by January 1, 2007 0 comments



IT is having such a major impact on our lives that we often end up using its
power without even realizing that we’ve done so. You buy a cell phone and
later discover that calling and SMSing are two miniscule functions of the
device. The cell phones have been morphed into devices that let you manage your
schedules, run various applications, check email, do web browsing on one side,
and listen to MP3s or FM radio, click photos, and create videos on the other.
Similarly, you acquire a credit card and discover that shopping is just a small
part of its overall features set. You can use the same card for online banking,
withdrawing cash from the ATM, participate in contests, and much more. You buy a
broadband connection and discover that Internet surfing and email are just a
small part of what all you can do on the web with it. You can blog, stream live
audio or video, run applications, or even access your office network from home.
Essentially, what we’re seeing is convergence of both online and offline
technologies. This can have its own advantages and setbacks. If you lose your
credit card for instance, then you won’t be able to do much more than
shopping. If you lose your phone, then you don’t just lose your ability to
call and SMS, but much more. If you lose your Internet connection, then you’re
literally cut off from the world.

So security would have a new meaning, and will require technologies that
secure your digital identity. Connectivity will have to be seamless and offer
ample bandwidth to let you enjoy all the services that are available these days.
The web itself will have to change for the better and deliver more than static
web pages. Likewise, there are also other areas that can have a lot of impact on
your personal life. CPUs, Operating Systems, printers, displays, games, graphics
are all undergoing radical changes, which will have tremendous impact on your
lives. In the pages to follow, we’ve looked at 10 areas and how they’ll
impact your life in the coming year. Wish you a happy and prosperous new year
ahead and enjoy the story!

Processors


Dual core CPUs became commonplace last year, and quad cores entered towards
the end. So now the obvious question is what next? Quad cores will of course
become more popular this year, but that doesn’t mean they will take over from
dual core. Both will co-exist this year, and your choice will really depend upon
how much power you need on your desktop. It also means that the era of
multi-core CPUs has begun at the desktop. The GHz wars are over and you can
expect multi-core wars to begin. AMD at the moment is lagging behind, having
only 2 core processors, but that will change soon. One challenge that remains
now is for developers to write applications that can utilize the power of so
many cores. Currently, there’s only a handful of them, but you can expect lots
more this year. Multi-core will give you much more power at the desktop than
what clock speed increases brought you.

Predictions 2007
  • Even entry-level desktops will come with at
    least \two core CPUs
  • Electrical consumption as well as thermal
    output will go down and be better managed
  • Power-hungry applications will finally become
    faster
  • The internal architecture of the processors
    will improve to make them more efficient all-round.

Mobile micro wars
On the mobile front, Intel sold off their Xscale processor to a company called
Marvel Technology Group (no they don’t publish comics or make chocolates). So,
one wonders what is going to happen on this front. Will they go the Lenovo way
and aggressively put an Xscale chip in every handheld to come? We’ll need to
wait and see. And that’s not all, Via released the C7-M ULV processor for
ultra-portable devices this year. So, we might be in for power and clock speeds
race in this segment too. We guess we will witness a ‘who gets how many’
kind of fight first.

Saving power
Electricity bills have chip makers worried too. And we say this because the new
chips, whether from one brand or another, for desktops, notebooks, or handhelds,
all consume much lesser electrical power while generating some awesome computing
power.

One would think they also generate tons more in thermal heat. But they don’t-their
power output is about the same as the old P4s.

This is all good news for Mr. Ozone which can’t complain that it got ulcers
because more people bought the latest processors for their computers. Same for
the users on electricity bills front as both AMD and Intel have features in
their multi-core solutions to optimize both CPU and hence power usage. Do you
predict an advent of CPU nannies to babysit the processors of the future? We
surely do.

Where are the apps?
Now that we have real gung-ho power houses of performance aka multi-cores. How
about applications that would truly utilize them to the maximum? Forget
applications, we don’t even have an OS other than Vista Ultimate that can
balance loads between cores. There is a lot more to be changed than just the
CPU, and mother board logic to witness the kind of “mega-tasking” and “advanced
digital media boost” performance that AMD and Intel are talking about. We will
see a major change in the way multi-threaded applications are built, once quad
cores are around in fair abundance.

Graphics


About 10 years ago, you needed add-on cards for just about everything, be it
sound, graphics, networking, etc. Then came motherboards with everything
onboard, which literally took a lot of discrete cards manufacturers out of
business, including many graphics cards manufacturers. They made a come back in
the form of gaming cards. The last two years have been the most exciting, as
they’ve gone hand in glove with the gaming industry. PC gaming is big business
today, thanks to these graphics cards. In the race to create a greater level of
realism and involvement, games end up pushing the hardware industry, forcing
them to create better and more powerful graphics cards. A better graphics card
then outdoes all the new games and throws the ball in their court. This cycle
continues, and end users reap its benefits. Let’s see where this cycle is
taking us in the coming year.

Predictions 2007
  • DirectX 10 on Windows Vista will usher in a new
    era of cinematic realism in gaming
  • Multi-core GPUs expected this year
  • Full power CPUs being grafted on for use as
    GPUs in graphics cards.
  • 600/800 watt SMPS will be the norm in gaming
    PCs

Multi-core GPUs
As games become more graphics intensive, GPUs have had to become beefier to
crunch all those extra millions of polygons. So if you have the extra cash —
get SLi or CrossFire capable cards, hook them up together on the same board, and
you can revel in the high frame rates and all the anti-aliasing and Anisotropic
filtering you need. So what after Dual GPUs? Well, how about Quad GPUs! Take two
of NVidia’s dual-GPU GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics cards and hook them up to an
nForce SLI -Ready motherboard like Gigabyte’s GA-8N SLI Quad Royal (for Intel
CPUs) or the MSI A8N Neo4 Platinum (For AMD CPUs). A full list of compatible
motherboards is available at www.slizone.com, if you’re interested. If you’re
wondering by now — where does this end? — you’re not alone! However,
rather than cram more and more cards into machines, the trend will lean towards
more powerful, multi-core GPUs instead. By the end of this year, you could buy
yourself a nice Dual-core GPU with 1GB GDDR3 memory to go with your Quad-core
CPU.

High-definition age
Advanced graphics capabilities can be put to more use than just games. High
definition content can be processed with far greater ease if you have the latest
graphics cards and processor. You’ll be able to use the newer video formats
out there such as H.264, WMV-HD & MPEG-2 HD. We’ll also soon have movies
available on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the two new emerging standards. Next year, we’ll
see the availability of 3.5-inch Blu-Ray and HD-DVD drives by all the big names.
However, any old PC will not be able to play HD content because it involves
crunching data upto 25 MBps. You’ll need at least a 3.0 GHz processor (or
equivalent), at least 1GB RAM, Direct X 9.0, a video card with at least 128MB
memory, 24-bit 98KHz sound and a display capable of 1920 x 1440 pixels.

DirectX 10
This will be available with Windows Vista. This will offer far greater level of
realism than ever before-animated fur, hair and vegetation, realistic clouds,
reflections & water, plus faces so real, you’d swear that they’re real.
In short, you’d be hard pressed to tell a game (rendered in real-time) from
the real thing. Microsoft doesn’t have any plans of making DirectX 10
available for Windows XP, so you’ll have to upgrade to Vista, when it’s
launched this year.

Connectivity


From being premium products and services that only some people could afford a
few years ago, cell phones and Internet access have become mass market today. So
much so that it’s almost impossible to think that they didn’t even exist a
few years ago. Technology wise, both continue to become more powerful in their
own respective domains. Cell phones transformed from being mere devices for
talking and SMSing into full-fledged computing platforms. Internet access moved
from being a static provider of web pages to a full-fledged provider of
e-commerce, Web-based applications and services. Let’s look at the key trends
you can expect in each domain this year.

WiMAX
This is definitely something worth watching, as a lot of groundwork has happened
on it. The technology will make wireless broadband a reality. Currently, there’s
a need for cost effective broadband connectivity in India, as existing
penetration levels are pretty low. With Intel planning to build WiMAX
capabilities into the laptops itself, the end user costs will reduce to some
extent. WiMAX supports data speeds from 1 to 5 Mbps, and it can be transmitted
over a 20-mile radius. In India Aircel has already launched its WiMAX services
in Chennai and almost all big vendors are gearing up to launch WiMAX services
across the country.

Predictions 2007
  • WiMAX will become a reality, offering wireless
    broadband to consumers. The next step to this, will be Mobile
    WiMAX, but that will take some time to materialize in India.
  • IPTV will gain momentum.
  • 1 Mbps broadband access will be hot.

IPTV
MTNL has started registration for IPTV services. Other vendors are likely to
follow. IPTV will offer services like Time Shifted TV, Video on Demand and video
calling. Another buzz has been that IPTV will bring interactivity where in you
will be able to participate in live game shows using only your remote.

Broadband
Yes, the term ‘broadband’ is nothing new, and it’s more of a joke in India
than a serious technology. Despite all claims, the broadband revolution has
still not really happened in India. Just because you have a 24×7 connection to
the Internet and your ISP claims that it gives 256 kbps bandwidth doesn’t mean
it’s broadband. Most of these connections are shared, so you’ll get the
whole bandwidth only if nobody else is using it, which is highly unlikely.
Without bandwidth, all you can use broadband for is Internet browsing, email,
chat, and some downloading. Will this year be any better? If the speech made by
Mr. Dayanidhi Maran, the Union Minister for Communications and Information
Technology, at the inauguration of India Telecom 2006 last year is anything to
go by, then we should see a lot of action in broadband this year. BSNL is
promising to offer bandwidths of up to 1 Mbps, and others are likely to follow.
If it happens, then trends like streaming media (YouTube, Google videos), online
gaming, etc will become a reality. Some vendors have already taken the cue and
are offering DSL connections with bandwidth speeds of 1.0 and 2.0 Mbps.
These are still prohibitively expensive, but as more competing players start
offering the same, bandwidth costs will come down. Of course, what remains to be
seen is the quality of service that they’ll provide. Will 1 Mbps actually be 1
Mbps, or will it be lower?

Web 2.0


You might have heard of Web 2.0 and wondered what all the hue and cry was all
about. Before we go on, let’s take a moment to define what this is. Web 2.0
was meant to be this rich set of Web-based applications that were to transform
the way we work and use the Internet.
If you think you have been untouched by this experience, think again. Been to
the web-mail interfaces of portals like Yahoo or Rediff (among others)? Been to
Amazon and been amazed at its alternate book suggestions or to eBay and found a
listing of related products alongside the one you were interested in bidding
for? Some sites automatically detect the exact part of the world you are in,
down to the city, and give you content tailored for that city.

Online office applications like document editors, spreadsheets and
calendaring would be familiar to some of you. As you surf the Web, you are
bombarded with ads that are contextual to the page you are on. Then there are
community-driven content websites like YouTube, Flickr, MSN Spaces and so on.
All these are powered by technologies that are behind the buzzword “Web 2.0”.
As you can see, without knowing it, you have been affected already by this
technology.

Predictions 2007
  • More websites will harness AJAX to provide
    richer interfaces
  • Number of applications going online will
    increase, next to go online would be online virtual desktops
  • Information will be picked up from your online
    email and calendars to provide more relevant content
  • More extensive profiles online could anger
    privacy advocates

Let’s see the progress report for some of these services and applications
to find how much of it has happened, and what kinds of enchancements you can
expect on the way you use the Internet in the coming year.

Custom welcome pages: Portals like Yahoo, MSN and Google let you
customize the way their homepage looks and this would change on a per-account
basis. To be shown this customized page, you would need to sign in to their
portal. Meaning data about what you see is stored at the web server end and
nothing at your desktop except a cookie- if you indicated the site should
remember you automatically without a login.

Contextual suggestions: Shopping/e-store and auction websites like
Amazon, eBay and Download.com typically also show you what other users who
looked at the particular item before you saw next, and also what they eventually
bought.

These suggestions are created by tracking how long you stay on a particular
page, where you came from, where you went next to (if on the same website), what
links and buttons you clicked, your geographical location and so on. Sometimes,
you notice that your own profile is created behind the scenes without your
knowledge and offered back to you on a subsequent visit.

Portals like Google, Yahoo and MSN let you
to customize their homepage, with news, horoscopes, puzzles, weather, and
more. This is one application of Web 2.0

Online productivity
Do you prefer to use the applications installed on your desktop/notebook or
would you want to boot up, go on the Web, login to a web service and then use
the application? Well, if you are on the move, you might want to consider option
2, if installing the particular application on your system would be a problem.
For instance, if you’re away on vacation without your notebook but have access
to the Web (cybercafé), and want to do up your tour expenses, something like
Google Spreadsheets could come in handy. However, neither has broadband
penetration in India reached that level and nor have these applications reached
a level where you can throw away your desktop applications and use the Web-based
ones instead.
So, these are a good thing to have around, but not for everyday rugged use.

However, applications like WebEx and SalesForce.com exists on the enterprise
front have made it very big in this area.

Behind the wow
Behind this capability is a pretty ordinary and ancient bunch of technologies.
To track habits or customize pages for you, websites place cookies on your
computer that record what you do and where you go. To give you interfaces like
that of Yahoo or Rediffmail and Google Spreadsheets, Web
masters use AJAX (a combination of Javascript and XML). This refreshes only a
part of the page you are using, in response to one of your actions on it.
Looking up your city is achieved by looking up your IP address in a global or
country-wide database that lists ranges of addresses bought by ISPs in different
areas.

What next?
Multi-core desktops are here and so are better Web browsers. Making a Web
application work properly under the scores of Web browsers used to be a big task-now
with more of these browsers turning standards-compliant, this is rapidly
becoming easier to accomplish. Therefore, there will be a lot more action in
this area, with sites adopting Web 2.0 if they haven’t already.

Web 3.0
As of now, it cant be called anything more than an idea at stages of infancy
which will take time to materialize. Web 3.0 promises to offer a much stronger
presence of commerce over Web by serving business applications over web. Web 3.0
will bring business applications to the same on-demand architecture that
consumer applications have over Web 2.0. To put it in simpler words, while Web
1.0 was read-only and Web 2.0 is read-write; Web 3.0 might bring in the
read-write-execute nature to the Web.

Display


The world of display technologies has shed a lot of flab. Bulky CRTs have
given way to leaner LCDs. Technology is being continuously refined to produce
images that are closer to reality. Is it bye bye CRT then? Well certainly not in
2007, as we’ll still see it around us in some form or the other. But it’ll
lose ground to LCD at a much faster rate with LCD based displays become even
more affordable. This year, LCD monitors with 2 ms response time will become
popular. Such quick response time reduces ghosting and lagging of moving
pictures, which has been an inherent problem with LCD monitors otherwise. Many
vendors are positioning such quick response time models for gaming.

OLED and PLED
Imagine a cardboard thin display screen? Sounds unrealistic? Well, that’s one
of the promises of OLEDs. An OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode display does
not require a backlight to function, unlike LCDs. So, they draw far lesser power
and can operate longer. Such displays hold promise for portable devices such as
PDAs, cell phones, MP3 players and wall-mounted televisions, making them lighter
and smaller. Another cousin to OLEDs is the PLED. Polymeric light emitting
diodes (PLED) are OLEDs created by sandwiching an undoped conjugated polymer
between two electrodes. Are we likely to see something this year? Samsung is
expected to come out with PLED based handsets by the end of this year. LG’s
UP3Sharp and Insignia’s NS-DA1G MP3 players already have OLED displays.
Philips has also launched PLED technology in its clamshell 639 mobile phone,
comprising a mirror-like display. Together, the Organic Electronics market is
expected to reach $19.7 billion by 2012.

Predictions 2007
  • Even entry-level desktops will come with at
    least \two core CPUs
  • Electrical consumption as well as thermal
    output will go down and be better managed
  • Power-hungry applications will finally become
    faster
  • The internal architecture of the processors
    will improve to make them more efficient all-round.

Digital projectors
Front projection CRT-based systems are passé. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
technology, developed by Texas Instruments, and LCD based projectors will have
their own set of consumers due to differing requirements. We can look forward to
cheaper and lighter projectors and projection televisions based on DLP in the
coming year. There is another dynamic video display technology, Liquid crystal
on silicon (LCOS), which is a hybrid between LCD and DLP. LCOS technology is
very high resolution and costlier than LCD or DLP products. Also, LCOS
projectors are not as compact as LCD and DLP units. Due to this, LCOS has not
been adapted for cheaper mass-market portable projectors. However, connoisseurs
seeking elegant home theater solutions can opt for LCOS. JVC has its own version
of LCOS, D-ILA, for use in home theaters. Rival Sony is also giving final
touches to SXRD technology, another variant of LCOS.

Distant future
After so much action on 2D displays, what else can you expect but 3D? The next
technology being touted to replace TFT flat displays is 3D stereo display. Soon
images will not just be flat on the monitor but would seem to float in front or
behind the display. Imagine the extra functionality that everyday applications
will get through added depth. This would truly launch the era of high-def 3D for
movies, games, TV and more.

Personal Storage


The use of personal storage continues to grow all over the world with the
increasing use of personal computers and digital media in daily life. The
emerging trends in tech gadgets, mp3s, cellphones and other portable devices
have accelerated the demand for personal storage and it will continue to grow as
users adapt the new storage technologies at lower costs. Individuals requiring
gigabytes of storage have started becoming a common factor in this age of
broadband. There are numerous inventions in various fields of personal storage.
Let’s look at some of the most emerging personal storage technologies that
tend to drive the storage paradigm in a new direction.

Hybrid drive
Hybrid drive is a new type of hard disk technology from Samsung along with
Microsoft participating in the project. The major advantage with hybrid drive
technology especially for notebook computers is its ability to record data even
in an idle state which leads to increased battery life. It also helps speed-up
the boot process, reduce noise and increase reliability.

Predictions 2007
  • Individuals using storage in multiple GBs or
    TBs will be common, so watch out for a lot of Blu-rays, HD-DVDs
    and HVDs .
  • Storing dozens of movies or thousands of MP3
    songs in a single optical disc won’t be an issue.

Usually platters of hard drives tend to spin continuously but the hybrid
drive has a built in 1GB non-volatile flash memory chip which records the
incoming data while the platters are at rest. It wakes up when the flash memory
is about to reach its limit, transfers the data from flash memory to hard drive
and again comes back to idle mode.

It spins only 30 — 45 seconds every half an hour, thus, resulting in
increased battery life. Notebook computers equipped with this technology are
planned to be made available in early 2007. Microsoft will call it ‘ReadyDrive’
technology starting Windows Vista.

Blu-ray disk
This is a next generation optical disc technology satisfying the demand for high
capacity and performance by offering high definition video and multi-channel
audio qualities as well as high data storage of more than 5 times the capacity
than in traditional DVDs. The research in this area is on, and said to have led
to development of a Quad layer disc with a capacity of 100 GB. Many leading PC
manufacturers have already begun shipping PCs bundled with blu-ray burners in
first quarter of 2007. So grab one if you want to stay in the game.

HVD
Holography is a 40-year old technology that has been brought to life as HVD
(Holographic Versatile Disc) by Japan’s Optware Corp. This technology is
rapidly gaining importance because of its ability to record and transfer data at
high speeds and high storage capacity. It is
the combination of collinear technology, a patent of Optware Corp, with the
traditional optical technology.

Unlike current optical storage technologies, holographic storage utilizes a
green laser (532 nm), which splits into two beams of red and blue-green laser.
Blue-green laser reads the data while red laser is for reference beam, which
normally remains unchanged throughout the recording process and is used for
reading servo information. Data is recorded where the two beams intersect inside
the recording layer.

HVD technology is a step ahead than next generation BD and HD-DVDs as it can
store and retrieve huge bits of data in a pulse of light. It has a robust and
scratch-proof design for use in rugged environments. Recent researches have
demonstrated HVDs with as large as 3.9 terabytes of storage capacity at a
whopping transfer rate of up to 1 GB per sec. So considering our ever increasing
growth and storage requirements, this technology seems to be headed for victory.

Storage over IP
How could Storage over IP (SoIP) be left behind when everything is going over
Internet Telephony. This is the latest IP-based technology that allows access to
storage area networks through LAN or WAN environments with transfer speeds upto
1 GB. It is considered to be better than fiber channel connectivity as it uses
IETF transport protocols like iSCSI, FCIP and iFCP, which use Ethernet
technology for connectivity resulting in low cost and easy deployment.

Its architecture is based on open standards, which reduces the
interoperability issues between different storage devices or networks.
SoIP is compatible with all existing fiber channel or SCSI devices, HBAs (host
bus adapters), many OSs and storage related applications. So here’s one easy
one to understand, use and deploy that is in the race.

Flash memory cards
With increasing use of handheld devices, digital media and other tech gadgets,
there has been a considerable rise in the demand for flash memory cards. These
cards have a non-volatile flash memory, which can be used for digital cameras,
camcorders, palmtops, notebooks, cellphones and similar digital devices. Users
are often confused with different types of flash memory cards available in the
market like SD cards, MicroSD, MMC, Memory stick, XD cards. All these cards have
the same basic functionality but different size, data transfer speed and
compatibility.As the need for storage in tech gadgets is rising, new cards are
being introduced in the market with more storage capacity and even more reduced
size. Toshiba has recently introduced an SDHC card with a storage capacity of 8
GB. Because of its compact size, high re-recordability and easy mobility
features, flash memory cards are gaining rapid importance in today’s
generation.

Digital Multilayer Disk
Digital Multilayer Disc or DMD (initially named Fluorescent Multilayer Disc) is
an optical disc format technology which uses red laser to read information from
the disk. DMD discs are superior to DVD discs and can hold data up to 140 GB
with more than 10 layers accessed simultaneously. It’s also backward
compatible with CD and DVD drives, and unlike CDs and DVDs which use reflective
material for coating, each layer of DMD is coated with non-reflective
transparent material which reduces interference between layers.

DMDs are to be made available Q1 of 2007.

Operating Systems


There’s a lot of action
expected this year in Operating Systems, besides the launch of Windows Vista. On
one side, we see desktop Operating Systems becoming increasingly feature rich,
more visually appealing, and stable. On the other hand, we see them disappearing
under applications with the advent of virtual appliances (see In Depth Story,
Applications as appliances, in this issue). On one side, we’re going to see
Vista enter the market with lots of skews, and on the other Linux at the desktop
is gaining pace. A third variety is also becoming popular-Mobile Operating
System, thanks to the digital gadgets revolution.

Linux at the desktop
One of the biggest hindrances to Linux at the desktop was ease of use, or the
lack of it. All those cryptic commands and file names were too intimidating for
an ordinary user to dare to try it out. Several vendors introduced their desktop
distributions last year, which were meant to do away with this hindrance.
Several vendors, both commercial and Open Source, introduced Linux distros that
were easier to use and feature rich. Some of these were Novell’s SUSE 10.2,
Linspire, Xandros Ubuntu, Fedora, etc. They have features like Synaptic Package
Manager, and CNR, making it very easy to install new software. A lot of popular
games, like Unreal Tournament, are now available for Linux. All this makes
shifting to Linux at the desktop worth a try. Of course, we’re not saying that
Linux will swarm the desktops, but it will be more successful than it has been
in the past.

Predictions 2007
  • Linux at the desktop will gain momentum.
  • Vista will take a while to pick up.
  • Desktop Operating Systems will become very
    feature rich.
  • OS Virtualization will become commonplace.

All in ones
Operating System size is constantly on the rise, and you’ll see this going up
further in the coming year. That’s because Operating Systems vendors are
packing more and more functionality. They ship with all sorts of software, which
includes everything from a movie creating software, web browsers, email clients
to instant messengers, games, etc. Earlier you had to purchase various security
software such as personal firewalls, anti-virus, spyware remover, etc. Now all
that will come pre-built in the OS. This isn’t the case with Windows alone.
Most Linux distros for instance, ship with Clam antivirus, AntiVir, IDS
software, firewall and anti-spam, etc. So that good old OS is disappearing and
what you are getting these days is a complete package.

Virtual appliances
This may sound as a joke, since we’ve been talking about OSs becoming so
feature rich. But if you look at a trend called virtual appliances, you’ll
know what we mean. Basically, the idea is to merge the OS with the application
and offer it as a package. So you can get a browser appliance, which you can run
on your desktop and do all the browsing you want without worrying about any
security threats getting in to your system. That’s because the browser will
run in a virtualized environment, and will remain completely isolated from the
main system.

Similarly, you could get virtual appliances for other applications as well,
allowing you to create isolated compartments on your system.

Gaming


Gaming, as an industry, pulls in millions of dollars worldwide. This covers
everything-from hardware to games to accessories or what have you.
Increasingly, this trend has been picking up in India as well. For starters,
online gaming has seen a huge leap-Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing
Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft and EverQuest II have garnered regular
players in excess of 16 million worldwide. If you think India’s far behind,
you should know this – according to San Francisco-based consulting firm Pearl
Research, the Indian online game market will exceed USD 200 million in 2010.
That’s a gigantic leap for India, and several things happened last year that
will shape the times to come.

Let’s start off with new product launches last year, which were aimed
directly at the power-hungry gaming community. Several new powerful motherboards
were launched, such as the Striker Extreme from ASUS, and new Graphics cards
like Nvidia’s GeForce 8 Series and ATi’s Radeon X1950 Series. In fact, it
can be comfortably said that last year was the year of gaming cards for India,
with so many graphics cards introduced, giving opportunity to gamers of all
levels a chance to use their prowess. The fierce competition between the two
gaming card giants over the last couple of years has resulted in lots of goodies
for gamers-SLI, CrossFire, dual GPUs, etc. In some cases, a gaming card’s
price alone far exceeds that of the entire PC.

Predictions 2007
  • Vista and DirectX 10 take over as the new kings
  • Multi-core CPUs and Multi-core GPUs
  • Full power CPUs being grafted on for use as
    GPUs in graphics cards

Gaming Consoles
Any game talk is incomplete without gaming consoles. Believe it or not, but
India has a dedicated bunch of die-hard console gamers out there too. And they
have good reasons to prefer consoles over PCs. Manufacturers usually spend
millions developing gaming consoles, so much so that the consoles they build are
nothing short of a supercomputer. Sony’s new PlayStation 3 for instance, uses
a Cell processor running at 3.2 GHz, which actually has multiple cores, with
each dedicated for some task or another. Its floating-point performance is rated
to be 2 TeraFlops. Likewise, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 produces a theoretical 115
gigaflops of performance. No wonder then that the manufacturers actually loose
money when they sell these consoles in the market. Instead, they expect to make
their money from games, quite similar to the way inkjet printer manufacturers
make their money from cartridges.

While Sony’s PS 3 has already hit American and Japanese shores, India is
still left wanting. It’s set for launch in India in March this year— but I
wouldn’t hold my breath. Demand for the console has far outstripped supply —
with the result that early buyers (both independent vendors and individuals) are
making a killing selling the console for a premium. There’s not much news
about the Nintendo Wii — and Nintendo has traditionally been really wary of
the Indian market because of high piracy. They’ll lose huge sums of money in
licensing fees if the games get pirated. However, we shouldn’t be denied the
console because of that either. If they don’t get their act together fast,
they’ll lose market share and more importantly lose any chance of a foothold
here. Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 is going from strength to strength – with more
games and accessories. By the time the PS3 hits-it will have already had a one
year advantage (Not to mention the sufficiently large price advantage too).

The ASUS Vento 3600 gamers’ cabinet
with extreme cooling vents

LAN Gaming
As regards the PC gaming industry, LAN parties are beginning to catch up -organized
get-togethers, where gamers hash it out for prizes sponsored by big names in the
industry. To cater to this craze, we’re looking at more vendors/retailers for
shoe-box sized gaming rigs, specifically designed to be carried around. Another
trend we hope to see catch on is the popularization of high-end cabinets. Gamers
don’t like to see boring black or white cabinets, so there’s a large market
for snazzy designs. We might see more high-end cabinets such as the Asus Vento
and cool offerings from the Cooler Master series. Last year already saw the
availability of water cooling kits. In the coming year, we can expect to see
some vendors selling computers with water cooling pre-fitted. After all, the
benefits of water cooling for high-end PCs are there for all to see (and hear).
These machines will be built for overclocking -as is the current craze.
Finally, we also hope to see cabinets with built-in backlit displays and touch
panels-displaying everything from CPU temperature to fan speed.

Printing


If you thought printing today was as simple as plugging in your printer or
multi-function (those that print, scan, fax and copy) and hit CTRL+P, think
again! Most print equipment vendors have been aggressive for sometime to “educate”
their users against using refilled or pirated ink cartridges as well as hiding
printing-related costs behind complicated fine print (like the number of lines a
rating is for, at a particular dot pitch and so on). But this campaign has risen
recently to a fever pitch with the same vendors leveraging technology to make
sure consumers have no choice but comply. Its not that new technologies that
make printing faster, easier or simpler have not come in-they have, in troves.
Here below, we take a tour through some of these technologies that make printing
a page from your computer, well, an interesting experience.

Bigger Print heads
Print speeds (pages per minute output or ‘ppm’) can rise dramatically if one
of two things happens. One, the page rolls faster below the print head or two,
the print head itself becomes longer. Laser printers have always had their
dye-to-paper interfaces as long as the width of the paper they can print on.
Inkjets have had tiny heads, and vendors have so far been busy increasing the
number of ink jet vents on them in a bid to improve print resolution. HP
recently announced a much wider print head on their future models, called the
Edgeline. This uses two print heads, each covering about half the width of the
paper. Like the lasers, in these printers the head would remain stationary while
the paper still flows underneath.

Predictions 2007
  • Printer purchase costs will go down further,
    but cost of consumables is likely to rise.
  • DRM technologies will come in that won’t let
    you use consumables bought from unapproved sources.
  • The number of features built into a printer or
    MFD will plateau and focus will shift towards usability and
    manageability of existing capabilities.

Wastage control
There is a significant amount of ink or toner (over several thousand prints from
a single device) lost every time a head is cleaned or the printer comes out of
sleep mode or goes through a calibration phase. Some printers also periodically
flush a small amount of ink to ensure that no residues are clogging up the
system. Recent printers from various vendors have reduced the amount of wastage
by reducing the number of times such a flush needs to occur. In some, the method
is to never allow the printer to go into deep sleep mode, keeping a small amount
of current flowing and the heat levels hot enough to quickly jump back to active
mode. In other printers, technology used today increases the number of prints
you can take before needing a head clean or calibration operation. In inkjet
printers, the ink is sprayed onto the paper, but in laser devices, the toner is
actually physically transferred onto the medium. This can result in lesser or
more toner being transferred depending on toner composition, heat levels and so
on. Xerox has something called an Emulsion Aggregation High Gloss Toner that
increases the efficiency of toner transfers to nearly 100%. They also have Solid
Ink for inkjet printers, where the ink stays in solid form until needed. During
printing, it is briefly heated enough to liquify it and on contact with the
media, it solidifies.

DRM consumables
In a bid to prevent consumers from taking advantage of lower consumable prices
elsewhere in the world, vendors like HP have been including DRM technologies
that employ a type of region coding (similar to what you have on the DVDs) to
restrict movement of parts between the US and Europe in particular. With this
technology, a printer bought in the US would not work with a cartridge bought in
the UK and vice versa.

In the same vein, you also have self-destruct cartridges that simply stop
working when electronics embedded in them detects the ink tank is empty. This problem however is hilariously exaggerated
in the Canon SELPHY photo printer range, where the ink cassette uses a
transparent film in a way reminiscent of the Dot Matrix of yesteryears. But,
unlike with the DMPs, you cannot roll back the film to reuse it. Instead, when
the film runs out at one end, you need to buy the cassette again… and oh yeah,
along with a pack of the specific paper, only which the printer will print on.

Lasers or inkjets?
At a recent press conference, one vendor made a claim that his inkjets are now
on par or even better than lasers on speed, cost of print and quality. But, how
far along is this true?

While that question is best answered in a pitted battle with laser printers,
what we can examine here is the new technology in that printer that makes some
of this possible.

For one, its paper pickup mechanism has been improved, giving it error free
paper input that lets it pickup more paper, quickly, without paper jams.
Then, the size of the print head has been increased, giving it more coverage,
and with more nozzles on it that also boosts print quality.

Security


Security has gone beyond protecting your PC against threats from the Internet
like worms and hackers, or weeding your mail for spam and malware
attachments. Such basic protection and all products required for it are now
considered to be a given, and a basic necessity. The big mantra in security in
the coming year will be protecting your personal identity, or shall we say
identities? You are no longer immune to identity thefts if you never went
online, because the services you subscribe to have gone online. Let’s look at
a few examples.

One to many
Today, your cellular phone is not just a device that lets you make phone calls
or send SMSs. You can access the Web, do shopping and book railway and air
tickets; have astrological profiles, dating profiles and more with this one
device. And the thing that grants you access to all of this is your cellular
phone number. You do not need to have a ‘login’ account anywhere to have
these profiles associated with you. Similarly, your banking account would let
you pay utility (electricity, telephone, water, etc) bills, perform investments,
pay insurance premiums, manage your savings bank, deposit and credit card
accounts, attached to what is generally known as a ‘relationship number’.
Other single credential accounts like Yahoo, MSN and Google open up access to a
whole range of services available through the portal.

Predictions 2007
  • Integration between traditional and online
    services will increase, e.g. a credit card linked to websites
  • Both OS and software we use will include better
    identity management and security measures built-in
  • Seamless ID transfer and authorization across
    more providers will happen (like interoperation between Yahoo
    and MSN)

A flip-side
While technology has opened up a multitude of services that can be used from a
single account, the flip side is that losing access to that account can lock you
out (as a legitimate user) from all those services. For instance, should you
lose your bank’s debit card; you would of course cancel the card immediately.
This would invalidate the associated card number and PIN for use online or the
ATM systems. For some banks, this can mean a complete lockout from your banking
services, if it requires data (digits and codes) from those cards to be used as
authorization tokens during transactions. The key thing to keep in mind from all
this is that you’ll see more traditional services getting integrating with the
online world in the coming year. You can no longer ignore this trend, as one
mistake can bring your life to a standstill.

Tech for stolen devices
You’ll see new technologies emerge to help you find your lost devices (like
notebooks) and protect data on them. Tracking lost notebooks involves GPS
technology. You need to purchase a subscription to the service and insert the
provided smart card into a particular slot in your notebook (not all notebooks
have this slot). After that, if you did misplace or lose your notebook, you call
up a hotline, who will then tell you the location of your notebook within
minutes and within a few meters. TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is another tech
in this direction. A TPM chip is embedded on the motherboard, which encrypts
contents of your hard disk.

Attempts to retrieve the key or modify it will self-destruct the module.

So even if your notebook gets stolen, your data won’t be, because it will
remain encrypted.

Adeesh Sharma, Anadi Misra, Anil Chopra, Apurva Kothari, Hitesh Raj Bhagat,
Sujay V Sarma and Swapnil Arora

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