Technology predictions for 2006
By Jay Dougherty Dec 29, 2005, 13:13 GMT
Computer user Don Lionetti of Redmond trys out the new software in Atlanta, Friday 22 July 2005. Microsoft unveiled the name of its next generation operating system, Window Vista. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER/HO
Washington - What's ahead in the world of technology for 2006? A lot. For technology fans, the coming year should be as exciting as any in recent memory.
A new operating system from Microsoft, a new wireless standard, flat panel mania, a plethora of powerful Internet technologies, new digital cameras, and a stable tech job market will provide plenty of buzz. And those are just the highlights.
Windows Vista forces mass upgrading
Sometime in 2006, Microsoft will unveil a Windows Vista, the much- anticipated successor to the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft currently claims that Vista will work fine on the majority of mid- range computers currently in use. The company also claims to be working hard to ensure compatibility with the huge installed base of Windows-compatible software programs.
But Vista is a radical overhaul of Windows XP, with interface enhancements that will suck every bit of computing power from your existing PC or notebook - and then some. Hardware requirements have been drastically scaled back from the days when protypes of Vista were floating around, yet they're still steep - and probably underestimated. There have even been reports that computers with 'integrated graphics chips' - those found in lower-priced notebooks and desktop PCs - will not be able to get the most out of the new Aero Glass 3D user interface of Vista.
Even worse, Vista will undoubtedly cause lots of incompatibilities - big and small - with existing software programs. Unfortunately, if migrations to previous operating systems can be used as a guide, Vista may cost us all far more than the price of the upgrade.
802.11n is ratified
Today we have a host of 'pre-n' wireless components on the market. These offer wireless Internet speeds as much as four times faster than earlier products. But there's a big problem: All of these pre-n implementations today are proprietary - not designed to a universally-accepted wireless transmission standard. The result is that the wireless products from one 'pre-n' maker are not compatible with the products from another.
That's about to change. In 2006, expect to see the Standards Board Review Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) finally ratify 802.11n. Unfortunately, because this committee has taken its time in ratifying the the standard, lots of folks with 'pre-n' equipment will have to worry about staying compatible with the new standard.
Digital SLRs become affordable
Today, you can spend 400 to 600 dollars for a compact digital camera and still end up with a device that snaps a picture a full two seconds after you press the shutter button. That's unacceptable.
The only digital cameras that respond acceptably to your wishes are those that accept interchangeable lenses. They're referred to as digital single lens reflex cameras, or DSLRs. They've always commanded a price premium that has been unreasonable. A pro-level DSLR, for instance, has typically retailed for four to six times the price of a comparable film-based camera.
That started to change late in 2005, and you can expect the trend to pick up steam in 2006. Entry-level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon are now just fractionally more expensive than mid-range pocket digitals, but they offer you a true film-like picture-taking experience. DSLR makers have every reason to drop prices quickly. Like razor blade manufacturers, camera makers first and foremost need to lock buyers into a system by means of selling the camera body itself. High-priced lenses, flashes, and accessories can be sold later.<!--page-->
HD hits the mainstream
The widespread acceptance of flat-panel televisions has been hampered by two things: the cost of the panels and the fact that a high-definition signal that takes full advantage of the technology has not been available for many users. Prices of flat-panel TVs will come down to affordable levels in 2006. They're on the verge of being affordable now, and you can expect that increased competition and improved yields will push the prices significantly lower soon. Add to that the fact that high definition DVDs are right around corner and high-def television signals are being rolled out at affordable rates in more communities, and you see the beginning of a flood of HD TVs.
You on the Internet
The Internet is slowly being transformed from a spectator sport into something in which you will want to become involved. Thanks to the growing number of tools available that make creating a Web presence easy, lots of people with absolutely no experience in creating Web pages will be putting up impressive and useful sites in 2006.
Collectively, this movement is being referred to as Web 2.0. Sites like Flickr (http://www.flickr.com) provide pre-packaged templates that allow anyone to put up a photo sharing/blog site. Digg (http://digg.com) makes news reporters out of anyone. And Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com) gives anyone the ability to throw up a pretty fancy Web site in a matter of minutes.
IT job market seen firming
Information tech workers have been holding their collective breaths for years, as downsizing and offshoring have been the order of the day. Offshoring won't go away, but a stabilising world economy and an upturn in the cycle of technology-based corporate purchases and initiatives will solidify the IT job market in developed nations and even create labour shortages in some areas.
U.S.-based IT research firm Gartner Group says, however, that the IT specialist will be less in demand than the person who can wear many hats within an information technology organisation. IT labour shortages will also force companies to raise salaries and engage retention strategies that have been abandoned in previous years, according to U.S.-based Foote Partners.
In all, 2006 will show that the world of technology is as vibrant as ever. While the field of information technology has been called mature by some, judging by the rate of change we can expect in 2006, it appears still to be growing like a youngster.© 2005 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur