The Weekly Round-Up: 08.01.10

What's 2010 got in store?
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

What's 2010 got in store?

Cometh the new year, cometh the consumer technology revolutions.

Not one but two. What could they be? Well, the Round-Up's about to tell you, lucky people.

First up - a new breed of mobile phone.

So you have your basic mobile phone. It has buttons and lots of plastic. Nice. Five-megapixel camera you say? Sweet.

Then of course, there are smartphones. They are made of more expensive shiny materials and like being touched and stroked. Even nicer. Three-megapixel camera you say? Err, wait, how does that work again?

Now, thanks to Google and handset manufacturer HTC, there's a new breed of phone on the market. One which laughs derisively at so-called smartphones and refuses to even acknowledge the pitiful existence of regular mobiles. The age of the 'superphone' is upon us. And it has a five-megapixel camera.

"The Nexus One is where web meets phone," said Google vice president Mario Queiroz this week at the launch of the Google phone. "It's an exemplar of what's possible on mobile phones. It belongs in an emerging category of devices which we call superphones."

Google's Nexus One runs the maturing and popular Android system software. But as for the 'super' tag? It doesn't let you see through walls, or fly or shoot laser beams from your eyes. Or change your clothes very quickly in a telephone booth. Although there is nothing to stop you wearing a cape while making calls.

For the lowdown on the phone's features you can check out the story on silicon.com and see photos of the device here.

The 'super' tag is a bit of next-generation marketing whimsy which probably got the engineer types who run Google very excited. Does that mean the next version will be a super-duper-phone?

Then what next? Ultraphones? Stupendousphones?

Anyway, with Nokia, Google, Apple, Palm and others all competing on handsets, software and thriving third-party developer communities the news is good for the consumer. Choice, choice and yet more choice. Let the battle commence!

Fresh evidence (as if it were needed) that Mac and PC users have a different outlook on life. The BBC has revealed that viewers' programme preferences vary depending on which device they are using.

Those crazy Mac iPlayer users prefer comedy shows such as Mock The Week, while those sensible and studious PC users seem to be more keen on drama, with EastEnders and Waking The Dead proving to be more popular. And everybody thought it was the PC users that had to have a sense of humour.

Auntie also reveals that, as the number of people watching programmes via iPlayer on their mobile phones peaks post 9pm, and again on Saturday and Sunday mornings, "the nation is snuggling up with their favourite BBC programmes from the warmth and comfort of their own bed". That's probably because it's too cold to be anywhere other than under the duvet as Britain shivers under a blanket of snow.

Now, about that second technological revolution. 2010 is the year of the tablet. No, not the type you swallow to relieve that nasty New Year hangover, but the unusually shaped computers that have been around for ages even though nobody has actually wanted to buy them. That all changes this year, apparently.

After a decade or more in the wilderness, the tablet has finally been so hyped up that even the Round-Up is now wondering whether deep down it actually does want one (or even need one) despite having previously had no interest whatsoever in this slightly odd form factor.

So it's over to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where the start of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote was hit by a power blackout. When power returned the Microsoft chief gave an extended demo of Windows 7, which, while rather splendid, was also technically launched last year. He also announced that Project Natal, the Xbox controller-less interface which relies on tracking human movement would arrive in the winter. Yay!

However, what really piqued the crowd was the unveiling of three tablet PCs, each running Windows 7.

But significantly, while a number of other companies unveiled tablet PCs at CES, another company not present at the event is widely expected to unveil one at the end of this month.

If you believe the omens or are given over to poking about in bird entrails, you'll know that the age of the tablet computer will be heralded in by Apple.

The lack of interest in the CES devices is a reflection of the absurd weight of expectation ahead of the Apple event later this month.

(Kudos to the Microsoft team which decided to demonstrate the Kindle software on the tablet computer. The cover of the book showed someone holding an apple in the palm of their hands. Very nice touch.)

If Apple announces the long-awaited Mac Tablet, as bloggers, reporters and analysts and everyone else predicts, the world will quite literally spin off its axis in a global outpouring of gadget lust.

While Apple has never admitted the existence of a tablet, a Wall Street Journal report citing sources within Apple, this week confirmed the long-awaited device would arrive at the end of January.

The stage is set.

If, on the other hand, Steve Jobs doesn't reveal a Tablet Mac and simply adds a camera to the iPod Touch, then the Apple fan boys will have to find a new focus for their gadget obsession.

But the public have spoken. They want their tablet computer revolution and as venerable tech analyst Paul Weller reminds us: "The public gets what the public wants."

Or else...

Finally, life has never been so good for techies. What do you mean you don't believe the Round-Up? Then surely you'll believe the good folk at CareerCast, who operate a US job-search portal.

CareerCast has compiled a list of the very best and worst jobs in the world, measured by such categories as salary, work environment and stress levels.

And wouldn't you know: technology jobs occupy two of the top three slots, providing definitive proof that there's never been a better time to work in technology.

The job of 'software engineer' rates well across all categories, ending up in fifth place for work environment and in the top 30 for stress, income and physical demands.

However, what truly propels software engineers into the lofty heights of the number two job in the world are the prospects, with low unemployment compared to the national (US) average and projected job growth of nearly 45 per cent through to 2016.

According to the research, software engineers have the best hiring outlook of any available job in 2010. Wow.

System analysts take third place, beating out historians and biologists. Losers.

The very top job of all belongs to the actuary, for whom low-stress levels, terrific money, job flexibility and low risk of death makes up for what largely constitutes a hollow, joyless existence without Java and Ruby on Rails.

So there we are - 2010 has started with a flourish.

Deliciously shiny new gadgets have arrived or are arriving shortly and if you happen to be a software engineer or systems analyst you can afford to splash out on them with impunity thanks to your heady salary and stunning job prospects.

A very happy New Year to you indeed.

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