It’s hard to believe all that came out of the tech world in the year 2011. From drastic changes in social media trends to unexpected company acquisitions — both startups and major corporations — it goes without saying that it has been a banner year for technology as a whole.
We asked the staff at Mashable to peer into their own crystal balls and tell us what their digital predictions were for 2012. Some are obvious transitions, but others might be a little surprising.
Do you agree with our predictions? Let us know yours in the comments.
Product and Software
CD and DVD based software and game sales will continue to decline. Apple has already started its push to eliminate the optical disc — with its Mac App Store and the online-only availability of OS X Lion. Microsoft is also going to push digital app distribution via the Windows App Store component of Windows 8. Likewise, game companies will continue to push more games via download offerings, including Steam, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, eschewing traditional discs. – Christina Warren
Apple will release a triumvirate of products including a super slim edge-to-edge screen iPad 3, the long awaited iPhone 5 and an Apple TV. The last may also be called the iMac 50-inch. Amazon will introduce a completely redesigned Kindle Fire. The software will be somewhat different, but the hardware will be a rethinking of the 7-inch tablet. Microsoft Windows 8 will arrive by the end of the year, but with a number of different versions. Metro will be for tablets only and Windows 8 Home and Business will be for laptops and desktops. – Lance Ulanoff
I think voice recognition is going to be a big trend in 2012. The iPhone 4S’ Siri has brought the technology to a mainstream audience, and other manufacturers will be keen to capitalize on the buzz. It won’t just be phones that will offer the tech, we’ll see a variety of consumer electronics incorporating voice control elements — probably with mixed success! – Amy-Mae Elliott
Smart phones will start to see quad core processors along with higher resolution displays, and more smart phones will start to see NFC chips. Mobile payments will start to become recognizable, and more people will understand what it is.- Keith Kaplan
The Oscars will be streamed — in their entirety — online and on mobile. – Lance Ulanoff
I saw the future early in 2011 when my colleague Sarah Kessler wrote about three startups betting on the idea that people would want to auto-share their browsing histories to social networks. Most people my age and older find this idea a bit startling — we like to control what and with whom we share online.
But in reading about these companies way back in February, it occurred to me that this might be the root of a new generational divide. I see my teenage cousins on Facebook liking thousands of pages indiscriminately and sharing daily minutiae by the truckload. Some are living what seems like 100% of their lives out loud and online. The idea of automatically streaming your reading, listening and location habits will definitely appeal to them, and never appeal to me. Just as my parents will never “get” Twitter and Reddit, I will never “get” clickstreaming.
Lo and behold, late 2011 brought these concepts directly to the mainstream: Facebook. Spotify’s integration streams the tracks you’re listening to directly to Facebook’s activity ticker, and The Washington Post’s Social Reader automatically shares the stories you read. “frictionless sharing” like this will surely propagate widely in 2012 and beyond. – Matt Silverman
The coming year will also see much more focus on redefining the TV experience as Apple releases a TV set, which will seamlessly integrate the Internet. Despite the absence of Steve Jobs, the release will garner substantial hype and will be an immediate hit, prompting an upgrade cycle. – Todd Wasserman
Smart TVs and TV apps, for example Hulu or Netflix, will start to become more popular. – Keith Kaplan
This will be the first year most people become aware of what OLED HDTVs are, and will want one, especially after they’ve seen OLED’s sharp picture, super-flat screen and beautiful color saturation. However, it will be several years before OLED HDTVs in large sizes (over 55″) become affordable. – Charlie White
Motion gaming is sort of the ire of all hardcore gamers but in 2012 game companies will continue to push the limits of their gesture-based peripherals. Sales of the Kinect and PS3 Move may not be as stratospherically high as the Nintendo Wii once was but we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what these things can do. The companies are throwing their hats into motion gaming and 2012 will be the year it sinks or swims (until, of course, the WiiU comes out).
That, and there will be a new emphasis on motion-capping and life-like animation. The current crop of consoles can already get pretty close to photo-realism but animating those graphics has proved the toughest challenge. Games like L.A. Noire have shown what motion-capture can do in a video game setting. Be ready for more.
Of course, mobile/social gaming and gamification will continue their steady plot to conquer the gaming world but expect big moves in motion gaming and motion-capture. – Zachary Sniderman
Social media powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter will grow less in user acquisition and more in user engagement by implementing new features to keep users on the site longer. Pinboard site Pinterest will be a huge player in the space as it continues to organically grow its large, yet niche audience. As Google+ continues to add more features, better integrate with other Google products and become more business-friendly, it will be a contender for best social network. Mobile design will become a focus for social sites (if it hasn’t already) as average users become more inclined to not only consume content but also engage on tablets and smartphones. – Meghan Peters
Facebook and Twitter will continue their rapid growth, especially outside of the U.S. Inside the U.S., Google+ will break 100 million users and look significantly different than it does right now. – Lance Ulanoff
In 2012, Amazon will secure its place as the digital hub in a good portion of U.S. households by buying Netflix. This will not only add a lot more content to Amazon’s streaming choices and make buying Prime a no-brainer, but will also become a valuable branding tool as Amazon drops the Netflix name and that company’s red envelopes are replaced by Amazon’s yellow and white. – Todd Wasserman
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will step down, and someone will acquire Netflix. RIM will also announce a significant leadership change. It may also get acquired before the end of 2013. – Lance Ulanoff