From smartphones to GPS navigation systems, technology is everywhere in 2011. Professionals' growing need for mobility and access to real-time information, helping fuel increasing demand for mobile devices and spur the ubiquitous growth of apps, online services and social networks.
But while everyday shoppers are rallying behind high-tech phenomena such as 3D TV, streaming multimedia and location-based savings and services, trends in business gadgets and technologies are charting a somewhat divergent course. In the coming year, the focus will instead lie on more intuitive and powerful portable productivity solutions, tools which facilitate greater virtualization and accessories that make everyday tasks and mobile communications simpler. As a bonus, many also incorporate features popular with the general public, such as casual videoconferencing, breezy wireless connectivity and fully customizable content.
Following are five trends that promise to define 2011's best business gadgets, each likely to filter their way into any enterprise in the coming months:
1. 4G Connectivity
Wireless-cellular carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are all embracing the high-speed 4G Internet bandwagon. Expect each to trot out a variety of handsets which utilize turbo-charged networks that allow small-business owners to enjoy Web surfing and downloads at speeds three to four times faster than current 3G standards.
Choices will be numerous, ranging from the QWERTY keyboard-enabled HTC EVO Shift, capable of acting as a mobile hotspot for up to eight WiFi devices, to the Samsung Infuse, which adds an attractive, oversized 4.5-inch display.
Regardless of whether you need a brawny, dual-core processor-powered model like the Motorola Atrix (capable of docking with a full-size screen to double as a laptop), expect marked speed boosts across the board. This will not only aid modern executives accessing more online information and multimedia than ever, but also provide a ready platform for impromptu videoconferencing from a number of handsets.
2. Tablet Takeover
With 80 or so tablets making an appearance in the first week of January alone, and Google's new Android 3.0 (alias Honeycomb) operating system optimized for use with these units, it's becoming painfully obvious. Following upon the iPad's success, manufacturers are convinced that these touchscreen units, more portable and intuitive than standard laptops, are the future of mobile computing.
Name any consumer-electronics giant from Asus to Lenovo, Sharp to Sony, and they've got models coming, with notables like RIM's BlackBerry Playbook, Motorola's Droid Xoom and LG's G-Slate just the tip of the iceberg. (Samsung is even rolling out the Sliding PC 7, a 10.1-inch mini-laptop with its own slide-out keyboard, which seeks to create a new niche somewhere between tablets and netbooks.)
Not one to give up the fight, Apple's own iPad 2 (or its second generation product) is rumored to be launching in April with dual cameras for FaceTime video calling, slimmer styling and a higher-resolution screen. While business uses for such devices have largely been confined thus far to presentations, Web surfing or graphic design functions, things are expected to soon change. Given new offerings from Microsoft, HP, Toshiba and other
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