Tech alert 2009

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.

Brinda Vasudevan        Print Edition: December 25, 2008

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.

BlackBerry Storm
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

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS
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

Mac Netbook
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.
Price: NA

Internet Explorer 8
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.
Price: NA

Nintendo DSi
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

Resident Evil 5
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?
Price: NA

Tata Nano
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

Electric scooters
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 D3X
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

LG 3D TV
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.
Price: NA

WiMAX

“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.

3G

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.

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