My 2010 Tech Wish List

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January is
a magical month for the tech industry. Every year around this time,
the entire gadget business congregates in Las Vegas to show off
its upcoming wares at the Consumer
Electronics Show
. Apple, meanwhile, camps out in San Francisco
and attempts to steal the spotlight with something revolutionary.
This year seems to be shaping up as usual – everyone’s flocking
to CES, and everyone’s focused on Steve Jobs, who (according to
numerous speculative reports, including in Monday’s Wall
Street Journal
) plans to unveil a tablet computer later
this month.

But let’s forget
the tablet for a second. Even though I can’t wait to see what Apple
is planning, I’ve got a much bigger tech wish list for 2010. Here,
then, is my must-have list for the year. Please, tech industry,
make me happy!

Google Voice
for everyone. Last year, Google reinvented the phone – but
unless you’re among the handful of VIPs who got access to the U.S.-based,
invitation-only service, you probably haven’t noticed. Google
Voice
does several amazing things. It gives you a central phone
number that rings all of your phones – when people call your
Voice number, you can pick up at your office, your cell, or at your
vacation house in Bermuda (and they won’t know the difference).
Voice also transcribes your messages, rendering voice
mail obsolete
. And then there’s this: Because it routes all
your calls through the Internet, it lets you call anywhere in the
United States for free, and anywhere in the world for cheap, without
a contract.

I’ve been using
Voice since its debut – and before that I was a devotee of
GrandCentral, its predecessor – and I find it indispensible.
It has proved more useful than any other technology launched in
2009, including the new iPhone, Google
Wave
, and all those e-readers. Among other things, I can now
make international calls from my cell phone for no extra charge.

Google seems
to have big plans for Voice. At the moment, the service works by
patching phone calls to your own phone – to make a call, you
go to your Web browser (on either your PC or your smartphone) and
type in a phone number you’d like to call; then Voice rings your
phone, and when you pick up, you’re connected to your mom in Australia!
This system (which is much simpler than it sounds) has a big advantage
over Skype and other Internet-phone services: You don’t need to
install special hardware or software to use it. But it has a disadvantage,
too – mainly, that all calls need to go through the phone system
and can’t be routed directly through a PC. But Google looks to be
fixing that – executives have hinted that they’re building
a phone-free version
of the software that would let you make
calls through your PC or mobile device (like you can do with Skype).
Google also seems close to opening the service to more users, even
those outside of America. That can’t happen soon enough – phone
companies have long forestalled improvements on their services (making
huge profits, for instance, on
voice mail
), and Voice promises to finally bring the innovation
we’ve seen in the software industry to the phone business.

Read
the rest of the article

January
8, 2010

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