The spring and summer of 2013 has been the most tepid period of technology news I've seen in the 14 years that I've been doing this. Thankfully, the action has finally started to heat up in September and there is a stream of new product announcements we're expecting in the weeks ahead.
If Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch and Apple's new iPhones didn't get you excited, then don't start whining about about tech innovation (or lack thereof) just yet. We've put together a list of the most interesting new devices that are on their way this fall.
1. New Apple iPad and iPad Mini
Look for an iPad event in October. The full-size iPad will get the new 64-bit A7 processor that Apple just announced in the iPhone 5C. That will open up greater capabilities in the iPad and make it an even larger threat as a PC replacement. The big question is whether the iPad Mini will be upgraded to a Retina display.
2. New Amazon Kindle Fire tablets
The fact that Amazon quietly released the new Kindle Paperwhite on September 3 points to the fact that the Kindle Fire tablet is now its flagship product. Expect a much bigger announcement when Amazon unveils the new 7-inch Kindle Fire soon, possibly before the end of September. Will Amazon take the $159 base price even lower? You know that it can, it will. I say look for the price to drop to at least $149.
3. New Google Chromebooks
While the PC market as a whole continues its downward slide, sales of Chromebooks are gaining momentum. That's little surprise. The price is right (most are under $300) and the platform has gotten far more functional over the past 12 months. That's why Acer, ASUS, HP, and Toshiba indicated this week that they will soon be releasing a new wave of Chromebooks based on Intel's hot new Haswell processor. Watch for Samsung to update its best-selling Chromebook this fall as well. But, is Lenovo going to finally announce a mainstream Chromebook soon? That would likely attract more Asian customers and business users. Throw in the latest developments in Chrome Apps, and there's finally lots of interesting stuff happening in the ChromeOS ecosystem.
4. Microsoft Surface 2
The first generation of Microsoft Surface tablets were a market flop. Microsoft had to take a $900 million write-down on the experiment, and eventually dropped the price to sell off inventory. Nevertheless, lots of professionals are happy with the Surface Pro. I think of the Surface Pro as less of a tablet and more of an innovative take on the laptop. But, since Surface Pro launched earlier this year, it's Surface RT that is on track for a fall update, likely renamed Surface 2. This week I received an invite to a Surface event on September 23 in New York. Look for an update to the low-end Surface (possibly powered by Intel Haswell) coming out of that event.
5. Google Nexus 5
Google regularly releases a Nexus device near the end of the year to show off its latest Android software update. Last year's Nexus 4, with a price tag of $299 (unlocked), was so popular that it faced supply shortages. The 4 in Nexus 4 designates the 4-inch screen size. Since the top of the line Android devices have moved to 5-inch screens, the expectation is for this year's Nexus phone to be the Nexus 5, and that may have been accidentally confirmed by Google in its promo video for Android 4.4 KitKat. Look for the Nexus 5 announcement in the October-November timeframe. It will likely be produced by either LG or Motorola.
6. Apple Mac Pro
Apple has stated that the latest version of Mac OS X, dubbed "Mavericks," will launch this fall (it's coming in October, according to the latest report). We should expect that the company will also roll out new hardware to show it off, but the new Mac Pro is the only hardware that is confirmed (see video). While professionals and power users will drool over the Mac Pro, the big unknown is whether Apple will also extend its Retina display to more Macbooks as well as the iMac. Look for the Mac unveilings to be paired with the expected iPad event in October.
7. Microsoft/Nokia phablet
A Nokia phablet has been rumored throughout 2013. Microsoft's recent announcement that it is acquiring Nokia's smartphone business is unlikely to derail those plans. Phablets sales are exploding in Asia and the stylus is one of the drivers of Samsung's market-leading Galaxy Note phablet. Microsoft has intellectual property and experience in pen computing dating back to its original Tablet PC and Windows CE devices. That makes it a natural fit for the phablet market. Nokia will reportedly unveil a 6-inch Windows Phone on Sept. 26 in New York, but that one does not appear to include a stylus. A true pen-capable Galaxy Note competitor from Microsoft may have to wait until 2014.
8. New Apple product
In Apple's Q2 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall." That covers the iPhone, iPad, and Mac updates we've already talked about. But in that call, Cook also touted "the potential of exciting new product categories." That indicates Apple could still have something new to show us as well. The three most likely candidates are an Apple iWatch, an Apple HDTV set, or a 6-inch Apple phablet.
Which of these product launches are you most fired up about? Is there anything big that's not on our list that you are expecting? Jump in the comments and let us know.