Some of these tech advancements are still just the rumors of today, but a few have already snaked their way into the spotlight. Keep an eye out for their debuts next year: They might just change how you conduct business, which computer you use, and even which car you drive home.--John Brandon
Google has one, so does Apple. Why not Mozilla Firefox? The popular browser company, which has felt a pinch in market share compared to its Silicon Valley neighbor (and I mean, neighbor--they are next door to each other) Google Chrome, is dipping its toes into the smartphone pool. Claiming it will be cheaper than Android, the Firefox OS might just have a chance: It will support rich content with HTML5 and tap into the hardware in new ways. For example, the OS might control a phone's camera for slow motion recording or quick, successive shots.
The tablet with the funky cover/keyboard combo will likely arrive this fall, but the big splash will come in 2013 with the Pro model, which will have a legit Intel i5 dual-core processor. Why is a Microsoft tablet such a big deal? It’s the future of Windows computing, that’s all. Swipes and gestures on the new Metro interface are one thing, but the Office Touch apps might finally make business users pay attention.
Technically this one is still a rumor, though The Wall Street Journal broke the story recently citing unnamed sources. The device might use a 5-inch display that’s similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note or a 4-inch screen that looks like the rumored iPhone 5. Either way, the Kindle Phone would match up nicely with the Kindle Fire and probably will be just as consumer-focused with custom apps for reading books and watching videos. (No photo of this one, but you can look at the Kindle Fire to the left for potential design cues.)
The infamous 8-inch version of the iPad has wallowed in the rumor mill for months. Now, some outlets are reporting that the device is actually going into a manufacturing phase. The size makes sense, both in terms of how Apple offers multiple sizes for the MacBook line and as a way for the company to fend off recent challenges by Google (with the Nexus 7 tablet) and Amazon (with the Kindle Fire). That's a regular-sized iPad to the left.
Gesture control on a tablet has been around for years, but this small device takes it to a new level. Leap Motion sits next to your computer and can detect your hand movements with an accuracy of 1/100 of a millimeter. Without touching your screen, you can flip through photos or reach into a 3D diagram and manipulate objects. For business users, the implication could be as simple as this: a way to answer the phone or give a presentation with just a flick of the hand.
One other tech surprise, one that might help your morning commute, is called Cadillac Super Cruise. The technology in the car uses semi-autonomous intelligence to monitor the side of the road and the car in front of you. You can take your hands off the wheel in traffic jams and lonely stretches of the road. Next year may be a little early to spot this one: GM has announced it is working on the technology and has shown how it works but hasn't yet set an exact date for launch. Shown to the left: the 2013 Cadillac ATS.
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