The PC Evolved: 10 Big Technologies for the Year Ahead

16 Apr 2010 2009-01-23

Posted by Jared Newman

We’re now one month into the new year.  When it comes to computing, this year’s CES was largely uneventful and uninspiring.  We feel that, in spite of its slow start, the coming year can be a big year for the evolution of the personal computer.  In the last few months, subtle changes have been happening that when paired together make for an exciting moment in the world of computing.  Just how good can this year be for the PC?  Here’s our list of the 10 big developments that could go from early adoption to market domination in the year ahead.  I, for one, welcome our new 4G, SSD, dual-screen, 3D touch-screen overlords…

Number Ten: Dual Screens for Laptops

Lenovo’s introduction of the ThinkPad W700 is hopefully the beginning of a trend. Its secondary screen is great for artists, CAD designers or anyone else who just can’t get enough desktop real estate. See also: Voodoo’s Firefly concept, whose 4.3-inch screen is great for checking e-mail while waiting to respawn in Counter-Strike.

Number Nine: 3G to 4G

As the third generation of wireless communications becomes ubiquitous this year, it’s time to think about moving on. In Baltimore, where Sprint is rolling out a 3G/4G modem for mobile broadband, average download rates range from 2 Mbps to 4 Mbps, compared to 3G speeds of 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps. Hopefully we’ll see more cell phone companies offer similar dual solutions while the next generation takes over.

Number Eight: Designer Netbooks

We thought we’d seen everything with the crystal-studded Nintendo DS, but then HP introduced the “China Chic” HP Mini 100, a sultry red number designed by Vivienne Tam. And why not? These little laptops fit into pocketbooks anyway. Look for more designers to cash in as the netbook becomes a fad.

Number Seven: USB 3.0

The new “SuperSpeed” USB technology won’t hit until 2010, but its effects should be felt early in the form of Firewire’s ultimate demise. The latest MacBooks have already taken the bold step of removing Firewire in favor of USB 2.0, perhaps an indication that other computer makers will follow. If that’s what must be done to make room for 5 Gbps of data transfer, so be it.

Number Six: Touch Screens

As touchable displays take over cell phones, the door is open for greater interest in tablet PCs as well. Asus introduced the T91 at CES this year. HP and Fujitsu released touch screen laptops towards the end of last year. With Windows 7 offering more touch screen features than ever, this could finally be the tablet’s time to go mainstream.

Number Five: Cloud Computing

It’s hard to pin down how Cloud computing will change in 2009 — especially because its core principal says you can’t tell what’s going on behind the scenes — but there’s at least a proliferation of online apps like Google’s ever-expanding suite, and the corporate world is apparently keen on the idea as well. Look for more news on this during the International Cloud Computing Conference and Expo in late March.

Number Four: 3D Visual Interfaces

An Apple patent for a three-dimensional desktop was revealed in December, but BumpTop and Project Looking Glass have similar ideas in the works. With new advances in 3D imaging this year, perhaps a true virtual office space is in reach at last.

Number Three: Smaller, Slimmer All-in-Ones

All-in-One PCs positively blew up at CES this year, with Dell, Sony, Gateway and Lenovo all vying to be America’s next top model. Really, they’re all coming out winners for having so many options to choose from. Our favorite, though, didn’t come from any of these PC-making heavyweights. We liked Shuttle’s X50 because it comes with a handle.

Number Two: Intel Core i7

With Alienware, Dell and Gateway getting in on Intel’s latest processor, it’s clear this is the must-have for PC gamers. Gizmodo does an admirable job of explaining the nitty gritty of the i7’s might, but the processor reduces bottlenecks, enables the use of more RAM and divides up tasks more efficiently — just what you need when getting your frag on.

Number One: Solid State Drives

Later this year, Asus and Toshiba will both offer laptops with solid state drives. These read faster, are more reliable and use less power than hard disc drives, so it’s obviously something that should be implemented in more portable PCs over time. Solid state’s higher cost will prevent it from becoming the majority by year-end, but this is only their first year of availability. Once it’s accessible for all, HDD will be officially on notice.

Thanks for reading, GearCravers, Stumblers, Redditers and otherwise.  What do you think about these young technologies and their impact on computing as we know it?  Are there any other technologies you wish had greater focus by developers today?  Do you disagree with any of our listings here?  Let us know in the comments.  If you enjoy the article, take a moment to share it with your friends or vote it up on your favorite social media website.  We appreciate your help!

[special thanks to Benjamin Franz, one of the world’s top modders and the designer of the CM3 PC case, selected as the main image for this article.  Check out Franz’s books and more of his casemods at]