This is one that is already starting to make some inroads, but look for it to be a major selling point in 2011 for all kinds of mobile devices. As more and more video serving sites move away from Flash towards H.264, more phones and mobile devices will be able to stream content faster and more reliably. We've already removed the television watching experience from the TV - now it's going to be wherever we can get a decent number of bars on our phone. Look for the major providers - Hulu, Netflix, etc - to hop this bandwagon this year.
After quite a long period of wheel-spinning, we're actually starting to see some movement in the development of HTML as a markup language. Where previously interactive and multimedia elements needed to be handled by plugins, which proliferated like crazy and caused tons of cross-browser problems, now things like real-time drawing and video can be handled by just one language. The platform isn't stable quite yet, but most experts predict 2011 is the year in which people will really start running with the ball.
Yes, we know the Prius has been dominating the eco-conscious circuit for nearly a decade now, but we're about ready to make the transition to the next level of transportation: fully electric cars. 2011 sees the Nissan Leaf hit the roads, the first fully-electric car from a major manufacturer. Sure, it may have a pretty limited range, but this is just the beginning - expect to see lots more vehicles, both full electrics and hybrids, push the envelope further towards battery power this year.
Voice recognition has been the holy grail for computer interface designers for decades - imagine not having to use your damn hands at all to, say, leave a comment on this article? It would be great! The technology is getting better and better, especially in mobile devices, but there's still some distance to go. Google is investing heavily in this space, acquiring Phonetic Arts, a British company that specializes in natural-sounding computerized speech.
We saw some astounding leaps in the treatment of HIV and AIDS in 2010, with a patient in Berlin having all traces of the virus removed from his system after a stem cell transplant. The procedure that he underwent was expensive and painful, but it's opened the door to a new world of potential treatments for one of the most brutal pandemics of the last 100 years. Many scientists predict that 2011 will see the first steps towards a truly workable HIV vaccine, based on tests in Thailand that show a 30% reduction in transmissal rates.
Many networks experimented with 3D TV in 2010, but nobody was really successful with it - the active shutter glasses required to get real third-dimension viewing were expensive and cumbersome, and the install base was just too low. Avatar proved that modern 3D is more than just a fad, so look for 2011 to be the year that the technology comes home in a big way. LG is releasing passive-glasses models this year, and other companies are expected to follow suit. All home 3D really needs is a killer app to sell it the way James Cameron's blue-people epic did.
This is kind of a no-brainer - the days of the keyboard and mouse are numbered. It's quite frankly ridiculous that we're tethered to an input device that has been fundamentally unchanged for over 100 years, but the QWERTY keyboard is rapidly ending its usefulness. Touchscreens have become a default input device on any number of platforms, and with handwriting recognition and voice parsing improving every minute, it won't be long before all those touch-typing lessons become so much wasted time.
The days of keeping all of your data in one place have been over for a while - the innate fragility of hard drives has created a culture of infinite backups, with wise computer owners duplicating their data on all sorts of media. The natural outgrowth of this is to dispense with your hard drive entirely, and as a result "cloud computing" was born. Remote servers provide data, applications and more to networked computers, with the burden being placed on the telecommunications network instead of the hard drive. Expect this to become even more commonplace in 2011, with more services adopting the model.
Google can be accused of a lot of things, but not trying hard enough ain't one of them. Sure, they have a fair number of misfires (Google Wave, anyone?), but they also have a lot of successes. They've proven that Android can be a success on the mobile market, and now they're stepping into the world of full-scale operating systems with Chrome OS. Designed to work intuitively with web-based applications, Google is testing it with a limited number of test notebooks out in the wild. Expect to see the first dedicated Chrome OS products this year.
As our wireless devices become more and more important elements of our work and social life, the importance of having maximum bars can't be overstated. Walking around looking for service is a major pain in the ass. One possible solution is the increased emphasis on femtocells - small portable base stations that connect to your network through a broadband pipe and communicate with your smartphones and tablets wirelessly. Many pundits are predicting that this data transmission model is going to be the next big thing.
This isn't a "technology" per se, but look for the debate about privacy and security to be one of the major movers in the technoogy world this year. After multiple major sites - most notably the Gawker group - have seen their password databases compromised, the traditional methods of authentication are seeming pretty fragile. Look for more sites to use different ways of evaluating your identity - we're already seeing a shift towards using Facebook for these purposes. Now it's only a matter of time before inventive black hats find ways to make that unsafe.