My Tech Gadget Holiday List For 2011

I’m a little worried. My husband has been silent about Christmas gifts this year. In other words, he hasn’t asked for any guidance at all. Which could mean something really good. Or really not.

Everyone can benefit from a little advice now and then, and maybe he might take a peek over here in the Studio, so I thought I would give him the subtle clue of a list of awesome tech toys I wouldn’t mind seeing under my little Christmas / Hanukkah shrub. Here goes:

1. Wacom Inkling

I love art-related gadgets and this one promises to be the best combination of tech and craft – simply clip the receiver to your regular paper or sketchbook, use the special pen and record your every stroke so that you can upload into your computer for storage or further refinement. While I love my Wacom tablets, the Inkling promises greater freedom of movement akin to actual sketching, so that you are less hampered by the medium and able to better express the art. Stores hundreds of images in the receiver before you have to upload to your computer. Export your sketches with layers directly from the Inkling Sketch Manager software into Adobe® Photoshop, Illustrator(CS3+), Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (2011+) or Autodesk Sketchbook Designer. Or save your artwork in PG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG & PDF. At $199, its almost affordable. Can’t wait to sketch up some caricatures with this baby.

2. Sonos Wireless HiFi

An oldie, but a goodie that I have been eyeing for a few years. The Sonos system allows you to wireless stream music all over your home. The system is zoned, so that you can play different music in different zones or spaces. With the Zoneplayers and Controllers, you can set up your music any way you want, attaching the player to traditional speakers and amps as a replacement to your traditional audio media players or serving as a standalone media / speaker system. With the wireless, remote Controller, you can then walk around your home and make changes to the music in any space in which you have access to a Zoneplayer. Stream your stored music or access one of the streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, Napster, Rhapsody, or MOG. Endless music. So cool! Now my kids can listen to Bruno Mars downstairs while I rock some Charlie Parker upstairs. Prices range, depending on your set up. But you can get Zoneplayers starting below $300 and controllers starting below $200.

3. Kindle Fire

Yes, I know it’s the poor cousin to the noble iPad, but I have to admit, I’m intrigued. At 7 inches, it is easy to grab and store, but big enough to make your media look good. And that is what Fire’s all about – media. Read your Kindle books, watch Amazon Prime Movies, browse through digital magazines, and listen to your Amazon Music library. Plus, it has a snappy Amazon-crafted Silk browser and a neat UI based loosely on Android. Grab email and load up some apps – while you can’t easily get access to the entire Android Market, you can get a nice selection via the Amazon App Store. Full color, touchscreen, fast dual core processor, games, free cloud storage, document management and a book lending library. That’s a lot for $199 – a VERY competitive price. Think of it as 8 hardcover books – same price, much lighter and able to carry a whole lot more than that! Yup. The Fire would make a lovely stocking stuffer indeed.

4. Livescribe Echo Smartpen

This is also not such a new product, but a great update on a old standby. And, as you can tell, I have a fondness for digital writing implements. The Echo smartpen is more about note taking than scribbling. The uber-cool pen records both audio and handwritten notes in real-time and can link the two together so that you can easily retrieve the audio at a particular point in the written notes. You have to use Livescribe’s proprietary notebooks, but you also get a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening in, password protection for security, and an OLED display to show name of the Smartpen and definitions of the hand written words via built in applications. USB connector, built in microphone and speaker, and up to 4 or 8 GB of built in memory. That’s a lot of notes. You also get the Livescribe software, a digital text conversion program, and online storage space for notes. Customize your pen with a horde of apps, running the gamut of games to productivity. Prices start at $150.

5. Fuji Finepix X100

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to shoot film, first and foremost. With the declining supply of decent film cameras and places to develop the stuff, I have had to migrate over to digital, defaulting to the camera that is always with me – my iPhone. But I seriously drool over this gorgeous, retro-looking but advanced-feature laden beauty, the Fuji Finepix X100. Perhaps it is because it looks and feels so much like the film cameras of yore, perhaps it is its unique dual viewfinder (both optical and electronic), its crystal clear lens and manual and automatic shooting modes, or the clear quality of feel when you heft it. Or maybe it is the stunning image quality this beauty reproduces. There is no doubt that the X100 is for me – classic film camera style with modern cutting edge results. Can be had for under $1,200.

6. Asus EEE Pad Transformer TF101

It’s a tablet, no, it’s a laptop, no it’s a tablet! When you can’t decide whether you want the efficiency of a tablet or the functionality of a laptop’s full keyboard, check out the EEE Pad Transformer. It’s two gadgets in one. More of a high end Android-powered offering, this pad has a great feature set and excellent flexibility. Big Tegra 2 1.0GHz dual-core CPU and Android 3.2 Honeycomb O.S. with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgradability. And, for you iPad haters, Adobe Flash 10.2 support. Here’s the gimmick – a full QWERTY keyboard as well as touchpad input with Polaris Office. Extra long 16 hours of battery life, web storage, two USB ports, SD and Micro SD card readers and 3D stereo. Dock your mobile keyboard and it looks and feels just like a laptop. Or drop the keyboard and go tablet-style. Why choose? The Transformer looks and feels great. It knocks a Benjamin off the basic iPad as well – more money for apps. Starting at under $400 for the 16GB model.

7. Galaxy Nexus Smartphone

I really can’t complain. I have a couple of great smartphones already – the iPhone 4 and the LG G2x. But I have to admit, the recently released Galaxy Nexus is more than a little tempting. With the cleanest, purest version of Google’s latest mobile operating system, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and a sleek hardware package care of Samsung, this phone is a beauty. The Galaxy Nexus has an HD Contour display, Super AMOLED 4.6 inch 720p screen, a 1.3MP front camera, a 5MP low-light optimized rear camera with flash. A 1.2 GHz dual core processor keeps things moving along. I admit, as a user of two fantastic phones, the Nexus’ greatest appeal is the pure Ice Cream Sandwich experience. If you are similarly interested, you can pick up a Galaxy Nexus from Verizon for $300.

8. VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner

Moving into the realm of practical, I love the idea of paperless and a nifty gadget like the Magic Wand scanner can get you there. This portable bar allows you to scan by simply passing the reader over the desired paper and to store the image on the onboard Micro SD card. Format is JPEG and interface is USB 2.0. Selectable scan widths up to 8.5″ and color or B&W selectable. Available in small, regular size and Bluetooth-enabled. The little display shows your settings, number of stored scans, capacity of your card, battery life, and resolution. There are scan and error lights as well. There is also a Microsoft file stitching program on board for larger documents. And, best of all, it comes in colors! Make mine red. All that and under $100. Hard to beat – it fits nicely in that stocking.

9. B&W C5 In-Ear Headphones

My wish list would not be complete without something from my favorite speaker makers, Bowers & Wilkins. This year, they released these gorgeous C5 earbuds and I wouldn’t mind a pair of my own. Noise-isolating, comfortable and sonically awesome. Hands-free on your iPhone. These are the phones for critical listening – I wouldn’t recommend them to the heavy rap or processed pop crowd. Balanced and beautiful. Feel good and sound good, the B&W way. Consider these a replacement for those diamond studs – they will set you back around $200.


10. AppleMacBook Air (and throw in an iPad 2 while you’re at it)

Hey, it’s a wish list, right? Why can’t I have my aluminum and glass cake and eat it too? I love my first gen iPad and year+ old MacBook Pro, but who wouldn’t want the latest and greatest the finest consumer gadget design firm ever has to offer? Sign me up for a 13.3 inch MacBook air and a 32 GB WiFi / 3G iPad 2, please? I promise I will be good for the next 12 months!

Well, that’s it. Not too bad, right? It could have been worse. I could have asked for my own private island, a Premier League football team or a pony. It’s all about the perspective. Happy holidays from the Studio – hope your season is filled with happiness, joy, light and fellowship. And a few shiny new gadgets. Peace out!

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Last Minute Predictions for 2011

‘Tis the time of year for predictions and resolutions. As I am not a New Year’s resolutions kind of gal (I try to resolve at will during the course of the year), I will try my hand at a few predictions. As this is a tech blog, I will focus on a few predictions on tech developments to come in 2011. Bear in mind that I am by no means a tech “expert”, but I am very well read on the subject – as my tech blogs and social connects keep me pretty informed on what is happening. Couple my voracious reading with a penchant for pattern recognition, and maybe I might get a few of these right.

Over the past year, web interaction, particularly social web interaction, has moved increasingly to our mobile devices. If you consider the iPad and its tablet progeny mobile (many tend to run mobile OS, although not exclusively), then I predict mobile computing will only rise significantly in 2011. Cutting edge adopters are leading the way in exhibiting what can be accomplished with smartphones and tablets. The justifications for preferring a traditional laptop to these more pocketable devices are dwindling. I see the real driving factor behind the trend to be professional adoption of these devices. I myself have stopped carrying my keypad mobile devices in favor of ‘Phone and ‘Pad for business and personal use. As the options increase (read: Blackberry’s Playbook and the myriad Android and Windows-powered units, as well as a possible WebOS device or two from HP), these form factors will likely take over for mobile users. And mobile use itself will only increase as devices become more able. Sort of like a feedback loop, with each end feeding the other. More devices and users, more uses and better apps. Breeding more users and more devices. Etc.

Another trend I predict in 2011 is the rise of niche social networks. This is not to say that Twitter and Facebook will fade away, nothing of the sort. These giants will continue to be giants but a sizable piece of the action will shift to niche networks for specific purposes. Sites like Amplify for reblogging, communication and conversation, Storify and curated.by for curation, apps like Instagram for photo sharing, and communities like Quora for (mostly) knowledgable questions, answers and information gathering are becoming hot properties and will only get hotter. Lawyers – take note. If you are interested in sharing your expertise, don’t get left out of the opportunities that sites like Amplify and Quora offer – a ready audience lurks there looking for information, particularly of the intelligent variety.

And consider the lure of group buying – it is hard to ignore the success of Groupon. Why? Well, my sense of it is that the same motivations that are driving Groupon to unprecedented valuation are behind the forced changes in the legal industry. Every one loves a deal, and a deal usually represents the marriage of value and price. If the buyer believes he or she is getting the best value for the best price, its a winner. Group buying via the social net offers just that – a tangible cut in price on valued items. Look for more group buying apps and communities and consider how you can leverage these sorts of opportunities in your own professional pursuits. And keep an eye out for more interesting e-commerce developments in the near future.

I foresee even more migration to the cloud, objections and security concerns notwithstanding. It just makes sense. While not everything may become cloudworthy in the immediate or near future, I believe that professionals and non-professionals will move more and more of their data to that unified location, accessible from anywhere and not necessarily limited by the size of your local storage. This will be facilitated by the integration of unique applications to cloud storage sites, making your data more maleable and useable in unique ways. And SAAS will become more attractive as the tech behind web applications improves.

Finally, like the exponential increase in tech wonders that have rolled out across the latter part of the twentieth century, the convex tangent curve of tech development over the next year + promises to rise more sharply still – keeping people like me glued to their favorite news delivery sources.  Whatever comes, I have no doubt it will keep us wide-eyed with wonder. Happy 2011!