Seven Trends to Watch in ’12

Ubiquitous social networking. Expect to see Facebook, Twitter and Google+ everywhere—integrated into computer programs and websites, printed on business cards next to phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and used not only to supplement other types of communication but also to replace them.

The rise of Google+. It’s too early to say if Google+ will become a Facebook replacement (as Facebook replaced MySpace, which supplanted Friendster), or a supplement (like Twitter and LinkedIn, which coexist by serving different functions). But either way, tech-savvy users are already adopting Google+, and wider acceptance is likely to follow.

Android finally presents serious competition to Apple. Android phones and tablets are still perceived by many as cheaper alternatives to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. But as the Android OS matures and the number of Android apps increases (especially apps that do things Apple won’t allow on its devices), more users will start choosing Android not just because it’s cheaper, but because it’s more capable.

And this may finally spell the end for struggling Blackberry. Parent company Research in Motion was already losing market share before recent network outages and PR blunders caused its popularity to decline even faster. If Research in Motion is lucky, another company will acquire Blackberry, but it’s more likely to fade into history like the once-popular Palm.

More context-aware mobile devices. We’ve already seen applications and websites that can identify locations (Google Maps), music (Shazam) and personal preferences (most e-commerce sites). Expect to see image and video identification soon, as well as applications that combine these to make personal recommendations. So very soon, a Las Vegas visitor could take a picture of a casino, which would immediately bring up a list of amenities, the ability to make reservations and personalized restaurant recommendations.

Voice control. Apple’s Siri is currently setting the standard, but expect more intelligent voice control of more devices soon. Sending and receiving text messages by voice will soon become common, encouraged partly by increased penalties for using cell phones while driving. But soon you’ll even be able to command your TV to “find me a good comedy” for those times when it’s just too much effort to reach over, pick up the remote and think about what all those little buttons mean.

Cloud computing: More common and less visible. Cloud computing has gotten a lot of buzz, but it’s just not exciting like social networking or voice control. So even though it will be automatically included in more devices and applications, it will also become more expected and less remarkable, like accessing the Internet or using electricity.

More tech startups in Las Vegas. More than a dozen new tech companies started or moved to Las Vegas in the last year, but that’s clearly just the beginning. Expect to see at least two or three times that number this year. At the downtown tech library /usr/lib it’s already common to run into the founders of local startups such as Ayloo, Rumgr and Counterless, as well as companies like Romotive that have moved here. But the tech community is growing, and a much more elaborate co-working space is scheduled to open in the first quarter of this year. It will be a place where these and other entrepreneurs can work full time, making Las Vegas even more attractive to technology startups.