5 things in technology that will define 2015

mmadhankumar

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#1
Affordable wearable gear



Ever since the launch of the Moto 360 in March 2014, the prospect of a good-looking and functional wearable computing device has irrevocably ignited the imagination of connected consumers everywhere. Team this with the bundles of features and capabilities that are now possible with these devices, and it is clear that wearable devices have actually graduated to being more than a passing gimmick. While it was Google that set this wearable revolution in motion, Apple and Microsoft proved to be serious about their wearable intentions as well. And there appears to be no sign of stopping: expect many other players to pitch in with their own devices. The upshot of all this action is an inherent fall in prices, especially when the new-age mobile disruptors — Micromax, Xiaomi et al — join in the fray and launch a wave of ultra-affordable wearables. Expect this space to get really get interesting in the near term.


Virtual reality is actually here



It’s always been a cool-catchword, and one that largely cropped up only in the sci-fi movie context. Early this year things changed when Oculus — a company that was in the news when Facebook acquired it for $1.6 billion —launched an updated version of their virtual reality developer kit. Until they came along, traditional virtual reality systems were plagued with issues such as pixelated images, laggy tracking that resulted in motion sickness in users, and clunky design. To a large extent, Oculus nailed all of these issues. These advancements point to a very real possibility of a consumer version being available this year. And if you fancy VR in your living room, your choice isn’t just limited to a single brand — Sony, Epson and even Samsung are active in this race, with products that are putting the virtual experience in a very real, tangible space. Stay tuned; your movies and games are about to get a whole lot more immersive this year.


The Holy Grail of affordable wireless broadband



Many of us know what it is like to pay for a 3G connection, only to experience something like 0.5G. Bandwidths were promised, coverage sworn, but very little has translated in the ensuing years. 4G, from what has been seen the world over, promises to change all of that. With data transfer speeds that enable mobile users to comfortably download 1GB in about 5 minutes, it has the potential to be a game changer. Couple this technical prowess with the fact that it is architecturally more superior to what we have right now, it enables unprecedented signal reliability — no more call drops in basements, lifts, hill stations or dense downtown areas. And with virtually every major telecom player vested heavily in LTE (Long Term Evolution -- the 4G cellular standard of choice for Indian telcos), 2015 promises to be a windfall for consumers with scale and competition driving down prices.

Sweetening the deal, there’s a race afoot with phone manufacturers releasing devices that pack serious LTE capability, replete with features, increasingly within the Rs 10,000 price band. The reality of putting an affordable, broadband-capable smartphone in the hands of the masses has untold implications on a society’s advancement. This is one space that’s bound to buzz.


Subscribed software



Remember the days you could just buy a boxed pack of your favourite software and use it for the rest of your life? From all indications, this is soon becoming a thing of the past — almost every major software behemoth out there is now selling their wares not with a perpetual license, but as a subscription service. And these new software are being touted under the nifty guise of being ‘cloud-enabled’. This is a misnomer, as these are often regular apps that you download from the Internet — or install off a DVD ​— and run them from your computer. However it is the licensing element that is now ‘cloud-enabled’; as a software owner you will be required to connect to the company’s servers where you essentially buy the application (at a lower price than what you would previously), but now need to renew it periodically to be able to continue to using it. Basically, a rental scheme. Adobe pioneered this with their Creative Cloud suite, as has Microsoft with Office 365. The understanding from now on is that customers pay regularly for use of software; in return you get continuous updates to newer versions, access to some form of cloud storage, bundled mobile apps, the ability to share subscriptions with closed groups of other users (your family for example) and a lower entry price (though the long-term cost of ownership could be higher than before). For companies this is, of course, a win-win situation: reduced piracy and continuous cashflow.

Expect many of your favourite softwares and games to adopt this subscription-based model from here on in.


Resolution, resolution, resolution



This year saw the advent of HD resolutions on smartphones. Even entry level smartphones these days sport at least a 720 pixel resolution screen; the denser pixel count has undoubtedly done wonders with a sharper mobile experience. Further up the spectrum, flagship phones have Full HD screen resolutions of 1080p. While I’ve always maintained that this unnecessarily high resolution is overkill, given that it is humanly impossible to discern any difference beyond a point, newer applications are now actually necessitating more pixels on your mobile device: for example, virtual reality and screencasting. We’ve already discussed the impending advent of affordable consumer VR gear, but the rudimentary VR experience is already here with things like Google Cardboard (read our full review here), and Samsung’s Gear VR (which is incidentally going to be powered by Oculus)--both of which use a phone as the VR screen. Suddenly, with the phone screen right up there in front of your eyes and magnified, more pixels is a good thing. The second trend of screencasting was popularized by Google’s Chromecast--a little dongle that plugs into your TV and effectively lets you ‘cast’ content from your smartphone, tablet or laptop to your big screen. Here too, phones will need to push out 1080p and even UHD (2K and 4K) resolutions to maintain a good viewing experience on that big screen, otherwise pixelation is bound the kill the effect.



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