What tech surprises lie in store for 2011

2011 looks poised to build on the best of what the preceding year had to offer.

Washington: What`s in store for technology in 2011? Plenty. While 2010 saw the unveiling of hot products like the iPad and iPhone 4 - 2011 looks poised to build on the best of what the preceding year had to offer.
Apple`s iPad was just the beginning. In 2011, expect an onslaught of competitors that want to take a bite out of Apple`s near monopoly in the "pad" market.

New models from HP, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, Motorola, Dell, Asus, Cisco, Lenovo, and others are expected to be rolled out in 2011.

While these products may not have the instant name recognition of an iPad, they`ll all likely have something that the iPad doesn`t: affordability. What will Apple do in response? There are plenty of shortcomings in the iPad that could be addressed by an iPad successor. Expect to see one in 2011.

Upstarts like Facebook and Twitter took the world by storm in 2010. Will tech heavyweights like Google stand by and watch success like that go unchallenged? Unlikely.

Twitter`s 140-character niche may be tough to replicate, but expect 2011 to see competitors attempt to chip away at Facebook`s success. Google is currently rumoured to have a "Google Me" product in the wings, which is expected to give Facebook some competition in 2011. Others are likely to follow suit.

There are plenty of reasons for cloud computing to be taken seriously - by both corporations and consumers - in 2011.

The first is accessibility. Internet access is close to ubiquitous in many areas now, so storing your data on some server that you can reach only when online is less of an issue than it used to be.

The second, though, is cost. In an age when budgets are under the microscope, the cost of running and maintaining your own storage or servers is a factor that can feasibly be eliminated by using cloud-based applications and storage.

And finally, there`s the issue of backups. Put simply, backup routines are someone else`s problem when your data is on the cloud - and that`s a good thing, since many people fail to back up their data adequately, if at all.

Think big and fast in 2011. Traditional mechanical hard drives will be available in 3-terabyte (TB) capacities and larger - and at prices that will be budget-friendly.

Speed freaks, though, will want to look at the upcoming crop of solid state drives (SSDs), which will take full advantage of the newest 6 gigabit per second (Gb/s) SATA drive connectivity standard to pump data through your PC at roughly twice the speed of today`s widespread 3 Gb/s standard.

SSDs will continue to command a price premium in 2011, but increasing capacities overall will bring down prices on the units that are currently the costliest. For those who have been waiting for SSDs to get big enough to be interesting, expect 600 gigabyte (GB) drives to appear early in the year.

Networks are generally boring, but 2011 will see some exciting advances in how you get online - and how quickly.

First, the speedy 802.11n wireless standard will become firmly entrenched in notebooks and wireless routers, making wired-like speeds widely available to notebooks and other wireless devices.

Even better, a plethora of "three-stream" routers will hit the market, making it possible to stream different types of data across wireless spectrums, so your music listening and file downloading won`t slow down your internet surfing.

USB 3.0 was unveiled in 2010, but hardly anyone noticed. Expect that to change in 2011, as a flood of new products are unleashed that take advantage of USB 3.0`s tremendous speed advantage over USB 2.0, as well as its bi-directional communication prowess.

In 2011, don`t buy a desktop or notebook PC that`s not equipped with the improved USB standard.

Expect more choice and more tumult in the mobile space than ever before. For the first time, the smartphone market won`t consist of BlackBerry and iPhone and everyone else.

Google Android-based phones and even Microsoft`s Windows Phone 7 will provide real competition for the market leaders from both a price and feature standpoint.