With a new year comes new hope -- and some latitude to wish for better things to come. In the world of technology, there's plenty to wish for.
While 2005 has seen the emergence of dozens of tiny tech gadgets, the continued acceptance of wireless networking, and lots of innovation on the Internet, each advancement has left plenty of room for improvement.
■ Better battery life
Tech gadgets have become more powerful and smaller, but battery technology has essentially offered only incremental improvements. The result is a situation we all know too well: notebook computers that die in mid-flight, cellphones that don't last a day without being plugged in, digital cameras that require two, three, or more spare batteries to remain functional.
If there is one improvement that would radically change the world of technology almost overnight, it would be a breakthrough in battery technology.
■ Wide wireless availability
Almost every tech gadget -- cellphones, notebook computers, portable game stations, multimedia devices -- features built-in wireless connectivity to the Internet. The only trouble is that wireless connection points, or hot spots, are still too hard to find.
Wireless hot spots need to be everywhere that people with wireless needs congregate: hotels, coffee shops, shopping areas, airports.
Providing wireless connectivity is inexpensive, and it's good for both the customer and the business that provides it.
■ Cellphones that are durable
The race is on in the cellphone industry to cram the most features into the smallest package. In late 2005, Motorola's Razr phone turned heads with its ultra-slim form factor, sleek looks, and coveted features. Other models from different manufacturers are waiting in the wings.
But slim and tiny are useless when a device can't stand up to the rigors of travel and the inevitable mishaps: namely falls and spills. Many cellphones today are too susceptible to instant destruction if they get the least bit wet, and too many are damaged immediately at the slightest impact with a hard surface. In 2006 cellphone users need equipment they can rely upon as much as they need equipment that they can stash easily in a pocket.
■ A Windows Vista that is faster and better
Microsoft is about to have a big year in 2006, thanks in no small part to the expected release of Windows Vista -- the successor to XP -- in late summer or early autumn. With previous releases of Windows, claims of superior speed and reliability have been met with some disappointment when the operating systems fell short.
Microsoft has had plenty of time -- and no pressure -- to release Vista. Let's hope the company uses the time to get it right.
Regardless of the improvements that Vista offers, it needs to work well on today's common computer equipment and not cause a loss of productivity through operating system flakiness.
■ Competition for Apple's iPod
Competition is good, but Apple has precious little of it these days when it comes to the iPod and related accessories. Whenever there's insufficient competition, prices are high, and that's the case with the iPod.
The most coveted iPod MP3 players run from US$200 to 400, and that's just too much for a luxury device that will be superseded by a better model six months later.
Alternative MP3 makes such as iRiver and Creative need to beef up their offerings. It's fairly easy to undercut Apple's prices. All that's left to do is match the iPod's stylishness and its sound quality. iRiver is already close.