Five high-tech business trends

From smartphones to GPS navigation systems, technology is everywhere in 2011. How will this affect businesses?

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 and accessories that make everyday tasks and mobile communications simpler. Here are the top five technology trends that are likely to emerge:

1. 4G Connectivity
Expect wireless-cellular carriers to trot out a variety of handsets which use turbo-charged networks. This will enable small-business owners to enjoy Web surfing and downloads at speeds three to four times faster than current 3G standards – which means video conferencing could become more popular.

What will these handsets looks like? 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.

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 optimised 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.

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, with more supporting software available.

3. Apps Everywhere
Call them apps, widgets or good old-fashioned software programs. You'll likely find these little software nuggets easy to browse, sample and enjoy virtually anytime, anywhere from a burgeoning range of devices ranging from notebook PCs to eReaders, Bluetooth headsets and even cars by Ford, BMW and Toyota.

Using these bite-sized, value-priced applications, you can instantly transform your smartphone into a portable translator, invoicing system or inventory management platform, or research a prospective client and make lunch reservations on the way to work. What are the upsides? Streamlined controls, budget pricing, on-demand accessibility and you will be able to add these features to your supporting gizmo.

4. Online Communications
Yes, small businesses with a global or virtualized work force could pay for dedicated videoconferencing solutions, or even high-end new 3D telepresence solutions… But right off the shelf, numerous smartphones and tablets like the HTC ThunderBolt and Fujitsu’s Oak Trail tablet (which runs on Windows 7) will come with dual cameras and video calling features built in.

Enterprises on a budget can also turn to TVs which support free Skype video chats via compatible webcams.

5. Cloud Computing
While we’ve yet to see users gravitate towards Google’s Chrome operating system, more devices are increasingly coming prepackaged with downloadable access to individual services which store data remotely. Allowing remote staffers to more readily collaborate on group projects, updates to be filed and reflected in real-time right from the field and information to be shared amongst distant parties, the trend will only become more widespread.

The future of productivity lies with a desktop that travels everywhere you go and can be pulled up wherever the need for work strikes, regardless of whether you’re cruising in a plane or sunning yourself at the beach.

Do you think South Africa’s bandwidth will be able to keep up with these trends?
 

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