Even in the fleeting world of consumer technology, where trends come and go in the space of weeks, 2010 will be remembered as the year of the tablet. Finally this year, regular consumers—not just early adopters—were able to buy tablet devices that actually worked. Beginning with the launch and success of Apple’s iPad, the year saw several tablet products from Samsung, Dell and others. So much so, that many experts now believe the tablet can save media companies by providing a rich, interactive platform to sell content on.
So what will the definitive technology of 2011 be? If one were to look for tablet-like analogies, then all fingers point at Google’s Chrome-Android operating system (OS) family.
Like tablet computers, the free/open/light OS has been a deceptive mirage for more than a decade. Free alternatives to Windows, such as Ubuntu and other Linux derivatives, have been long available but have never found widespread patronage. Most users were simply not sophisticated enough to use a system that deviated too much from Windows.
Today approximately 90% of the devices that access the Internet run on some form of Windows.
But like Apple resurrected tablets with the iPad, Google could now resurrect the free and open source operating system with its Chrome OS and Android platforms. And 2011 could be the year in which this comes together in a way that makes sense to geeks and non-geeks alike.
While the iPhone continues to be the gold standard in smartphones, Android has slowly overtaken Apple’s iOS in terms of global mobile market share. This month, Google announced that it was activating 300,000 Android devices daily.
For larger screens, Google announced a pilot programme for Chrome, the company’s cloud-enabled OS. Some 60,000 reviewers and testers have been given netbooks loaded with an early version of the Chrome OS. Unlike any other mainstream OS, Chrome is designed to work almost exclusively with web-based applications. Google has distilled the traditional feature-rich, power-hungry operating system to a single browser-like interface. All apps are launched from within this environment.
The overarching question of 2011 will be whether users adopt this system more easily than other OS pretenders.
It is arguable that broadband is cheaper to get to consumers than expensive computing hardware. In such an environment the Chrome OS is a perfect model for computing in developed and developing markets.
Like the tablet, this is not a new idea; just one whose time has finally come.
Will 2011 be the year of Web-based computing? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org