What to Expect in Printers in 2012

Want to print from your smartphone or tablet–or from another city? The printers of 2012 will handle that for you–and offer other ways to use the Web or email to make printing easier.

By Melissa Riofrio, PCWorld    Dec 25, 2011 9:00 pm

What to Expect in Printers in 2012No matter how clearly our world of online photo albums, Google Docs, and e-cards may seem–yet again–to ring the death for anything on paper, sometimes you still want to print.

But these days, you want to print from whatever device you happen to be using–not just from a PC. The year 2012 will bring more options for mobile printing via a wireless connection to a local device, and for cloud printing–using email as the backbone for printing documents to a local or remote printer with its own email address (and an Internet connection).

Mobile and Cloud Printing in a Nutshell

Mobile printing at the consumer level started with phone apps that let users send photos directly to a nearby printer via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Those simple utilities still exist, but a year or so ago, Apple, Google, HP, and Lexmark began introducing further innovations, bringing us to where we are today.

Apple’s AirPrint, which debuted a year ago, lets you use Wi-Fi to send a wide range of print jobs directly from an iOS device to a nearby AirPrint-compatible printer. Initially, those printers were limited to a handful of HP models, but the growing list now also includes printers from Brother, Canon, Epson, Kodak, and Lexmark. For more information, check Apple’s list of Airprint-compatible printers.

Google Cloud PrintingGoogle’s Cloud Print app, available in what seems to be perpetual beta form, lets users print via email on any printer connected to a computer that has Internet access. New printers designated as Cloud Ready from Epson, HP, and Kodak can receive jobs without the PC middleman (though they still need an Internet connection).

HP and Lexmark: Printer Pioneers

In late 2010, HP unveiled Web-based Print Apps for printing everything from maps and movie tickets to puzzle pages for kids. It also launched the consumer version of ePrint, which lets users email a print job from anywhere to an ePrint-compatible HP printer.

The year 2012 will bring more apps and more compatible printers. Also, HP has relaxed the ePrint process a bit, making it a little more user-friendly and resolving some difficulties associated with printing from certain phones or platforms.

Around the same time, Lexmark’s SmartSolutions–a growing collection of productivity apps available with certain Lexmark small-office printers–added apps that let users display RSS news feeds or the weather report on a printer’s color LCD. Since then, the SmartSolutions collection has grown to include ways to access a number of popular online services, from Facebook and Twitter to Box.net and Evernote. In addition, Lexmark recently launched mobile printing apps for Android, Apple iOS, Google Docs, and Google Cloud Print.

In 2012, More Printers, More Choices

In 2012, vendors that are playing catch-up will give you more choices.

Canon Pixma MG6220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-In-OneCanon Pixma MG6220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-In-OneCanon’s fall 2011 lineup included two printers (the Pixma MG6220 and Pixma MG8220) with a number of advanced mobile capabilities: the Easy-PhotoPrint mobile app, for printing photos from compatible Android and Apple smartphones and tablets; Pixma Cloud Link, for printing Google Docs and Gmail attachments from a mobile device; and (for registered users of Canon iMage Gateway or Picasa Web Albums) access to photo albums and printing templates for stationery, calendars, and other pieces.

Another new Canon model, the Pixma MG4120, is partially compatible with Pixma Cloud Link–but only in connection with its photo-oriented features, not with its broader document printing features.

Epson has collected its new mobile and cloud printing services under the umbrella brand of Epson Connect. Email Print lets you send an email message from a mobile device to an enabled Epson printer, which can then print the message or its attachment. Epson iPrint permits direct printing via Wi-Fi to compatible iOS and Android devices. A handful of new Epson printers are also Cloud Ready. A full list of Epson printers with mobile and cloud printing capabilities is available on the vendor’s website.

Kodak is embracing mobile and cloud printing enthusiastically. Most of its new models are Cloud Ready, and all of its printers can use Kodak’s own Email Print to email print jobs as attachments. Kodak is also trying to one-up HP ePrint by accepting larger email messages and email attachments than HP does.

The year 2012 will be a good one for printers. Though the underlying technology hasn’t changed much, the addition of mobile printing via Wi-Fi and of cloud printing via email now allows printers to follow their users onto their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Senior Editor Melissa Riofrio covers printers for PCWorld.

Seven Questions About Printing for Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke

When you consider the fact that Lexmark is a printer company — and not even an especially large one by comparison to others in the business — you might intuitively conclude that it’s a company on the defensive.

“People don’t print anymore,” goes the refrain of conventional wisdom, “not even at the office.” It’s easier and more efficient now, when you need to refer to a digital document and have it close at hand, to send it to a tablet like an iPad, or even to a smartphone.

And yet, Lexmark is anything but on the defensive. It has been expanding in recent years, primarily by acquisition. In October, it spent $50 million to acquire Pallas Athena, a Dutch software firm specializing in managing and automating business processes — the flow of information through a company. Lexmark combined Pallas Athena with its previous acquisition, Perceptive Software, for which it paid $280 million in 2010; Kansas-based Perceptive specializes in managing unstructured data. Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke says that the two companies combined give Lexmark a position that is unique among companies in the printer business: The ability to help a customer manage and access information in whatever format makes the most sense.

While Lexmark is significantly smaller by revenue than its biggest rival — Hewlett-Packard’s printing division booked $26 billion in fiscal 2011, while Lexmark is on track to report about $4.2 billion in revenue, according to the consensus view of analysts — it is still able to win business away from its larger rivals, and keep those customers. I asked Rooke about this in a recent conversation:

AllThingsD: Paul, the conventional wisdom has held for a long time that printing was a dying business, and that paper was going to go away because everything would be digital. I think that’s been the general criticism of Lexmark since it first spun out of IBM 20 years ago. What do you think of that?

Paul Rooke: We’ve always seen ourselves not so much as a hardware company. When we started, back in 1991, we were evolving from printers to multifunction printers to fleet management. You can see that in our actions. We also want customers for life. We create industry-specific solutions in a responsible way. It’s not just the blocking and tackling of managing a company’s fleet of printers, but it’s about getting intimate with their business processes and managing the paper and ink and so on. And as we’ve evolved, we’ve become more of a solutions company. We like to say “print less, save more.” When we say that, we’re all about helping with smart devices and managing that fleet. But it also refers to capturing, managing and accessing content within the context of a business process.

Well, let’s talk about that a little. When you say “capturing and managing content and information,” what does that mean?

As we found ourselves managing these multifunction devices that have scanners built into them, we found ourselves capturing content off of paper and into digital infrastructure, and we’re looking to do more of that than we have been. You’ll see us do more interpretation of content and automatically routing documents according to what’s on them. But it doesn’t stop there. We found ourselves scanning documents and putting them somewhere and managing them. Our acquisition of Perceptive Software last year has really strengthened that as a value-add for us. A lot of the content that comes in is this messy unstructured content, and with Perceptive, we’re able to help customers manage this unstructured content and finally access it in the context of their business process. And that’s where our Pallas Athena acquisition comes in. When you put it all together, it puts us in a unique position in the industry. We’re not just a printer maker, but we link into the business processes and provide added value for our customers.

“Unstructured data” is a phrase I hear a lot. What does it mean, specifically, to Lexmark?

It’s anything that doesn’t fit in massive databases that are arranged in traditional rows and columns, like financial information and shipping information. In contrast, you might take something like an admission system at a university. It might have some core intake information that’s structured, like a name and birthdate, but then there’s a lot of other information around it, like transcripts and reference letters, that goes into making a decision. Another example is in hospitals, where you have a doctor or nurse looking into a patient file. All hospitals have information systems that keep track of the basic information on a patient. But then there’s other information — like blood tests and X-rays — that’s unstructured, which the doctor will want to look at in order to make a better-informed decision. As you go around in all industries, there are a lot of examples of this sort of data. It really appears in all business environments.

And yet, the core business is still printers and printing. And for myself, I find myself printing a lot less, sending things I need to refer to to my iPhone or iPad and skipping the printer. Do people like me represent a long-term danger to you, or is that really just an issue of perception?

When you look at information generally, the amount of information and content that’s being generated just continues to grow. The ability to access it in an organized fashion is a key challenge for customers, whether they print it or not. But with that growth in information, even if a smaller percentage is printed, there’s still an opportunity for growth in absolute terms. But having said that, as our strategy has evolved, if a customer chooses to print it or store it, we’re going to be there for them. We’re trying to put the tools and technology in place for whichever way the customer goes. There’s a number of industries — government is one, social services is another — where there are customer-facing industries, where you need to fill out a form or a document that requires a signature; many still prefer paper, because it’s inexpensive and easy. Some choose to do that digitally, some choose paper. And when we talk to customers, they’re asking for help in bridging those two worlds. That’s where we jump in and help.

What is the most important thing that customers are saying to you, in terms of their needs? Is it all cost control, which is top of mind so often these days? Or is it something more?

Cost control is certainly there, as is lower-cost devices. These are certainly propositions that play well with customers who want to reduce the cost of their imaging infrastructure. When we engage customers in the managed-service relationship, they often don’t even know how many printers, copiers, fax machines and scanners they have, until we help them assess it and optimize it and hook their devices into a system that helps them control it all. And our managed print services are helping them keep those costs under control. The other thing we’re hearing about is process improvement. With Perceptive, and now Pallas Athena, we help them understand better what their processes are. We have a lot of technologies that map these processes out — not what you think they are, but what they really are. So many times, when you do process improvement, you spend months in a conference room, drawing out what you think the process is on a white board. We can eliminate that step by plugging in the tools and doing a quick digital assessment of what the process actually is, and map it for you digitally. So if you think your process is made up of steps A, B and C, we can come and show you that there’s also D, E, F and G that you didn’t think of. We’ll show you why they’re there, and where the bottlenecks are, with factual data you can work with. Which is a lot better than speculation.

Where do you think your competitors — and name whomever you want — are vulnerable? Where are you winning business away from competitors?

We turned 20 years old this year. Many thought we wouldn’t survive. I think, while the technologies have certainly evolved, the thing that has differentiated us from our competitors is our depth. We go deep with our customers, and get very intimate with them in their industry and their environment and their processes. That’s why customers buy Lexmark. When we’re up against people like HP or Xerox or others, we’re able to get closer to the customer than they are, and do things in a more customized fashion. I think we’ll be doing more of that as we fill out our technology set.

So what kinds of things should we expect from Lexmark in 2012? Are you done doing acquisitions?

You’ll see us enhance our capabilities. Some people think we’re moving away from printing, and that’s not it at all. But we’re adding to it. In addition to that, we’ll continue to integrate Perceptive and Pallas Athena into a more integrated suite of solutions. That will put us in a unique position. The acquisitions are part of the strategy. When we identify gaps or holes in our offerings, we look to fill them either organically or inorganically with acquisitions. We’ll continue to look at those as part of the strategy. We’re not looking for a big one. The ones we have done have been smaller, but of companies with technologies that have high potential for synergies. But we’re still looking.

How to master your Facebook Timeline

By Christina Bonnington, WIRED
Tue December 20, 2011 | www.cnn.com
There are a number of ways you can personalize your Timeline so it highlights the posts, pictures and events you cherish most.
There are a number of ways you can personalize your Timeline so it highlights the posts, pictures and events you cherish most.

(WIRED) — Facebook has rolled out its new Timeline feature to the masses.

This ultra-illustrative, chronological listing of posts, photos, shared links, check-ins, and more is a radically different arrangement than the Facebook profile you’ve been used to.

And now that your life can be exposed for everyone to see — and scrutinize — you may be interested in curating the new interface. Once you’ve activated Facebook Timeline (go here to do so), you’ve got seven days to tweak it to make sure it’s just how you like before it goes live for everyone to see.

Below are five quick tips on how to personalize, privatize, and generally get the most out of Facebook’s newest feature. It doesn’t take long to master the new interface, and it’s an important exercise for anyone interested in, well, reputation management.

1. Privacy 101: How to hide things

You probably already know that Facebook has controversial positions on privacy. So you may now find that some things included on your Timeline are best kept from curious eyes. This could be anything from an embarrassing status message you posted in simpler social media times, to a rant your ex left on your wall a few months ago.

To hide a Timeline element, click the pencil icon at the top of the offending post, then choose “Hide from Timeline.” Easy.

And please note: Any privacy settings you’ve already set still apply to the Timeline interface. So the photos of you getting wild at last weekend’s kegger are still safe from Mom.

If you prefer to keep your profile public, but don’t want everyone to see what you posted back in high school, for example, you can also tweak your Timeline settings more generally. Click the arrow next to your Home button at the top of the screen to access your Privacy Settings. Scroll down to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts,” then choose “Manage Past Post Visibility.” Now click “Limit Old Posts” — all

2. Tell your life story: How to add past events

Privacy, schmivacy! Perhaps, you want the whole world to know the day you were born, the first time you rode a bike, and that debate club award you got in high school. These events aren’t listed on your Timeline, but they can be.

To add a status update, photo, place check-in, or life event to your Timeline, simply hover the mouse over the line in the center of the page until it turns into a plus sign, and reveals the option to add one of those four types of posts.

Now, Facebook can accurately reflect your entire life — and not just the events that occurred after you first signed on.

3. Add some individuality: How to customize your Timeline

There are a number of ways you can personalize your Timeline so it highlights the posts, pictures and events you cherish most.

First, you can add a cover to your Timeline. Toward the top of your profile, above the buttons where it says “Update Info,” you should see “Add a Cover.” Once you click that, you can select an image from your photos, or opt to upload a new image. Once it loads, you can adjust the positioning of your cover image.

If you set a cover photo and then decide it’s not as great as you first thought, just hover your mouse over the image, and a “Change Cover” option menu will pop up, letting you reposition the image or select a new one.

For photo albums you’ve created, you can change the primary photo that displays (you could do this before, but now the process is different). Simply click the pencil icon in the upper corner of the album post, and select “Change Primary Photo.”

You can also choose to highlight a post — expanding it from a small, half-page-size post to a wide-screen version — by selecting the star icon in the post’s upper-right corner. Conversely, you can click the star on a maximized featured post to make it normal again.

4. Appearances matter: How to check out your Timeline from different angles

If you decide to make a number of posts and photos private or hidden from your Timeline, you can still get the full, complete view of your Facebook action history.

On your Timeline, click “Activity Log.” There you’ll find posts and information you need to review before it publishes to your profile, as well as a complete look at your interactions on Facebook. This is log completely private to you.

You can choose to filter what you see by clicking the “All” dropdown menu at the top. You can choose to see only your posts, posts by others, posts from specific Facebook apps (“Hmm, let’s look at my past Farmville accomplishments”), photos and more.

Like before, you can also check how others view your profile. Next to “Activity Log” is a cog icon. Click that, and you can choose “View As…” and either enter a friend’s name or click the “public” link to see how your profile looks to strangers.

5. Information overload: How to organize friends and filter updates

Now that your Timeline is all straightened out, you might as well do some house cleaning on what shows up in your Newsfeed.

When you add a friend or follow someone’s public updates, Facebook automatically sets the level of posts you see to “Most Updates.” You can change this by going to that profile, and clicking the “Subscribed” button. You can change it to “Only Important” updates or “All updates,” and you can also filter what types of posts you’re interested in seeing: things like life events, status updates, or photos.

And if you haven’t done so already, you can organize friends into lists, a la the Google+ Circles feature. Facebook Lists rolled out in September.

Just go to the left-hand side of your Newsfeed page, click “More,” and toward the bottom you’ll see “Lists.” You can add friends individually to lists like Close Friends, Family, or Co-workers. You can click “More” next to Lists to add other lists of your choosing — “Acquaintances,” “Poker Club Members,” you get the picture.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends, but I’d venture to say that most of you reading this have far more than that, so this will help streamline your Facebooking experience.

One last thing: If you’re one of those people who’s still into “poking” your friends, you can still do that. Go to your friend’s profile, and the Poke option is listed under a gear cog dropdown menu next to “Message.”

Christmas Day Online Spending Up 16.4 Percent; Mobile Sales Up 173 Percent

techcrunch.com
Record Cyber

It looks like consumers in the U.S. were shopping online alongside opening presents this year. According to IBM’s Coremetrics retail data, online sales on Christmas Day grew by 16.4 percent from last year.

Similar to trends seen over the Thanksgiving holidays, more shoppers were flocking to mobile devices to complete purchases. IBM says that 18.3 percent of all online sessions on retailers’ sites were initiated from a mobile device, up from 8.4 percent in 2010 (an increase of 117.8 percent).

Sales completed from mobile devices grew, reaching 14.4 percent versus 5.3 percent on Christmas Day 2010, representing an increase of 172.9 percent. In terms of specific mobile devices, the iPad led all mobile device traffic to retailers at 7 percent, followed by the iPhone at 6.4 percent and Android at 5 percent.

The day after Christmas also brought increased online sales, says IBM. E-commerce sales for December 26 were up 10 percent and 18.7 percent of all online sessions on a retailer’s site were initiated from a mobile device. And 13.8 of total sales came from mobile devices.

The holiday shopping season is still not over, as many online retailers are offering discounts post-Christmas and around New Years. We’ll see how online retail spending performs over the next week, but all signs are pointing to record sales this year.

NFL playoffs, Super Bowl to be streamed online

Mark Milian, CNN
By Mark Milian, CNN
Tue December 20, 2011 www.cnn.com
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers, considered a favorite to reach the Super Bowl.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers, considered a favorite to reach the Super Bowl.

(CNN) — Football’s big game is coming to the small screen.

For the first time ever the Super Bowl, along with some postseason NFL games, will be streamed online and through the league’s mobile apps, the NFL and partner Verizon Wireless announced Tuesday.

The upcoming wild card games, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl — TV’s most-watched annual event — will be streamed for free to computers on NFL.com and NBCSports.com.

NBC’s live stream will run different ads from those on TV, but Super Bowl viewers will be able to pull up the TV commercials on demand through the website shortly after they air, an NBC Sports spokesman said.

On phones and tablets, Verizon is the only cellular carrier that offers NFL games through an exclusive deal.

Verizon smartphones with a high-speed 4G LTE data plan can stream the games through the NFL Mobile app for free, a spokeswoman for the carrier said. Mobile devices with 3G service, such as the iPhone, iPad or older smartphones, require a $10-per-month Verizon Video subscription, she said.

The NFL does not stream most games for free during the regular season. NBC began streaming Sunday Night Football games through its sports website three years ago. NBC announced last week that it had extended its contract with the NFL through 2022.

The playoffs start on January 7. The Super Bowl will be played on February 5 in Indianapolis.

Ticketing 3.0: Facebook Becomes A Box Office

By: Eliot Van Buskirk, 12/20/11, techcrunch.com
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Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Evolver.fm Editor Eliot Van Buskirk, who has covered and occasionally anticipated music and technology intersections for under 15 years for CNET, Wired.com, McGraw-Hill, and The Echo Nest.

Once upon a time, we bought our concert tickets from a good old-fashioned cashier at the local box office. As time went on, we took some of the work out of the hands of the cashier and started buying our tickets at home — on the Web. (For a fee, mind you.) And if what we’re seeing today is any indication, the next step in the evolution of the box office? Facebook.

Ticketfly’s Facebook ticketing app, which launched last week, aims to boost sales by letting people know when their friends buy a ticket. The big idea is to complete the ticket-buying circle — from finding out about a show to buying a ticket — without ever sending the Facebook faithful outside the confines of their favorite social network.

This could quickly become a big part of the ticketing market. Facebook’s artist pages are putting up old-style MySpace numbers as fans increasingly look to Facebook for artists they already know, and others they want to learn about. On top of that, many music services send, or “scrobble,” listening activity to the social network. All of that musical activity makes Facebook a smart place to sell tickets.

This marks the first time users will be able to buy show tickets on a Facebook artist page without being funneled to an external site, such as Ticketmaster, says Ticketfly, which was a Facebook Connect launch partner. Artists (or their people) install the app on their Facebook artist pages, where it relies on Facebook Connect log-ins to authenticate users.

If the band (or whoever else controls the app) activates its “Facebook purchase amplifier,” and you buy a ticket, your friends can find about it, perhaps to join you at the show or catch the same band somewhere else.

“It took a couple of minutes to load the purchase app,” said Eboni Jones, who does marketing and communications for Parish Entertainment Group, a beta partner of the service. “When you use the Ticketfly marketing tool’s ‘Facebook Purchase Amplifier,’ your ticket sales definitely increase — and you leave it to the fans.”

“The fans help sell tickets, which pretty much frees you up to work on other aspects of your business,” she continues in the above video (via Ticketfly). “We’ve been able to sell tickets out and we’re just able to manage our inventory a heck of a lot better.”

This news comes on the heels of a big acquisition of consumer analysis firm BigChampagne by ticketing and promotion behemoth Live Nation Entertainment of the media. Like Ticketfly’s new Facebook integration, this purchase will almost certainly help Live Nation Entertainment (formerly Ticketmaster and Live Nation) sell more tickets by understanding what people are up to online.

“This acquisition strengthens our commitment to be the leader in Artist-to-Fan data,” said Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino in a statement. “BigChampagne’s expertise will accelerate our mission to drive deeper fan engagement throughout Live Nation driven by world class data technology.”

Meanwhile, Ian Hogarth, CEO of Spotify’s launch partner, Songkick, told us that he anticipates a boost in his company’s generation of ticket leads to sellers such as Live Nation and Ticketfly.

“What’s so exciting to me is the level of seamlessness,” said Hogarth. “In a single click, Songkick will scan all the music in your Spotify playlist and build you a personalized calendar [from] every single concert in your city.”

Spotify, of course, was the biggest launch partner of Facebook’s new music initiative… which also relies on Facebook Connect.

The future of ticket sales is already happening. It’s all about promoters knowing what you like based on the music you, and everyone you know, and everyone else, are listening to; pushing tickets through friends and artist pages over social networks you’re already using to share cat pictures and political statements; and, if all goes as planned, selling even more tickets when your friends see all the fun you’re planning.

Regardless of what fans might think of sharing their ticket purchases with friends, or having listening habits used to pitch stuff, this can only be a great thing for artists, who notoriously rely much more on box office receipts than they used to. As for music fans, once again, social butterflies — the people who are most comfortable with sharing activities and watching their friends’ activities — stand to benefit the most, as the market shapes itself around their habits.

Americans losing addiction to “CrackBerrys”

A BlackBerry handset is displayed in Washington, December 15, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Alistair Barr and Sinead Carew

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK | Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:31am EST

(Reuters) – To understand what ails BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd (RIM.TO) (RIMM.O) in the U.S. market, just ask eBay Inc (EBAY.O) Chief Executive John Donahoe.

The world’s biggest online auction site had about a hundred engineers developing new iterations of eBay’s shopping app for Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iPhone a few months ago, and another hundred engineers working on Google Inc’s (MSFT.O) Android mobile platform.

EBay even had 50 people developing apps for Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) Windows phones, but the e-commerce giant only had “one or two” working on RIM’s BlackBerry, according to Donahoe.

“I still use the BlackBerry, but it’s not the most developer-friendly platform,” he told a group of chief technology officers at an event at Stanford University in June, when the subject of RIM came up.

By early November, it seemed Donahoe wasn’t even using his BlackBerry much any more. When he met with reporters to talk about plans for the holiday shopping season, the CEO whipped out his iPhone to show how eBay’s apps ran on the device. When Reuters asked Donahue about his BlackBerry, he said he still had it but didn’t bother to bring it into the room.

Such stories are commonly found among RIM’s once-loyal corporate and consumer customers, who are deserting the Canadian company after it has struggled to keep up with competitors’ innovations.

RIM on Thursday posted a sharply lower quarterly profit, offered a dismal forecast for BlackBerry shipments this holiday season, and delayed the arrival of new phones using a make-or-break operating system in development, QNX.

“It’s frustrating because I haven’t heard anything good from them in a long time,” said long-time BlackBerry user Kevin Nichols, the head of KLN Consulting Group, who was looking at Android and Windows phones at a Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) store in downtown San Francisco on Friday.

“They need to come out with new products soon, otherwise it looks like RIM may become the next Palm,” he said, in reference to the collapse of the smartphone pioneer Palm Inc. Nichols ignored the latest BlackBerry Torch in a display case nearby, saying the device wasn’t “new enough” for him to upgrade.

Even on Wall Street, where users once joked about their addiction to their “crackberries,” loyalty is waning.

“The QNX delay is a concern,” said Rob Romero, head of hedge fund firm Connective Capital. “Consumers like new products and vendors want something new to sell in their stores.”

The chief technology officer of a Connecticut-based hedge fund said that when a top hedge fund manager wants to use an iPhone instead of a BlackBerry they can now switch, even though he prefers RIM security. “When they say I want an iPhone or an iPad configured, they get it,” said the CTO, who declined to be identified.

RIM shares fell 11 percent on Nasdaq on Friday and hit their lowest level in nearly eight years.

SECURITY FEATURES

Research firm Strategy Analytics forecast RIM’s share of the U.S. smartphone market to fall to 12 percent this year, a sharp drop from 2007, when RIM had a 44 percent share. By comparison, Apple, which just started selling smartphones in 2007, is expected to grab a 24 percent U.S. market share this year.

To be sure, BlackBerry still has its defenders. Robert Laikin, CEO of cellphone distributor Brightpoint, said that RIM represents between 5 percent to 10 percent of the 110 million phones his company handles globally every year.

“I still have a BlackBerry. When I talk to my friends who are business professionals, most of them still have a BlackBerry. Some of them have bought an additional device too,” he told Reuters.

“All manufacturers I’ve worked with in the last 25 years have product delays. What RIM is going through isn’t different,” he said. “I believe RIM will survive because their product is very sticky.”

There are still many companies who prefer their employees use BlackBerrys because they feel that RIM offers the best security features to protect corporate data. But these enterprise customers are shrinking, analysts said.

Gary Curtis, chief technology strategist at global technology consulting giant Accenture (ACN.N), pointed to improvements in security from Apple and Google mobile software in recent years.

“Choice and levelling of the playing field is the fundamental enabling factor for companies being able to say to employees, use the device you like,” he said. “It’s not a headlong rush … but they’re opening the door to more devices and people make their own choices.”

Interviews with other consumers at phone stores on Friday illustrated why the former bastion of corporate smart phones faces tough competition.

“I’m a BlackBerry user but my company makes me use it,” said a shopper called John who was playing with a BlackBerry Torch at an AT&T (T.N) store in San Francisco. He declined to give his last name.

“Anyone who is anyone at my company has an iPhone, but they make us use BlackBerry still,” he added. “I think I might break mine and buy an iPhone. The touch screen on this Torch works pretty well, but the iPhone is just easier to use.”

A Sprint store manager said BlackBerry phones would sell better if they had more apps. But some app developers aren’t interested in the BlackBerry platform, partly because the technology is difficult to work with.

“Of the companies that pitch to us, I can’t think of any that are starting out by developing an app for the BlackBerry,” said Theresia Gouw Ranzetta of venture capital firm Accel Partners, which invests in mobile app developers.

Hotel Tonight, a start-up backed by Accel’s Ranzetta, has developed apps for the iPhone, Android phones and an HTML5 version for its last-minute hotel booking service.

“Will they make a dedicated BlackBerry app? Not on the roadmap,” she said.

(Reporting by Alistair Barr in San Francisco and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Tiffany Wu, Gary Hill)

Will future tech read your mind?

Get a quick rundown on IBM’s five-year, five-tech predictions.

By Alan Boyle, msnbc.com

Nothing focuses your attention on the future like a forecast, especially when it comes to the technologies that will be changing daily life in the years to come. Five years, to be exact. That’s why forecasts like IBM’s annual “Five in Five” are so thought-provoking, even if they’re occasionally wrong.

Actually, IBM’s record is pretty good: This month marks the five-year anniversary of IBM’s first list of five technologies that were expected to make the most impact in five years’ time. The company nailed 2006′s predictions on the rise of telemedicine, location-aware mobile devices, real-time speech translation and nanotechnology. But the fifth prediction, which focused on the rise of virtual 3-D environments, hasn’t worked out the way IBM expected. Sure, Second Life is still around — in fact, I’ll be hosting my next “Virtually Speaking Science” show in Second Life on Jan. 4. But such virtual worlds haven’t become the principal vehicle for real-world commerce … yet.

“It’s not perfect,” admitted Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of innovation. Sometimes the company’s researchers latch onto a idea whose time has not yet come, and perhaps never will. But for the most part, “this stuff has actually panned out a lot,” Meyerson said.

Is technological progress always a good thing? Not necessarily, if you’re talking about key-logging software on mobile devices, or government-supported spyware. The latest predictions from IBM, issued today, have lots of potential for a dreams-vs.-nightmares debate:

1. People power will come to life: Devices will be built to capture the power generated as you jog, or ride your bike, or run water through the pipes of your home. Even the heat that builds up in your computer’s circuitry could be harvested rather than going to waste. Engineers have already developed electricity-generating backpacks and shoes that could build up enough juice to power the electronic devices you carry around with you. On the other end of the scale, IBM researchers in Ireland are already working on ocean wave-power projects.

The down side? It’s tricky to design devices that produce enough power to make them cost-effective — and at the same time comfortable to wear. A lot of people already feel tied down by technology. Will they be willing to pile on the extra bulk of power-generating contraptions? Will the future economics of energy justify micro-power harvesting?

2. You will never need a password again: Instead of trying to keep track of all those different passwords for your online accounts, and still worrying that someone will break in and steal your identity, we’ll find ourselves actually using technologies such as iris recognition, face recognition and voice recognition to log in. “The world of biometrics is coming,” Meyerson said.

The down side? It sounds a little creepy, like the world of the movie “The Minority Report,” and it could be seen as another intrusion on personal privacy. Meyerson, however, argues that “you can deal with the creep-out factor” by making sure users have the freedom to opt in or opt out of biometric identity systems. The keys to your identity could be kept on your device rather than in a central repository. And using multiple methods — for example, iris plus voice — would make it astronomically unlikely that someone could crack your code. “Personally, I think the risk is far greater not doing this,” Meyerson said.

3. Mind reading is no longer science fiction: This prediction isn’t about psychic powers. For years, researchers have worked on ways to control robotic arms or blips on a computer by reading brain signals — and IBM thinks that technology will be ready for prime time (or drive time) within the next five years. That would be particularly good news for quadriplegics and ”locked-in” patients looking for better ways to interact with the outside world. It might lead to better approaches to medical concerns ranging from autism to stroke rehabilitation. And think of the cool video games you could be playing when you just have to think something to make it so. Meyerson said companies such as Emotiv Lifesciences are already preparing the way for this brave new world.

The down side? Once you give someone direct access to your brain, wouldn’t it be at least theoretically possible to eavesdrop on your innermost thoughts? “People worry about something that will interpret your brain,” Meyerson said. “That’s not what we’re talking about here.” But as long as we’re talking about science fiction becoming reality, we’d better keep the dark side of the sci-fi story in mind as well.

4. The digital divide will cease to exist: IBM suggests that the cost of smartphones and online services will become so low that everyone will be plugged into the global network. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s cheaper to have a cell phone than to have a bank account,” Meyerson said. The gap between haves and have-nots will fade away in the digital world. IBM researchers are already working to make this vision a reality. In India, they’re helping to create technologies that allow even illiterate and semi-literate people to use mobile devices for basic services.

The down side? Who’ll be in charge of this digital paradise for the haves? Privacy advocates might see this as a fresh cause for concern. As governments rely increasingly on digital networks to distribute services, will life become that much more difficult for those who are unable or unwilling to plug in?

5. Junk mail will become priority mail: This is the flip side of junk-mail filters. Computerized systems for filtering information will become so adept at reading your preferences that they’ll become true digital assistants, presenting you with the data that you need (or want) to know while blocking the junk. In the next five years, you’ll have the technology that turned the Watson supercomputer into a “Jeopardy” quiz-show champion at your fingertips. Watson might even take the initiative — for example, by putting tickets to a concert by your favorite band on hold the moment they go on sale, even before you’ve heard about it.

The down side? What if your personal digital assistant turns out to be a paranoid HAL 9000 instead of a helpful Watson? What if Watson goes rogue with your credit-card number? And what about the privacy concerns? Ten years from now, will the authorities be able to learn all about you by tapping into your junk-mail filter?

From Rebecca Black to Steve Jobs: Google’s year in search

Doug Gross, CNN
By Doug Gross, CNN
updated Thu December 15, 2011 | cnn.com
YouTube sensation Rebecca Black topped Google's hot searches of the year, even if everyone searching wasn't a fan.
YouTube sensation Rebecca Black topped Google’s hot searches of the year, even if everyone searching wasn’t a fan.

(CNN) — Oh, Rebecca Black. You gave us a reason to reconsider our favorite day of the workweek. And, apparently, the Internet couldn’t get enough.

Black, the teen songstress who became a YouTube sensation with the bubblegum ear worm “Friday,” topped the Google Zeitgeist list of hot search terms in 2011.

Released in March, the largely reviled tune caused searches for the then-13-year-old’s name to increase more than 10,000% over the past year, Google reported Wednesday.

This year was the 11th for Zeitgeist, Google’s look at search trends for the year. The report, rendered with interactive images and detailed infographics, breaks down searches by country and region as well as tallying global activity.

“From local celebrities in Finland to Singaporeans looking for news on the revolutions in Egypt and Libya half a world away, people turned to Google to learn more about what was happening on the world stage,” Google’s Amit Singhal wrote on the company’s official blog.

The top 10 wasn’t all breezy pop songs. “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn, who died in a car crash in June, was the third-hottest search, while Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder who died in October, was ninth.

Jobs was already an internationally known name. But searches for him still rose 982% over 2010, Google said, with traffic peaking the week after his death.

It was a big year for technology overall, and Google’s results show it.

The company’s own Google+ social network was second on the list. (If that seems all too convenient, note that Zeitgeist rankings consider how fast a search term rises. So something that didn’t exist last year, like Google+ or Rebecca Black’s career, is inevitably going to have an advantage.)

Massive video game release “Battlefield 3″ was fifth on the list, and the iPad 2 was 10th.

Squeezed between those two offerings, at No. 6, was a tech world product that doesn’t even exist: the iPhone 5. Google says searches for that term peaked the week of September 25, days before Apple lovers learned that the new phone they were getting was, in fact, called the iPhone 4S.

Singer Adele, Japan’s damaged Fukushima power plant and acquitted murder suspect Casey Anthony rounded out the top 10.

Of course, where there are top risers, there are fastest fallers.

As Google+ emerged (albeit to what appears to be waning interest), former social networking hot spot Myspace slid, becoming the fastest-dropping search term.

Delta Air Lines, Chinese Web services company Baidu (a Google rival during the company’s now-terminated efforts there) and the Spanish-language search “Hotmail correo” also saw big dips, compared with their 2010 search rankings.

The Top 10 tech trends for 2012

By Pete Cashmore, Special to CNN
updated Mon December 19, 2011 | cnn.com
Bendable interfaces will let you zoom in, zoom out and scroll around a page by twisting your phone or tablet.
Bendable interfaces will let you zoom in, zoom out and scroll around a page by twisting your phone or tablet.

Editor’s note: Pete Cashmore is founder and CEO of Mashable, a popular blog about tech news and digital culture. He writes regular columns about social media and tech for CNN.com.

(CNN) — From the continuing rise of tablet devices to the daily-deals craze and the return of the Internet IPO, 2011 has been a transformative year for technology.

The pace of change has become blisteringly fast, with traditional industries — bookstores, video-rental chains, newspapers — crumbling more quickly than we could have imagined.

Predicting what will happen in 2012, therefore, is a shot in the dark: A year is virtually a lifetime in the digital era. And yet we can at least make a guess at what will happen in the early part of next year simply by looking at the trends that are shaping the latter half of this year.

Here’s my best estimate of some of the innovation we’ll see in 2012:

1. Touch computing

New input methods will be the dominant trend of 2012. Tablet computers such as the iPad might seem like a nice alternative to desktop and laptop computers, but I believe they’re more than that: They’re replacements. Just as the command line (remember that?) gave way to graphical user interfaces, so the mouse will be superseded by touchscreens.

The signs are obvious: Windows 8 and Mac OS X Lion, the latest desktop operating systems, borrow heavy from their mobile counterparts. These new interfaces essentially impose a touchscreen-inspired interface over the traditional desktop environment.

Over time, this half-step will become a whole one, and mobile operating systems will dominate. The transition won’t be complete by the end of 2012, but we’ll be much further down the path, and using computer mice much less often.

2. Social gestures

In the social media realm, social gestures appear to be the leading trend of 2012. Launched by Facebook in September, this so-called “frictionless sharing” functionality removes the need to click a button to share media with your friends. Instead, everything you listen to, read or watch is automatically posted to your profile once you approve the relevant app.

If you’ve seen apps such as Spotify or Social Reader in your Facebook news feed, you’re already aware of these features.

The trend makes sense for social networks: With 800 million people already on Facebook, its growth is bound to slow. But if sharing becomes automatic, the volume of content on Facebook will grow at an accelerated pace. There’s a big problem, however: Users may be “creeped out” by all this automated sharing of their Web activity and grow suspicious of the apps using it.

3. NFC and mobile payments

Google Wallet, Google\'s mobile-payment system, may become more widespread in 2012.
Google Wallet, Google’s mobile-payment system, may become more widespread in 2012.

Next year is likely to be the year when mobile payments blossom. While we’ve seen a great deal of innovation in mobile payments technology this year — including the success of Square’s iPhone dongle, allowing anyone to accept credit card payments — 2012 is the year of NFC.

What’s that, you ask? Near Field Communication essentially lets you replace your credit cards with your phone: Wave an NFC-enabled phone near the credit card reader in a store (or taxi cab), and the money is deducted from your account.

By 2013, 1 in 5 cellphones are expected to be NFC-equipped. Early contenders include Google Wallet, Visa Wallet, Serve (by American Express) and ISIS.

4. Beyond the iPad

If touch computing is the future, then the iPad is surely king. And yet the iPad came up against serious competition in the latter part of 2011: As I wrote previously, I expect the new Amazon Kindle Fire to outsell the iPad in 2012. Why? Simply put, the iPad costs $499 while the Fire costs $199.

Amazon’s advantages don’t stop at the price point, however: The company owns an entire content store of movies, e-books, TV shows and other media. With tablet devices, the hardware is somewhat important but the content available for the device is absolutely critical: With plenty of media available for the Fire right away, it’s an appealing proposition.

Why does one device constitute an entire trend? Well, as a true competitor to the iPad emerges, content producers, distributors and even app developers may have an entirely new platform on which to push their wares. (And yes, the Kindle Fire does indeed run Google’s Android operating system, but Amazon’s version is so unlike other Android tablets that neither users nor app developers will perceive it as “yet another Android device” — it’s a whole new platform.)

5. TV Everywhere

So you thought you’d be able to watch all your favorite shows online and get rid of your cable subscription for good? Not so fast!

The cable companies have a cunning plan: They’ll let you watch live TV, plus on-demand movies and TV shows, on your connected devices if you keep your cable subscription. Dish Network, Time Warner and Comcast are among those offering the service.

TV Everywhere has been buzzed about since 2010, of course, and could be a dud — but the rise of tablet devices would seem to create increased demand for a “TV in your hands.”

6. Voice control

Here’s another trend that’s got a moderate chance of taking off in 2012: Voice control.

Siri, the voice-control feature in the iPhone 4S, may spread to other devices.
Siri, the voice-control feature in the iPhone 4S, may spread to other devices.

The novelty of Siri on the iPhone 4S — which allows you to send texts, create reminders, search the Web and much more using just your voice — may be the start of a new trend in voice controlled devices.

Surely voice control has been around for years? Yes, but it wasn’t very accurate.

Siri and its ilk define a new era in which we talk, and our devices understand — often on the first attempt. Other device makers will likely follow suit. What’s more, Apple may use voice control to replace the TV remote.

7. Spatial gestures

Other input methods are gaining traction too: Microsoft’s Kinect, for instance, has given rise to interfaces that use spatial gestures. Just like in “Minority Report,” your devices can be controlled simply by waving your hands in the air.

Thanks to the many innovators who have hacked Kinect to work with other platforms, we may see more devices using this input method next year.

8. Second-screen experiences

“Second-screen experiences” is a buzz-phase among TV and movie execs these days. It refers to apps (mainly on the iPad) that listen to the audio output of your TV and display content related to the show or movie you’re watching. The chances are that you already use your tablet computer or phone while watching TV, so there’s ample opportunity to make the viewing experience a more interactive one.

Disney already has second-screen apps for movies such as “The Lion King” and “Bambi,” while multiple TV networks have similar offerings: We can expect many, many more to be released in 2012.

9. Flexible screens

Personally, I just can’t wait for flexible screens: These awesome new bendable interfaces will let you zoom in, zoom out and scroll around a page simply by twisting your phone or tablet.

Nokia and Samsung have both hinted they may release phones with bendable displays in 2012. The really exciting stuff, however — like paper-thin devices that roll up to fit in your pocket — is still years away.

10. HTML5

Can I squeeze in one more trend? It’s HTML5 — the fifth iteration of the HTML standard — and it lets developers create richer, more interactive applications than ever.

Why does this matter? As developers tire of building applications for every operating system out there — from Android to iOS to Windows Phone and beyond — HTML5 offers the opportunity to build an app once and have it work everywhere.

The rise of HTML5 is bound to be accelerated by a recent revelation: Adobe is killing off Flash for mobile devices, meaning one of the primary methods of serving videos and rich applications on mobile phones is about to disappear. HTML5 will fill that gap. For us as consumers, that means richer applications and experiences on all our devices.

In short, 2012 is all about new ways to interact with our devices through touch and voice control, new lightweight ways to share content, a revolution in mobile payments and a plethora of rich Web applications — not to mention the hundreds of new innovations that we’ve yet to dream up. I can’t wait.