2012 appears to be the year the budget compact camera is finally ousted by the mobile phone. Sales of compacts have been falling and it is notable this traditional Christmas gift fell well down the pecking order in 2011, outshined by tablets and eBook readers. Smartphones like the iPhone 4S and Nokia N8 deliver surprisingly good results for everyday snaps, placing them close to cheap compact cameras, and 2012 devices may start to compete with compacts higher up the range – especially given their larger native storage, inbuilt connectivity and social networking. This week Kodak filed for bankruptcy, we expect Olympus to struggle as well.
Higher up, SLRs also face a tough 2012 as third and fourth generation compact system cameras cut size and cost for the aspiring amateur – there’s a reason the Panasonic Lumix G3 was one of our top three for Digital Camera of 2011 Awards. Enthusiasts and pros will still reach for fully fledged SLRs for the forseeable future but soon entry level and even mid-range SLRs may be a thing of the past.
Winners: Mobile phones and compact system cameras cameras
Losers: Compact cameras and budget and mid-range SLRs
Laptops & Computing
Christmas was already a big giveaway and we warned you not to buy one, but the end of 2011 confirmed what we already knew: 2012 will be the year of tablets. With the iPad 3 coming in the next few months, the Kindle Fire launching here in January and the stitched-back-together Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich giving Google tablets a fighting chance this year the heat will be on. All of which means trouble for Microsoft. Windows 8 may be a daring reinvention, but it is also the company’s riskiest product to date and with Windows 8 tablets not expected before Q3 it could miss the boat.
Similarly laptop makers face pressure from the tablet revolution. Intel is admirably trying to save directionless PC makers (and its own mobile phone chip struggles) with its hard line on Ultrabook design and build quality, but hitting appealing price points remains a challenge. Happily Intel subsidies and its Ivy Bridge chipset (due in Q2) should help address performance and battery life objectives, but whether by then users see their style requirements met by phones and tablets and PCs deemed more perfunctory is open to question.
Budget PCs will be in trouble in 2012 though as the casual users they attract find premium tablets and their more intuitive operating systems to their liking. It is a trend which has already hit budget king Acer particularly hard. Indecision also looks set to be punished with Hewlett Packard’s wavering stance and calamitous handling of webOS setting it up for a poor 2012, while ARM’s dominance of mobile and Intel’s dominance of PC suggests the number could at last be up for AMD.
Winners: Apple, Google, ARM, Intel
Losers: AMD, Microsoft, Acer, Hewlett Packard