- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Now that the presents are, by and large, distributed, unwrapped, appreciated and/or returned, what items should you start thinking about for next year’s holiday wish list?

Here are some tech trends to watch in 2010:

• Netbooks rule, but notebooks won’t drool. Elsewhere in these pages, I’ve shared my appreciation of, and fears concerning, netbooks, the tiny-ish, very portable mini notebook computers that are all the rage. Regardless of what you or I think, however, the netbook will remain, and grow in importance perhaps, during 2010. If, as is widely rumored, Apple Inc. comes out with a “tablet” computer next quarter, that might upset the equation a bit. For now, let’s put that widely rumored but not yet seen device in the netbook category.

That doesn’t mean notebook computers will fall away. There’s plenty of reason to get a full-fledged notebook, and you’ll see more reasons after the Consumer Electronics Show in January. I’ve been briefed on some announcements that will be made there, and among the new notebooks is one I’d prefer to a netbook, I think.

The bottom line, in my view: Portable computing is truly here as a “desktop replacement,” about 12 years after some of us hoped it would have arrived.

• Music, music, music — it’s still key. Every day, my conviction grows that portable music, such as the Apple iPod family and maybe, just maybe, the Microsoft Zune, is an essential part of our society. I’m not kidding. Someone, somewhere, is going to harness the “niche” of all these iPod users to target podcasts that will change the political landscape (perhaps as early as 2010, and, you betcha, by 2012).

It is entertainment, however, that remains at the heart of portable players, and if Apple - again, as rumored - introduces a subscription service for music, watch the industry change, and for the better. Users will get more content, creators will get more money, and everyone should be happy. (Notice, please, the “should” in that sentence.)

The same also could apply to the underregarded Apple TV, a device that connects to your wired or wireless network as well as to your TV. Right now, I can play Internet radio via the Apple TV and the Dolby sound system in my flat-panel. I also can watch YouTube videos, hear my iTunes music and display digital photos in the ultimate slide show, complete with special effects. I can buy episodes of TV shows and rent or buy movies, all in HD. Couple that with another (rumored) Apple-run TV subscription service, and watch out. It’ll all be good, I promise.

• The wired home. A week ago, I walked through a town-home condo that’s under construction. My eyes widened at the news that every cable outlet in the house also includes Ethernet wiring that will connect to a high-speed Internet router in the phone/cable TV/Internet cabinet.

Yes, there also will be wireless Internet in the house, but having a high-speed wired connection will make it easier to handle TiVo, Apple TV and even Sonos or Logitech music-player devices, all of which have been discussed here in the past 12 months. With computers and home entertainment devices all networked — many of the newest flat-panel TVs have Ethernet ports — accessibility to the Web and all it offers in terms of content will be amazing.

For those in older homes, wireless technology and power boosters for antennas and wireless routers will make that performance as good as many wired connections, if not better. New homes obviously will have the best performance — I’m told Verizon will bring fiber-optic wiring into new homes — but those who are in established homes needn’t fear too much.

• Hi-def, big time. In televisions, computer displays and who knows what else, high-definition images, at 1080p or even higher, will be all the rage this year. Prices are low, variety is wide, and quality is good. If your TV is due for replacement (or handing down), start shopping.

One bit of advice: If you’re replacing an old console TV with a flat-panel, don’t carve out the cabinet and park your flat-screen in it, regardless of nostalgia. New tech demands new solutions, whether it’s different furniture or wall mounting.

Have a great tech new year!

Send e-mail to mkellner@ washingtontimes.com.

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