Small Business Expert
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Technology usually makes its way to our workplaces long before it comes home. That’s because so much tech is engineered with the idea of getting things done more quickly, more efficiently, and with less stress to the user. Neither every idea nor every new gadget that comes to the workplace or any place of business sticks around forever, but when we look at 2012’s big trends, we can get a rough idea of what’s going to be big through 2013.
Here are 5 predictions about 2013’s business trends.
More competition between mobile phones – The mobile market is crowded, and it’s only going to get more packed as the year goes on. The iPhone will remain a household name, but it’s already being pushed around in a big way by phones that run Android, including the Samsung Galaxy S III. We can expect more competitive pricing as a result.
Lots more competition between tablet computers – While smartphone competition looks to be hot through 2013, the tablet market will get outright fierce, particularly between 7” models. The iPad Mini should be a popular choice, though the Google Nexus 7’s attractive price certainly won’t go unnoticed by people looking to perform a little portable computing.
More use of the cloud – Hard drives and other physical storage mediums will continue to give way in favor of the convenience of cloud storage. The rise of tablets combined with usage of the cloud will see more employees working on the go as opposed to being chained to a desk and a PC.
More businesses implementing Wi-Fi Hotspots – More and more businesses, particularly retail and dining establishments, will offer free Wi-Fi to keep customers inside their walls. McDonalds and Starbucks have already done so with great success.
Long-term switch to HTML 5 and web apps – Over 2013, the popularity and usage of native apps will fade in favor of web-based apps running HTML 5. Apps certainly won’t disappear tomorrow, but consumers and users will find themselves directed to the web more and more often.
For more 2013 business trends, take a look at Gartner Inc’s 2013 trends.
It’s safe to say 2012 has been a fruitful year for technology, and it’s not likely that things will slow down through 2013. In fact, 2013 looks to be intense, tech-wise: The industry will likely continue to shift and change, hardware manufacturers will engage in price wars, the competition between tablets will be ferocious, video games will become more portable, and the world will be more connected than ever.
Here are five likely technology trends for 2013.
Video game consoles continue to struggle – There’s still a place for dedicated video game consoles, but they’re going to continue to struggle against the competition thanks to the rising popularity of tablet games. Nintendo’s Wii U took a step in the right direction with its semi-portable tablet controller that lets the player experience games without having to hog the TV, but what do Sony and Microsoft have in store?
Tablets fight for dominance – Tablet computers are gradually replacing PCs and laptops, and computer manufacturers have certainly noticed. 2013 will usher in affordable new models designed to take on the iPad—and each other.
Games continue to move to portable platforms – On the topic of tablets, video games will continue to shift from home consoles to tablets, phones, and dedicated handheld systems. A strengthening game library and increased cross-compatibility with the PlayStation 3 should give the PlayStation Vita a boost, and the Nintendo 3DS will continue to do well with the help of Nintendo’s franchises.
Price wars – What happens when hardware manufacturers are desperate to get your attention in a market that’s humming with activity? Sales. Lots of them. Keep your eyes open for slashed prices on smartphones, tablets, and games—particularly downloadable games on the App Store, Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, and Nintendo’s networks.
More free Wi-Fi access at retail – Need to get out of the house, but not quite ready to detach yourself from the content feeding tube? No problem. More and more retail spaces, particularly restaurants and cafes, should have you covered with free Wi-Fi access. McDonalds and Starbucks already want you to hang out and surf over a latte—or a hamburger.
For more 2013 business trends, take a look at Gartner Inc’s 2013 trends.
We’ve looked earlier at the top-level overview of online virtual worlds, and how they’re essentially social networks but with a greater focus on graphics. We’ve also previously examined a few of the common concerns parents have about their kids taking part in these. So to make sure all modern parents and interested parties have a solid understanding of what’s at play here, here’s a look at the most common characteristics of virtual worlds via a handy MMOs and online gaming dictionary, which provides a guide to popular in-game terms.
AVATARS: This is the virtual representation of your character onscreen, and is something that players can highly customize. Usually, when you first play a virtual world, you can tweak many of the basics of your appearance, but as you play more, you’ll earn special items and upgrades that can be used to enhance or change your avatar’s appearance.
BETA: This is a term used by video game developers to indicate that a product is not quite final yet and is still in the testing phases. This doesn’t mean it’s not accessible to the public though. The beta phase of a virtual world usually means that they are still doing lots of tinkering with how things will work, and they may make drastic changes still based on how everything is being used.
CHAT: This is a key feature in online virtual worlds, as it’s one of the more obvious ways that users who are habituating the same online space can communicate one another. Any reputable online virtual world will have chat safeguards in place such as pre-scripted chat, safe chat, whitelisted users, blacklisted words as well as restrictions on just who others can chat with.
CURRENCY: Most online virtual worlds contain some sort of in-game currency which allow users to buy items or upgrades for their dwelling or avatar. Whether it’s called Rox in Moshi Monsters, Taro in FusionFall or simply Coins as found in a number of destinations, this currency is earned not only by playing games and collecting items in world, but often is given as a reward for logging in daily in the form of bonus mini-games.
EMOTE: Emotes are ways that players can communicate with others in the game world without chatting. In essence, they’re short animations for characters. So it could be a happy dance, a laugh, a cheer, and they’re all prompted by a simple button press. Emotes let players either act silly or do some basic virtual body-language without needing to chat.
FRIENDS: Friends in the game world are generally different than friends in real-life, although for younger kids it’s good to keep friend relationships restricted to those that are already known to them, and older kids may actually derive more enjoyment from online experiences if doing them with online friends. Friends in virtual worlds are usually defined by mutual acceptance, although characters can friend any other avatar they come across in hopes to expand their list. Again, just because your friends in a virtual world doesn’t mean you’ve ever met in real life.
MEMBERSHIP: Although most virtual worlds offer at least some basic, enjoyable free-to-play experiences, nearly all offer premium memberships which provide, for an additional monthly or yearly subscription fee, access to extra areas, games, items and more within the game. If your kids dabble in virtual worlds, be prepared for the inevitable please for membership, which can run anywhere from around $5 per month to more than $75 per year.
MODERATORS: Moderators are humans that participate and monitor virtual worlds and their chat functionality to not only assist users who need help, but also to deal with any players that are exhibiting negative or troubling behavior. Moderators may be secretly roaming the world as a player character, or be on the ready should inappropriate chat get flagged by the system or by other users.
REPORTING: Although moderators are on hand, it’s important for players to realize the power they have to report negative behavior or other game issues to the game’s developers. Although it’s easy to block other users and then report their behavior, players are also encouraged to report any problems or bugs they see so the developers can fix them. This is especially true of games that are in beta versions.
SERVERS: Each server represents a separate instance of a game world, so for some of the more popular online games that have multiple server options available, essentially each server represents a parallel universe. It’s important to note the name of the server you’re playing on, especially if you are trying to meet any of your friends online. If you choose to play on different servers, you won’t be able to play together in the virtual world.
With a basic understanding of the concepts, concerns and key terms for virtual worlds under your belt, you’re likely ready for some specific recommendations. Next up is our look at some of our favorite online virtual worlds for kids.