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Technology: Tomorrow's toys

Devices that respond to speech and gesture, lights that last 60,000 hours—2009 will have its own share of innovations.

Rahul Sachitanand        Print Edition: January 11, 2009

The traditional method of using computers and, indeed, any other technology is currently in the midst of a drastic transformation. At the upscale New York Sheraton, Microsoft recently debuted Surface, the first commercially available surface computer. This is a 30-inch display, placed on what appears to be a traditional table. Guests at the hotel can use their hands and gestures on this “Surface” to look up city maps and compose individual music lists. Indeed, researchers across companies such as HP, IBM and Microsoft are now working on more ubiquitous devices—say, on your living room wall—that can perform all the functions of a computer by touch, speech or even gesture.

There was a time when we accessed a central server in our office for much of our enterprise data. However, the cloud computing principle, where data is accessed from the Internet (“cloud” referring to how the Internet is illustrated in diagrams) has made significant dents into this method. Companies can now access data virtually from large hosted data centres where their information is securely stored. Already companies such as salesforce.com have given IT managers something to think about. In a depressed economy, cash-strapped CEOs could shave a sizeable chunk of their budget by opting to use this technique. Salesforce.com claims it has 10 per cent share in the Indian enterprise software market already, so clearly companies are biting the bait.

Technology is changing in other areas as well. Two centuries after Thomas Edison brought light into our lives, his invention finally looks to be headed for the dumpster. Some countries have phased out the incandescent bulb in favour of the more energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL). The next big move is towards Light Emitting Diodes (LED), which are even more energy-efficient. LEDs can last up to 60,000 hours compared to 10,000 hours for CFLs. Philips has introduced LED lights in India and many more firms will follow suit.

What to expect in 2009

Windows 7
Bigger? Yes. Better? We certainly hope so. After the fiasco of Vista, will Microsoft make a simple operating system again? And will it actually be on time? One can only predict.

OLED displays
Organic Light Emitting Diode displays are the latest technology in flat panels. They consume a lot less power and are thinner. How thin? Well, you will have displays as thin as one centimetre.

Surface computing
Maybe not at home, but expect some high-end stores to put up fancy surface computing displays that are all about touch. This isn’t quite James Bond stuff, but it’s a lot better than Quantum of Solace.

LED bulbs
Consume only a tenth of the power incandescent bulbs do and last up to 60,000 hours.

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