Apple's iPad kick-started the consumer tablet industry and created a market for thousands of third-party developers' apps and games. If Apple holds to its established release schedule for new editions, the next iPad is likely arriving early in 2012.
If the just-released Kindle Fire succeeds as a significant iPad challenger, it will demonstrate that companies other than Apple can prosper in the space. That could inspire other manufacturers to evolve their own products, which will boost competition (and profits, for a lucky few).
Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
Despite Amazon's presumed dominance of the e-reader space with its Kindle family (the retailer declines to break out exact sales figures), Barnes & Noble has continued to push its own competing line of Nook products. That gives consumers more choice, and may have prodded Amazon to develop the Kindle Fire.
Aficionados of the Razr feature phone probably cheered when Motorola Mobility decided to bring the brand back from the dead, incorporating its focus on slimness into the next Droid smartphone. For Droid fans, the Droid Razr's thin body may come as a welcome change from some of the previous iterations' bulky form.
Windows Phone Mango
With hundreds of new tweaks and features, Windows Phone no longer feels quite so barren. For anyone looking for an alternative to Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Apple's iOS or Google Android, this could prove to be a good thing.
RIM is betting heavily that its upcoming QNX-based operating system, BBX, will reverse BlackBerry's falling market share. The idea of a radically revamped, next-generation OS could appeal to those diehards who want to stick with the BlackBerry franchise. Details of BBX remain under wraps, although it could share elements with RIM's PlayBook OS (seen here).
Super-thin laptops, but with more powerful specs than netbooks, ultrabooks promise to be one of the key products pushed by manufacturers over the next year. They could benefit users who want the utility of a keyboard and full-size screen but with some of the mobility inherent in tablets.
Without Gorilla Glass (and similar research into tougher materials), ultra-portable devices might not so ably survive the various falls and bumps subjected to them by clumsy humans.
Who doesn't love the idea of faster data speeds?
Whether or not you actually use Microsoft's Bing search engine, its presence certainly keeps Google on its toes, and offers more choice for consumers.