The 20 Most Innovative Products of the Year

At a Glance
Page 8 of 8

Top 5 Innovations to Look For in 2007

What's going to change technology in the next 12 months? Keep an eye out for these breakthroughs.

Hybrid hard drives: These drives, coming from companies such as Samsung and Seagate, will combine a flash-memory component with traditional platters to boost performance while keeping costs lower than those of purely flash-based drives. The drives should especially improve startup and resume times. They should also save you some time when it comes to data access, since they can cache more of the data in the flash portion, cutting down on lags due to accessing the disk platters. You'll need Windows Vista to make this work, however.

Offline Ajax applications: The Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) programming technique has enabled increasingly more sophisticated online e-mail and Web pages that can preload data and update information on the fly. This year the power of Ajax will move offline, giving desktop-based clients a significant usability boost. For example, Zimbra, the open-source Web e-mail service, has demonstrated intelligent caching code that will let its users browse e-mail, calendar, and RSS feeds even when they're not connected to the Net.

Windows Vista SideShow: Want access to your e-mail subject lines or appointments even when your laptop is hibernating and closed? SideShow, a nifty combination hardware and software feature, will give you just that. Hardware vendors have to add an LCD on the outside of the notebook case--à la external displays on clamshell phones--and software vendors must allow their applications to see the screen and work with it. All of that should happen this year, making laptops even more useful than they already are. Smart phones with SideShow capabilities will provide some of the same functionality.

SED TV: After several delays, it looks like TVs using the promising SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter display) technology will finally arrive. The technology powers flat-panel screens that are as bright as standard CRTs but use one-third of the power of an equivalent-size plasma--and don't have the delays you can still see on certain flat-panel screens during high-action scenes in movies or sports. Such screens also have a wider viewing angle than competing technologies do, as well as a higher contrast ratio. In 2007 Canon and Toshiba, which codeveloped SED, plan to release 55-inch TV screens that use the technology.

Wide-scale WiMax: Smaller, private WiMax deployments have already begun, but in 2007 you'll see a widespread rollout of the technology, which promises faster connection speeds for all sorts of mobile devices from cell phones to laptops, with far greater range than Wi-Fi. Sprint Nextel, in partnership with Intel, Motorola, and Samsung, will likely give mainstream WiMax the biggest boost as it deploys the technology starting late in 2007 as part of its 4G cellular service. According to the WiMax Forum, you can deploy a WiMax system and get throughput up to 40 megabits per second for upload and download per channel, for a range of 3 to 10 kilometers. That should allow mobile users to roam, and to obtain broadband-level speeds wherever they go.

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At a Glance
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