NEW YORK CITY - The gadget industry in 2010 was all about introducing sleek, slim and cutting-edge new hardware, but 2011 is the year of intuitive, seamless and innovative software, according to experts at the Consumer Electronic Weeks conference here.
Tech experts gathered on Wednesday (June 22) as part of a weeklong conference to discuss the hottest game-changing gadgets of this year.
“Last year we were getting used to the iPad and the idea of tablets as a viable device,” said Joshua Topolsky, tech expert and former Engadget journalist, during a panel discussion. “However, the main focus in 2011 is software and seeing what the tablet can really do.”
Panelist Mark Spoonauer, editor-in-chief of LAPTOP Magazine (a sister site to TechNewsDaily), agreed that software has taken center stage in 2011, with more companies trying to up the ante to compete with Apple. Beefing up software content has even made its way to streaming media and online gaming.
“Since streaming media and OnLive gaming is extremely convenient to view on mobile devices, it has put a lot of pressure on cable companies to up software and the way it looks,” Spoonauer said. “The presentation is critical in getting people to adopt these devices.”
The session’s moderator Clayton Morris, host of "Fox & Friends" on Fox News, noted that TV is losing viewers by producing content that some feel isn't worth $100 a month.
“Sites such as Netflix and Hulu or even a la carte downloadable episodes on iTunes or Amazon is becoming more worth it to consumers than cable,” Morris said. “More people are turning to Apple TV and services with integrated Wi-Fi.”
Panelist Andrea Smith, news and technology producer of ABC News Radio, also noted that youth today no longer place the same emphasis on cable as they have in the past.
“When kids go to college, the first thing they wanted to know is if the cable was hooked up,” Smith said. “Now, as long as they have Netflix on their Xbox and their paid Hulu subscriptions on their iPhone or iPad, they are happy.”
Health-related gadgets and technology are also picking up steam this year. From scanning bar code information on a prescription bottle for more medical information to downloading apps that monitor fitness and health data, consumers are eager to use their devices to stay on top of their health.
“The boomer generation is especially embracing this trend with the health of apps that monitor, track and help them look after aging parents when they can’t be there 24/7,” Smith said. “It takes a huge burden off their shoulders. Although people have to seek out medical providers that take part in this, more physicians are jumping on board.”
Test programs are hitting the market that allow patients to receive medical information in new ways, such as getting text message reminders when it is time to take their medications. Meanwhile, as consumers become more tech-savvy, they expect the same from their physicians, the experts said.
Although most doctors still don’t use email to communicate with patients, younger doctors are starting to use this method more.
“Monitoring health in this way is more evidence that technology is really becoming a part of everyday life,” Topolsky said.
Faster and sharper
Another hot topic in the gadget industry is growth of 4G – the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards – which is expected to become more widespread in the later part of the year.
“A lot of people still have questions about 4G and what it even means, but this will likely change in time,” Spoonauer said. “Verizon offers far and away the best speed on the market right now. It’s amazing that a phone can download between 5 and 12 megabits each minute. If I want to update a high-definition video, it takes about a minute or so and not ten minutes. It’s power and speed like this that changes the way we use the Internet.”
Not surprisingly, panelists agreed that the faster, slimmer iPad 2 is the most remarkable game changer in 2011.
“There’s not another tablet or company making a compelling argument right now to make you want something other than the iPad,” Topolsky said. “It all comes back to the software, and if you use an iPad in an Apple store, you feel really connected to that device.”
“When using the Honeycomb tablet, consumers don’t get the same connected experience,” he added. “[Hewlett-Packard] is a contender to grow market share, but they still have a big battle ahead of them.”
Panelists agreed that one of the major challenges with Honeycomb is its limited number of apps, with only about 60 currently available for download.
Another tech gadget that the panelists expected to be a big game changer moving forward is the Wii-U, the successor to Nintendo’s popular Wii gaming system, which is expected to have an iPad-like touch screen controller.
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