Consumer tech 2013: Can’t-hardly-wait product launches

Actual release dates are hard to come by. Product details are few and far between. But rumours? Those we have in massive volumes.

Call it the Apple effect: Technology vendors of every kind have learned the value of generating just enough speculation about their future releases to keep customers and industry observers entertained. After a year that saw the launch of the iPhone 5, Windows 8 and myriad other gadgets, it might seem like 2013 has a big act to follow.

However, there are a slew of possible breakthrough products on deck in the next 12 months. I’ve chosen the five I think could cause much of the chatter, online and off, and what their prospects are.

The launch: BlackBerry 10 (BB10)

The buzz: It’s as though RIM is expected to close its doors if its next OS update and related devices don’t knock it out of the park when they are unveiled on Jan 30. If nothing else, the dire problems the company has faced over the last few years have given this launch more attention and potential hype than might otherwise be expected from the BlackBerry maker.

The reality check: BB10 will almost certainly draw mixed reviews, but with markets outside of North America still showing strong demand for BlackBerry phones, RIM has more time on its side than most people realize.

The launch: Firefox OS

The buzz: The open source Mozilla Foundation has reportedly been working on a project code-named Boot to Gecko which will do a better job than existing operating systems of moving between applications that reside on the Web and files on a user’s system.

The reality check: Decidedly geeky, this launch may raise questions about whether the world really needs another OS, but that’s what some people said about browsers until Mozilla released the first version of Firefox.

The launch: Google Project Glass

The buzz: There’s no official date set for a wearable computer that consumers will be able to purchase, but the developer version is expected sometime in 2013 with a price of around $1,500, based on hints dropped by the search engine giant’s co-founder, Sergey Brin.

The reality check: This is by far the most out-there product that could arrive in the next year, and will likely drive more discussion than actual consumer demand. Kind of like the Segway a few years back. There is no compelling reason for Google to push this out early, and given how long Gmail was in beta, expect the company to take it slowly.

The launch: Amazon’s smartphone

The buzz: Reports say Foxconn has been contracted to manufacture the devices, which have not been confirmed by the online retailing giant. If the rumours are true, expect Amazon to duke it out primarily on price, as it did when it entered the tablet space with the $200 Kindle Fire machines.

The reality check: For Amazon, it’s all about using the devices to sell more stuff, as opposed to Apple’s desire to create a unique experience. If Amazon's smartphone can surf, ease purchasing and share recommendations more easily than an iPhone, it’s got a shot at a long-tail niche market.

The launch: iTV

The buzz: The only things we know for sure is that Steve Jobs talked about television as a market he wanted to upend the way he did the music industry with iTunes. There are the usual rumours – will it be between 42-55 inches in screen size? – but most blogs and news sources suggest this one will come closer to the end of 2013, perhaps in time for a Christmas splash.

The reality check: The iTV has a lot of question marks around it. Apple fans are probably better off looking forward to more likely launch scenarios involving a MacBook Air with retina display and perhaps an iPhone 5s.

Of course there will be more. Microsoft may release its own smartphone. Facebook might release its own smartphone. Maybe we’ll all release our own smartphones. But good luck pulling the spotlight away from this handful of hopefuls.

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