Here we go again. It's a new business year, and with it comes the techno-planning needed to get your business to 2013.
You can plan on the coming year being like most: long on big ideas, short on real solutions. Expect much buzz about new tools from Apple, including the iPhone 5. A new Microsoft Windows operating system called Windows 8.
New fast LTE cell networks from Verizon Communications, AT&T and even Clearwire will also make headlines.
But for what will really affect your bottom line, here are my predicted Top 5 Biz Tech Trends for 2012:
1. Fewer new business cellphones
If there is one trend I take real joy in reporting, it's the end of cellphone new-model madness. The next 12 months will see fewer new devices, and I say hallelujah. Business-ready models worth watching in this leaner mobile device market will be the new Nokia Lumia 800. This phone will run the latest Windows Phone mobile OS and be Nokia's attempt to regain a toehold in the American business phone market.
Also look for Android devices running an upgraded operating system called — I kid you not — "Ice Cream Sandwich" that should offer upside for firms. And yes, the iPhone 5 is expected later in the year. Be ready for the madness.
2. A more business-focused Microsoft
This year will also mark a new focus on business software for the software giant. Microsoft says it is stepping away from live consumer marketing events such as the International Consumer Electronics Show, held in early January in Las Vegas, and clearly consumer software will be less and less the focus.
A release of the near-final version of the business-friendly Windows 8 is due this month, and the reality is it will be a tough sell — many firms haven't even bothered with Windows 7. And with Google eating Microsoft's market share by giving away powerful consumer software, Redmond will have little choice but to focus its resources on selling products such as Windows 8 to businesses that are willing to pay for it.
3. The birth of the "business TV"
Interesting reports are circulating that Samsung will be shipping an Android-powered television in 2012. This device will offer smartphone-like features such as apps and touch control yet still create a TV-like experience. Such a smart TV will blur the line between what a TV does and what a PC does. Factor in consumer comfort with iPhone-like touch control and suddenly businesses are looking at a new family of tools: TV sets that can play an interactive role in a firm. Want a low-cost kiosk in your shop? Or, say, a simple, interactive terminal to run a printer? A smart touch-enabled, app-friendly "business TV" could be just the ticket. Watch this trend.
4. Using your smartphone to make your car smart
While major carmakers such as General Motors and Ford Motor will be pushing advanced features such as OnStar video services and efforts to monitor personal health in vehicles, for the average business these sorts of technologies will be non-starters.
Much more modest — and much more effective — will be road-ready apps that run on a user's smartphone. I like what Find My Car Smart offers for pin-point vehicle location accuracy and how iOnRoad turns the camera in your smartphone into an onboard collision-avoidance tool. Considering how distracted we all — including your employees — can be, these are tools will help keep us on the road.
5. On-the-go, cloud-based printing
And finally, only in the nutty Internet age could something old-school such as printing be new again. Printer giants such as Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark , Kodak and others have at last gotten so-called cloud printing technology working. While not idiotproof, PCs, smartphones and tablet computers can now really connect directly to printers via the Web. That means serious printing jobs can be managed while you travel.
Want to customize your business cards or brochures for a particular client or event? Simply carry the needed files with you on your portable device and adapt them as needed, then send that modified version to a cloud-connected printer you find in the hotel or client's office. It can take a bit to get the mobile cloud-printing knack, but once you do, you will never go back to carrying a pile of business cards.
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