NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Last year is done. The tax man will soon reap his bloody vengeance. But at events such as the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, the geeks already showed some of the cards they plan to lay down later this year. That means it's time to sit down, grab a big Diet Coke -- my brain beverage of choice -- and try to get a feel for the tech tools you'll want to lay down cold hard cash for this year. It could be your best chance to make it through the next 12 months still in business.
Here are my top tech trends to watch this year if you want to stay competitive:
Between tablets and the new "Ultrabook" generation of portable computers, this is probably the year to upgrade.
1. Don't write off BlackBerry just yet.
You read it here first: The demise of the BlackBerry might be the most overhyped prediction for 2012. Why? Later this year, parent company
Research in Motion
will most likely -- finally -- debut a new generation of BlackBerry devices with a combined operating system that will work both on smartphones and tablets. Yes, there is gobs of negative press about the new OS and devices, but based on the developer chatter I am hearing, having apps that can work easily across all 70 million or so BlackBerry devices worldwide is attractive.
No, the BlackBerry experience probably won't rival what you find on an
iPhone or a
Android device. But if your firm is like mine -- and you love the BlackBerry keyboard, battery life and bomb-proof email -- you can expect some improvement from RIM. Progress will be made. But either way, no matter what you do, don't junk your BlackBerry until you get a feel for where these new tools are going.
If RIM gets lucky, it might just have one heck of a mobile business tool on its hands.
2. Bank on smart-business applications from your phone company.
Companies in the phone business don't seem to want to be in the phone business any more. Instead, they want to follow in the footsteps of
and become services companies for businesses. Literally every operator I have spoken with over the past few weeks, from
, says while they obviously still plan to offer excellent connectivity and great phones, the sweet spot they see is in providing sophisticated business applications. This includes advanced connectivity to remote devices and direct software development support for business applications.
There might be some real productivity options here -- I like what AT&T is doing with its
products. One of the cheaper services, at less than a $100 a month and capable of enabling remote business forms, might be worth a shot.
3. Bet about a grand on a better mobile computing strategy.
Computing on the road has gotten darn impressive. Several trends are at work here. For one thing, the iPad has revolutionized the tablet market. Now you can get excellent mobile tablet PCs from makers such as
at a reasonable cost.
But equally impressive is a new generation of portable notebook computers. You will see the term "Ultrabook" used to describe these low-cost, superthin, superlight laptop devices. I have been very impressed with tools from makers including
, among many others. Most weigh less than 3 pounds, boast slick HD screens, have great processing power and are often less than an inch thick. And they can be had starting at about $1,000. Not bad.
Between tablets and this new generation of portable computers, if you're lugging around a 6-pound beast, chances are you are not as efficient as you could be. This is probably the year to upgrade.
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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.