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Top Tech Trends for 2013

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The march of technology is unstoppable: in January, while we're still busy playing with last year's Christmas presents, the consumer electronics industry will be unveiling its next generation of shiny new gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Here are the tech trends everyone will be talking about in 2013:

1) Tablet domination
2012 was the year of the smartphone (there are one billion in use and half of the UK population owns one). And now that the world has woken up to the joy of apps, it's inevitable that 2013 will be the year of the tablet. Once again, Apple must be credited for kick-starting the market with the iPad, but there are plenty of desirable rivals that can undercut its price (Google's Nexus, Kindle Fire HD) and outgun its features (Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1). With Microsoft recently entering the fray with its Surface, the battle for tablet dominance is really starting to heat up. Tablets are likely to outsell desktop PCs and netbooks in 2013, thanks to better-than-HD-resolution screens, thinner designs, improved interaction with TVs and prices that dip below £100.

2) Laptop/tablet hybrids
At present the tablet market is a three-horse race between Apple's iPad, Android and Microsoft. With all three systems offering an intuitive, enjoyable way to consume media, but they're less than perfect when it comes to hard work like creating presentations or editing spreadsheets. Microsoft's Windows 8 is likely to steal some market in 2013, due to this, combining the power of a traditional desktop system with a more finger-friendly tile interface. A swathe of much-anticipated Windows 8 tablets are due to launch in early 2013, but more significant is the emergence of a new breed of hybrid machines like the Lenovo Yoga and similar 'touch and type' computers from brands like Acer and Sony. These lightweight devices feature touch-sensitive screens and keyboards, will bring touch and type computing to the masses - usable in tablet mode for media consumption, or as a laptop for working. In the near future we can expect all computers to have touch screens.

3) Flexible displays
While a battle is raging to create low-powered, high-performance processors that will drive the next generation of tablets and convertibles, the most visible changes will be in display technology. We'll see the first Full HD smartphones at this year's CES, and plenty of 'better-than-HD' tablets too. It's also very likely we'll see the first commercial applications of another new display technology - flexible screens. These will allow the creation of phones and tablets that aren't simply flat slabs - and also opens the intriguing possibility of bendable gadgets and big screens that can fold away when you're not using them.

4) Smarter TV
The idea of combining the internet and TV has been a technology holy grail for over a decade. But it's only with the advent of hugely popular video streaming services like iPlayer and Netflix that it really makes sense. And while many new TVs feature web connections and smart TV services, the growth is smart TV is being largely driven by new set-top boxes from the likes of YouView and Freesat, which combine digital broadcast TV and on-demand services. 2013 will see a proliferation of small, cheap set-top boxes that bring the power of the internet to the big screen and allow streaming from tablets and smartphones.

5) Even-higher-definition TV
The first Ultra HD screens will arrive in 2013, offering four times the resolution of high-definition. This means delivering a staggeringly realistic picture and the ability to show 3D content in better-than-HD quality. As with 3D, ultra HD is likely to suffer from the lack of content available but that could change quickly. Many professional video cameras already shoot in Ultra HD - or '4K' as it's also known - and in 2013 we'll see the first consumer cameras that can shoot at this resolution too.

6) OLED
The most significant reason to upgrade your television in 2013 is a new screen technology called OLED, which delivers incredibly vivid and lifelike pictures on screens that are few millimetres thick. OLED screens work with existing HD broadcasts, with the immense contrast giving a previously unimaginable sense of depth. You'll already find OLED screens on high-end smart phones and tablets, but in 2013 you'll start to see them on big-screen TVs too, with price tags between £5000 and £10,000.

7) New consoles
More people are playing computer games than ever before, thanks to smartphones and tablets but trying to convince them to buy a dedicated console is a huge challenge. This is why Nintendo's new home console, the Wii U, comes with its own tablet as part of the motion-sensitive controller. The Wii U is the first major home console launch for six years, and is likely to herald announcements about the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles at next summer's E3 gaming show. These consoles are expected to be significantly more powerful than their predecessors, but also feature built-in motion sensors and are even rumoured to ship with their own augmented reality headsets that overlay your TV screen, and its environs, with 3D graphics and information.

8) Wearable technology
Microsoft, Apple and Google have all filed patents related to the development of augmented reality headsets - glasses that overlay what we see with context-relevant information. Google has demonstrated its Project Glass technology and even put prototype devices on sale. With smartphones already offering augmented visions of the world, it remains to be seen whether there is demand for this sort of Terminator-style vision of the future but it's likely that we'll see plenty of show-stopping augmented reality at CES.

9) Cooler cameras
Camera-toting smartphones have affected sales of low-end compact cameras, but they've also inspired innovation at the higher end of the camera market. 2013 will see a deluge of retro-styled compact system cameras. With high-quality optics and classic design, cameras like the forthcoming Sony RX1 and Fujifilm X series are reviving the tactile magic of film photography - while delivering picture quality that smart phone users can only dream of.

10) 3D printing
The technology that's causing most excitement in geek circles right now is 3D printing. It's already possible to buy your own desktop 3D printer, download 3D files from the internet, and print them out in plastic in the comfort of your own home. In 2013, it's likely that at least one of the big printing brands will push to make the technology mainstream, ushering in what could be the biggest revolution in manufacturing since Henry J Ford perfected the moving assembly line.

11) Energy saving
Eco-conscious shoppers have long been hunting out energy efficient designs around the house, from the now omnipresent energy saving bulbs to home appliances with high efficiency ratings, but 2013 promises to deliver a whole range of new and exciting energy saving products. Some of the latest designs mean that every day electricals are using less energy, with televisions that bypass standby mode completely and telephones that stop charging when the batteries are full. Expect to see a lot more of these kinds of innovations and maybe even products that cut energy bills by producing their own power!

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