Emerging Technology in 2009: An Engine for Growth

By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2009-12-10

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During the last two years it has been easy to get into a heads-down mode, where one is inclined to just do their job, stay the course as best as possible and not spend too much time thinking about new stuff.

Fortunately for all of us, plenty of technology companies, developers and entrepreneurs haven't been following this line of thinking. In the last year we've seen plenty of examples of big companies, small companies, and independent developers and researchers working toward innovative and cutting-edge new products and technologies.

And we should all offer a big thank you to all of these people because they are one of our biggest hopes out of the rough times.

As is pretty much always the case, new and innovative technologies are the most powerful engines when it comes to improving business and creating opportunities for everyone.

In 2009 we saw plenty of new and innovative technologies that not only offer a boost to current users and businesses but also point the way toward future technological improvements that could become the next wave that will lift up businesses and individuals.

What were some of these products and technologies? Here are some innovative technologies and sectors that stood out for me in 2009.

HTML 5 - While it is not yet a full standard and has yet to be fully implemented in any major Web browser or application, the next iteration of HTML is already having a big effect on the future of the Web. HTML 5 will allow for much greater interactivity and richness in Web applications, will allow browsers to handle video natively and will bring desktop like features to Web applications. We've seen implementations of this forthcoming standard in Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera. And one tangible impact of the coming effect of HTML 5 is Google's recent decision to stop development of its Gears technology, since Gears features for offline support of Web applications are a core feature of HTML 5.

Mobile Operating Systems - Not long ago, mobile operating systems were seen as weak, inflexible and closed systems. For developers, they were difficult to build for and offered nearly impossible hurdles in order to get applications to users. And users often found them unfriendly and to have limited options for customization. The iPhone bucked these expectations by providing an excellent operating system and a (more) open forum for creating and delivering applications. And then in 2009 we saw the rise of Android based phones and new systems such as Palm WebOS, which have shown that mobile operating systems can be dynamic, flexible and more open to application developers.

Google Chrome OS - People have long talked about the idea of the browser as the operating system. And with the release of an early developer version of the Google Chrome OS, we finally got a look at one. The main interface for Chrome OS is the Chrome Web browser, and nearly all applications on Chrome OS are expected to be Web-based. While this Chrome OS is still in its early stages, I expect it to change before its release late next year. And I also expect to see some of the ideas shown in Chrome OS spread to other systems and hardware.

Next-Generation Processors - Typically processor growth is measured in small performance improvements that mean little to most users. However, 2009 saw several major upgrades in processor technology both on the high and on the low end. The Intel Xeon Nehalem family of processors provided a massive boost in performance and scalability for servers. And new advances in Ultra Low Voltage processors made it possible to build laptops that have good performance but also use little power.

Search Engines Compete Anew - Google's dominance of Web search saw a few major new challenges in 2009. Wolfram Alpha, though not a traditional Web search engine in that it searches a closed database of information, offered an interesting look at a search engine designed to provide actual answers to questions rather than just provide lists of results. But the biggest (and probably most surprising) challenge came from Microsoft's Bing, which made inroads against Google and offered a much more attractive and interactive search engine. While Google had long championed basic and simple as the preferred interface for search, Bing showed that there is a place for attractive, interactive and dynamic search interfaces.

New Ways to Collaborate - In 2008, most of the attention when it came to collaboration focused on Web 2.0 technologies such as social networks, wikis and Twitter. Plus, we saw the rise of services designed to adapt these technologies for business use. But 2009 saw some radical new twists on the idea of collaboration. Browser maker Opera released a new technology called Opera Unite, which was essentially a Web server inside a browser. While wearing my security hat I was greatly concerned of the implications of a Web server on everyone's system. But from a functionality standpoint, Unite is an intriguing idea where every Web user can connect with and serve data to others without the need of external servers and cloud-based systems. 2009 also saw the introduction of Google Wave, probably one of the most misunderstood technology releases of the year. While many focused on the initial beta of Wave and its focus on collaboration and task management, the truly interesting aspect of Wave is its potential to be a platform for open and constant development of systems for collaboration and content delivery.

SSD in the Data Center - Solid-state drives are as common as anything in tech. From USB drives to cameras to MP3 players to phones, you probably have multiple SSDs in your possession. And in recent years SSD has become a popular option in netbooks and other small mobile devices. But their biggest impact could come in the biggest systems, as the use of SSDs in servers offers much greater performance and operations benefits.

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