There’s little doubt that 2012 will be the year of the cloud (or the iCloud). However there’s another important transition that needs to happen first.
Apple has always seen the Mac as the hub at the centre of our digital lives, but it’s now clear that mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad are forcing a realignment of that vision. For many people, mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad are becoming just as important. It’s this shift towards mobile computing that will lead us all into Apple’s iCloud next year.
But while the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S continue to sell like hotcakes, in many ways it’s the iPad that has driven many new developments in our digital life. Apple may not let you watch Flash video on the iPad or iPhone, but the continuing development of the BBC iPlayer on the iPad, and rivals such as 4OD – which debuted on the iPad before the iPhone – has turned the iPad into an all-singing, all-dancing entertainment system for TV and radio.
You can even get portable TV tuners such as Elgato’s Tivizen that let you watch TV on the iPad when you’re away from home. In fact, the iPad is turning into the entertainment system that the continually disappointing Apple TV really ought to have been.
The iPad is transforming other industries, too. Newspapers and magazines continue to develop special digital editions for the iPad, and the OverDrive app lets you borrow eBooks from your local library, free of charge. After the BBC iPlayer, OverDrive is our favourite app of 2011. And with Apple’s powerful A5 chip inside it, the iPad is also shaping up as an ace games machine. As is the iPod touch, which parents are buying for their kids, thanks to its ability to play music, video and games.
The arrival of online gaming services such as Steam and OnLive mean that Mac gamers can finally play all the biggest titles along with the rest of the gaming community. And, while Apple is getting ready to lead us all into the iCloud, there are still plenty of companies selling old-fashioned hard disks and NAS drives for storing all our music, photos and video on our Macs and home networks. In fact, just as Apple removed the hard disk from the AppleTV, Western Digital installed one into its WD TV Live Hub. The Live Hub doesn’t really offer much in the way of online services at all, but its innovative combination of network storage and streaming media abilities certainly makes it one of the best non-cloud storage devices of 2011.
Product name: Dragon Age II
It doesn’t have the deep, gripping storyline of its predecessor, but that’s intentional as Dragon Age II aims to provide a faster, more action-packed approach to role-playing games. The 3D graphics are slick and gory and the quests pile up as you hack and slash your way to fame and fortune in the kingdom of Ferelden.
Product name: BBC iPlayer
The BBC iPlayer continues to develop, and the iPad version launched in February is terrific. This version allows you to you watch and listen to the BBC’s live TV and radio stations, as well as catch up on recent programmes. The iPad version is going international too as the BBC has launched a subscription version for western Europe and prepares to tackle the US next year. Soon it’ll be available everywhere.
Product name: WD TV Live Hub
Company: Western Digital
The US-centric Apple TV isn’t much use here in the UK, so we’ll opt for the latest model in Western Digital’s WD TV range instead. The Live Hub is one of the best streaming media devices available, and with its 1TB hard disk it also doubles up as a handy network storage drive too – meaning that you can access content from every corner of your home or office.