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Technologies on the rise in 2008


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351w ago - A number of technologies have exploded throughout 2007 from Facebook and the iPhone to the Nintendo Wii.

But what will be making the headlines over the next 12 months?

Here the BBC News website gives its predictions for five technologies that could become big in 2008.

THE WEB TO GO

One of the biggest drawbacks of web applications is that they can only be used when there is an internet connection.

Although mobile working is becoming increasingly common, ubiquitous connectivity is still a long way off.

But there are tools that are beginning to blur the online and offline worlds.

Over the last 12 months a number of technologies that could have a significant impact on the way people use the web.

Search giant Google announced its Gears application whilst Adobe launched Air and Microsoft released Silverlight.

All the technologies have the ability to take rich web content and make some of it available offline.

For example Adobe has shown off an Ebay desktop application built using Air that would allow users to do much of the legwork required in setting up auctions offline.

The next time the user connects to the internet the listing would be posted to the website.

Silverlight offers the reverse - the ability to build desktop applications and allow them to run in a web browser.

Google Gears does not allow the creation of new applications but does allow web applications to be taken offline.

For example, the developers of the free online office package Zoho use Gears to allow users to use their applications in a similar way to a normal desktop office program.

2008 should see more examples of applications built with or using one of the three tools to make a truly seamless computing experience.

ULTRA MOBILE PCs

Various devices have tried to fill the role between a PDA and a full blown-laptop over the years, but none have taken off.

But 2008 could be the year when the Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs) finally have their day.

The first devices were launched in 2006 but they have never gone mass market - partly because of a combination of high prices and poor battery life.

But towards the end of 2007 a series of new products started to hit shelves.

The most talked about was the Asus EEE, a sub £200 laptop about the size of a hard back book.

The Taiwanese manufacturer has predicted it will sell five million of the tiny machines in 2008.

The low-cost laptops run open source Linux software and weighs less than one kilogram.

To cut down on weight it does away with a hard drive in favour of just 4GB of flash memory.

Whilst the storage is small, its use of flash highlights another trend of 2008.

Flash memory has been gradually increasing in power. For example, electronics giant Samsung recently showed off chips that could be used to make 128GB memory cards.

As a result the technology is now starting to challenge hard drives as the storage of choice on laptops.

Apple are even rumoured to be launching ultra-thin Macbooks using flash in 2008.

IPTV

Internet TV has been hampered in the past because broadband speeds were not fast enough to deliver a reliable service.

But today more than half of all UK homes have a broadband connection, at an average speed of four megabits a second (Mbps), according to the organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD).

And speeds are increasing. Next year, ADSL2+ comes online promising broadband speeds of up to 24Mbps.

As a result, more and more internet protocol television services are being launched.

Alongside established services from BT vision and Virgin Media, other operators are getting in on the business.

Following the launch of a successful service in the Czech Republic, mobile phone operator O2 plans to launch a UK service in 2008.

Others such as Orange are expected to follow suit.

The BBC will also be pushing its iPlayer in 2008, a service that allows people to catch up on the corporation's output over the web. Whilst in November, the BBC partnered with rivals ITV and Channel 4 to launch a joint on-demand service.

Existing firms are also predicting rapid growth through 2008.

Mary Turner, the chief executive of Tiscali UK said in December that its service is currently signing up 250 people each day and expects to have 50,000 users by the end of the year

It is aiming for 200,000 by the end of 2008.

WIMAX

Wimax is a wireless technology that can deliver high speed broadband over long distances.

It is already big in the US with companies such as Sprint and Intel backing the technology.

Some areas of the developed world, such as Abuja in Nigeria, are also trialling the technology.

But, according to analyst Mike Roberts of research firm Informa Media and Telecoms, it has never taken off in Europe. But, he said, that could all change in 2008.

"Next year could be the first year that we see some of the major deployments of Wimax in Europe," he said.

Milton Keynes has just launched what it claims if the first commercial Wimax service in the UK.

The aim, according to a spokesperson was to "make Milton Keynes the first WiMax-powered wireless internet city."

According to Mr Roberts others could follow suit particularly if a big player such as BT was "able to get its hands on the right spectrum".

MOBILE VOIP

VoIP is a technology that allows users to make cheap phone calls over the internet.

Although some firms such as Jajah and Truphone have offered VoIP on mobiles the technology is still relatively nascent.

However, 2008 could be the year the technology takes off.

Towards the end of 2007, network operator 3 launched a Skype phone that allows users to make calls using the service, already popular for making calls from PCs.

Handset-maker Nokia also offers four phones with the ability to use the technology.

"We plan to add VoIP enabled devices to the existing range," said Mark Squires of the firm.

But even with the backing of a heavyweight such as Nokia, not everyone is convinced that 2008 will be the year of mobile VoIP.

"Mobile VoIP is still at a very early stage," said Mike Roberts of analysts Informa Media and Telecoms. "It's very disruptive but it will be a slow burn, to my mind."



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