. The company has already shown the prototypes of its 3D TVs at consumer electronic shows. The new 42-inch 3D TVs use auto-stereoscopic technology, where 25 different perspective views are used to show one image. The content for these TVs might take longer, so it might not be possible for you to bring this home in 2009. It might be used commercially though.
“The world’s back office is getting wired— by going wireless,” says Forbes. The wireless broadband charge is being led by Tata’s WiMAX venture, which plans to blanket the country with its wireless broadband network. WiMAX, or worldwide inter-operability for microwave access, is a technology that enables the delivery of last-mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL. What WiMAX will do in India is basically what mobile telephony did, use wireless technology to provide broadband access even to those who do not have fixed (wired) telephone service. The technology is in place— broadband players apart from Tata are eager to enter the arena—but the government needs to allocate spectrum for this service. This is expected to happen when the 3G auctions take place. If Murphy’s law is disproved, chances are that 2009 will be the year that dial-up dies.
Today, we have mobile phones with enough value additions to make James Bond seem like a Stone Age man. But the smartest phone can end up as a paperweight if the technology that runs the service is obsolete. That’s why there’s such a brouhaha about third-generation or 3G systems. The now defunct analog network was the first generation and the GSM/CDMA networks are the second or 2G. So, what can 3G offer? Multimedia, Internet access, video calls—all at blazingly fast speeds. The 3G networks are expected to send data up to 40 times faster than 2G. We already have 3G phones in the market; all that remains is for the government to begin auctioning the spectrum network or bandwidth needed for 3G. Hopefully, this will happen in 2009. While we wait for 3G, the fourth generation is getting ready. The 4G services, say experts, will provide ‘anytime, anywhere’ voice, data and multimedia at faster speeds. So, will we get 4G in 2010? Watch this space.
Very soon, quad core will be out and ‘Fusion’ will be the rage. Fusion is AMD’s multi-core processor, combining the CPU with a graphics processing core. Intel’s version is Nehalem, an eight-core processor that includes a graphics core. But before they hit the shelves, AMD has launched its Catalyst 8.12 driver for Radeon graphics processor. This enables the graphics processor core to accelerate general purpose applications. A cheap and simple way to get the power of a multi-core processor without changing the chip.
It’s the same Halo Wars that gamers know of designed only for Xbox 360 controllers. But that’s not all; the story is new too. It’s apparently the prequel to Halo Wars: Combat Evolved. Microsoft is offering a limited collectors’ edition of the game, which includes new multiplayer maps, a graphic novel, an in-game vehicle, leader cards and a ‘spirit of fire’ patch. The release is in February 2009.
Expected price: Rs 4,000
By this time next year, we could see Porsche’s first four-door, four-seat sedan on Indian roads. The company plans to launch the Panamera in India as part of its global debut in April 2009. It will be marketed as direct competition to the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG and the Aston Martin Rapide, and as a cheaper option to the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Of course, there’s no word on the pricing as yet, but given its competition, it might be too late to start saving up.
The 350cc bikes that some men are so proud of will soon seem like puny two-wheelers. Honda plans to bring in an 800cc motorcycle some time in 2009, imported directly from the parent company. There’s no word from the company about the bike it will bring in, but the bikers are hoping for something along the lines of the Interceptor or any of the more muscular street bikes in Honda’s collection.
Organic light-emitting diode is Sony’s latest. Marketed as the next big thing in television technology, reports say that the OLED screen offers amazing contrast and clarity. That’s because OLED technology can apparently completely turn off pixels when reproducing black, resulting in a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. Compare this with a contrast ratio of 800:1 for an LCD screen or 5,000:1 for a really high-end plasma screen. Add surround sound and a built-in memory stick slot in a 3-mm display panel and you have a dream TV.
Expected price: Above Rs 1 lakh
Move over, all you complex home theatre systems with speakers and subwoofers and wires all over the place. Philips has put it all together in one small box—a DVD and CD player, an iPod dock, a five-channel amplifier and a subwoofer. Also, six speakers, a high-speed USB, an MP3 link and a remote control. All this in a box that’s less than a foot long. Now, do you think they could squeeze in a TV screen? And a popcorn machine, while they are at it? There’s no price yet, but it seems worth a lot.
Will it, won’t it? All that we know for sure is that there will be a new small car from Honda on Indian roads in 2009. Chances are it will be the Jazz, a snazzy car with a surprisingly large interior. Good seats, great visibility and an engine that purrs along on frugal sips of petrol. Can we have it now, please?
Speed seems to be the defining word of 2009— faster processors, faster cars, faster everything. Finally (cross your fingers), we might see faster USB transfers. The USB 3.0 standard, which Intel made public just a few months ago, promises that transfers will be 10 times as fast as that provided by USB 2.0. This means that a movie which takes 15 minutes to transfer using USB 2.0, will take a little more than one minute with USB 3.0. Assuming, of course, that the other devices are compatible and ready for speed. Even better, the USB 3.0 cables will carry more power (900 milliamps compared with USB 2.0’s 100 milliamps), so you can power more devices faster. So, the USB hub, which you thought served no purpose, will finally come into its own. The best news is that this new standard will be backward-compatible with USB 2.0. So, while you will need the USB 3.0 cable with Superspeed devices and ports to maximise your bandwidth, you can use the same cables with the USB 2.0 ports. Now, if they’ll also manage to improve CPU usage, it will be a truly happy new year.
Popularly (and erroneously) called the Google phone, Android marks the entry of open-source phones. What is Android? It’s a Linux-based open-source mobile phone operating system developed by Google and available to any handset manufacturer. The first phone available on this platform is the T-Mobile G1 (or the HTC Dream, as it was called during development), which was launched in October 2008 and is now accessible only in the UK and the US. It is expected to reach other countries in Europe in early 2009, and in the rest of the world subsequently. Of course, other manufacturers might enter before that and give India an Android-based phone sooner. Kogan of Australia, Openmoko and Motorola are working on handsets that can run on this operating system.
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