Preview 2009 - Technology

Nokia N97

Nokia N97

Totally wired

Hamish Brown ponders the endless possibilities for the internet in 2009

If 2008 was anything to go by, 2009 should bring many great techy things to our lives. Firefox 3 made everything easier and better as domestic broadband got cheaper and faster. The house of innovation that is Google will be hard pushed in 2009 to better their 2008 which saw them roll out a better Gmail, which should introduce SMS support in 2009 and better Google Apps, the suite of free tools that make Word and Excel a thing of the past. And as all your stuff is stored on the internet, physical storage is down the dumper too. In fact, web-based storage and delivery tools such as Dropbox and YouSendIt means you are now free to lose your laptop and lose very little data. Google also released Chrome, a stripped-down, fast-as-bejesus web browser and saw Google’s first foray into hardware sector with the Google Phone, which, significantly, runs Android, Google’s own flavour of Linux. And it’s open source. Further open source adopters included, of all people, Dell, whose Netbook came with an Ubuntu option, so expect more of this in 2009.

Google Maps rolled out contour lines information in Terrain, and the frankly bonkers Street View presents photographs of the street so detailed you can read posters on the wall (but with people’s faces blurred out). You’ll get a chance to spot yourself caught candid in 2009 as Street View for the UK is definitely in the pipeline as we’ve seen the Google car with mounted camera driving round Edinburgh.

2009 should also see more people using, which released a lot of updates and new features (binning a few good ones too mind) in their efforts to build a future model of legal music listening that co-operates with labels, pays royalties to artists and intuitively introduces users to new music.

2008 at last saw the release of a couple of worthy competitors to challenge Apple’s hegemony on music consumption. The Amazon MP3 shop finally launched in the UK, offering high bitrate, DRM-free MP3s for £3 an album, beating the iTunes Store hands down and the release of iTunes competitor Songbird, which supports tracks from MP3 blogs (Hype Machine, etc) newsfeeds, Flickr streams and, like Firefox, supports plugins.

2009 is analog TV switch off for many, so more channels will be launched, some of them HD, thanks to the freed-up bandwidth. Watching TV on your computer will further become the norm in 2009. Your Mum and Dad now use BBC iPlayer with other TV companies such as STV, ITV and Channel 4 now streaming their content on demand. And thanks to Zattoo and TVCatchup cleverly exploiting a loophole in broadcasting law to stream live TV to your computer screen, you are one step closer to chucking the TV set altogether.

Other upcoming gadget releases include the Nokia N97 and inevitably a cheaper iPhone and possibly the rise of digital book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle.