2011's Top 10 Most Anticipated Gear

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Who’s ready for 2010 to expire? Man, we are. It’s not that 2010 was a bad year or anything, but it was all iPad-this, iPhone-that with a bit of Android news bits scattered here and there.

With the products in the following list lined up for release, 2011 is set to be a much more balanced year. Of course Apple will still be a major part of the news cycle, but everyone from Nintendo to HP to even start-up companies like Notion Ink should be able to enjoy a fair share of the spotlight too.

3DS

Backstory: Nintendo randomly announced a 3D version of the Game Boy last March. The announcement really came out of nowhere. Nintendo, “Hey, yo. We’re working on a 3D version of the DS. BYE!” But then E3 rolled around where the 3DS made its official debut and we went hands-on. Neither announcement mentioned a price or release date though, which has caused the industry to speculate wildly. Finally Nintendo announced that while a 2010 launch was originally planned, the 3DS will hit Japan on February 26 with the US and European launch in March.

Hot in ’11: 3D is fun, but the current implementation with glasses and whatnot kills the appeal. The 3DS does not require glasses and it’s really 3D. Hollywood might be bumbling around with the tech, but the Nintendo 3DS could kick it mainstream. The system is going to be pricey with a sticker around $300, but this is no Virtual Boy. It’s the real deal and something you’re going to have to peep at Best Buy to believe just how good the games look in 3D.

iPad 2

Backstory: Steve Jobs sat down in a comfy leather chair on the stage of San Francisco’s Moscone Center and effortlessly launched the iPad. It’s now one of the fastest selling gadgets in history with over 3 million sold in the first three months of its life alone. Some estimates put the iPad on top of the entire tablet scene with a whooping 95% marketshare. But it’s not perfect. Ports are missing, there’s no camera, the 4:3 aspect ratio is no good for movies, etc. That’s where the iPad 2 comes in.

Hot in ’11: Apple could simply morph the current iPad into a different size and it will still break all sales records. But here’s hoping the company listened to the criticism of the original iPad and worked in some of the suggestions. Early leaks seem to indicate that it will at least have a camera, which only makes sense with Apple’s recent Facetime virtual product strategy. A lower price would be nice as well even if it means a smaller screen size.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Backstory: RIM is constantly talked about like they’re the underdog in the smartphone race, but the Canadian-based company quietly stays their course while shipping out BlackBerrys en mass. Each quarter they ship more than the previous. They know what they’re doing and the company’s first tablet, the PlayBook, is set to capitalize on that brand love. It was announced way back in September after a series of leaks and pre-announcements, though it won’t hit the market until the first quarter of 2011 (probably March). Will it be an also-ran like the Storm? Maybe. But maybe not.

Hot in ’11: RIM knows a thing or two about what the enterprise market wants in mobile — maybe even more so than Microsoft or Apple. That’s where the PlayBook will make the biggest impression. Corporations will likely snap up the PlayBook instead of the iPad as long as it integrates with their IT infrastructure without issue. The PlayBook might not be as a big of a hit with the direct consumer market — it will likely steal Samsung Galaxy Tab sales rather than iPad sales — but RIM will be just fine as long as companies and government agents buy them for execs. Obama loves his special NSA-secured BlackBerry. Perhaps he’ll get a special PlayBook as well.

Motorola Droid Tablet

Backstory: The current crop of Android tablets suck on pickles. Even the Samsung Galaxy Tab is only for die hard Android fans. That’s not Samsung or any of the manufacturers’ fault though. Google’s current versions of Android are simply not meant for tablets. Android 3.0 is set to change that and the Motorola Droid tablet will likely be the first out of the gate rocking the new interface. Mainstream consumers are more familiar with the Droid brand than Android, mainly because the line has been the only real hit hardware during the OS’s short life.

Hot in ’11: Motorola knows how to make Android handsets. The hardware is top-notch. So is the marketing. Motorola and Google have been said to be working closely on the tablet so it should correct many of the downsides of the current Android tablets. Hopefully both companies follow Apple’s lead by creating a product centered around the user experience, not hardware specs — but having a Tegra 2 in there will be nice.

Verizon iPhone 4

Backstory: The iPhone 4 is great. AT&T is not. That’s that.

Hot in ’11: The iPhone 4 is great and so is Verizon. That’s that.

PalmPad

BackStory: Palm’s last ditch effort in the smartphone world went herp and derp. But it wasn’t the software’s fault. The Pre and Pixi ran the [potentially] amazing webOS operating system. It just so happened that the hardware and wireless carrier roll-out were both sub-par. So tl;dr, Palm was on the quick road to gadget purgatory until HP bought them up for just over a billion dollars. The new overlords quickly went on record stating that new webOS products, including tablets, were on tap. The PalmPad – or is it palmPad? — could be the first real iPad contender.

Hot in ’11: WebOS provides a fantastic user experience and just feels like it could be even better on a larger screen. The PalmPad’s philosophy will likely be a lot like the iPad’s where hardware takes second chair to the software. Then with the power of HP’s market-leading manufacturing and distribution channels, the PalmPad is set to be a hit.

Sony PSP phone

Backstory: Android phones are well established in the mobile phone market now. They might be known as Droids by many consumers, but that marketing coup from Motorola only helped grow the entire sector. Then there’s Sony Ericsson, whose Android phone, the Xperia, isn’t exactly a market leader. The PSP phone could change that by being the first true gaming mobile phone — well, first since the N-Gage died.

Hot in ’11: Apple pretty much has the mobile gaming field to themselves right now. There are only a handful of Android games worth talking about. But there are a plethora of PSP games. If Sony can combine the mobile power of Android with the gaming library of the PSP, it would instantly capture a significant chunk of the tasty Android marketshare pie. Well, as long as it launches on the right carrier at a competitive price.

Notion Ink Adam

Backstory: Notion Ink revealed a stunning hardware concept in late 2009. Then CES 2010 rolled around where the hardware took a different form and the company showed off the clever interface. But that’s where the fairytale ends. The Adam was first supposed to ship in the summer of 2010. That didn’t happen. Then it was delayed until November. They missed that deadline, too. Now the tablet is up for pre-order with the first batch already sold out with an early 2011 ship date expected.

Hot in ’11: The price is right and the hardware seems adequate. The software demos released by the company show a smooth and fluid interface. The young company made some marketing blunders primarily by over-promising and under-delivering, but if the Adam actually starts to ship worldwide on time and lives up to the hype, it could be a great tablet for many users.

Chevy Volt 2.0

Backstory: GM’s Chevy Volt went from working concept to dealer’s lots in record time. Just under four years for those keeping track. The automaker is taking a fair amount of flack for the $41k+ sticker price though. Still, GM is moving forward and the rumor is another vehicle (or two) based on the Volt’s Voltec’s plug-in hybrid powertrain will be unveiled during January’s North American International Auto Show.

Hot in ’11: The next Voltec vehicle is said to bring the technology downmarket a bit. This was of course the plan all along as automakers develop platforms that are shared by many vehicles, but a lower-priced Volt should act as a counter to many of the arguments against the high price. This cheaper Volt will likely have a more pedestrian styling and lack some of the techno-wiz gadgets on the inside of the Volt. It’s the price that matters. The goal should be to bring the price closer to the $30k mark before government tax credits kick in.

The Old Republic (BioWare’s Star Wars MMO for the PC)

Backstory: Is there any game that can possibly “dethrone” World of Warcraft? Yes, it’s called The Old Republic, and it’s tentatively penciled in for a release some time next year. There’s a few reasons for this, chief among them that BioWare generally makes OK games. Whether or not it knows how to make an MMO is yet to be seen. Plus, the game (obviously) has the Star Wars license, and those guys are nothing if not loyal to the universe.

Hot in ’11: The Old Republic should be a very important game in 2011, but that’s assuming EA Louse’s accusations weren’t truthful. The Louse shook the industry to its very core a few weeks ago when he (it?) accused BioWare of being a bunch of bumbling fools who have no idea what they’re doing, burning through cash like they’re in a Rick Ross video. (Does he burn cash in videos? It seems like something he’d do.) But considering the game has literally years of hype going for it, I can’t see it being anything but a big hit—at least for the first month.

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