2012 hasn't even begun, and yet we've already got a number of reasons to look forward to the coming year. Let's take a look at some technology coming our way the next year

Operating systems

As far as operating systems go, 2012 looks set to be a bumper year. With a slate of Windows 8 tablets expected to release, we'll finally get a proper look at Microsoft's vision of the future of Windows. Not to mention Windows Phone 8, which also should make an appearance before the year is out.

On the Google side of things, Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) has been heralded as the best version of Android yet; and devices running Google's latest should start making their way to our shores in early 2012. The long-rumoured Google Tablet appears set to become a reality next summer.

As always, huge things are expected from Apple's next OS updates, iOS 6 and Mac OS X 10.8; as of now, though, little is known of either. Similarly, BlackBerry fans will have to wait until the end of the year for a glimpse of Blackberry 10.

Gaming consoles

We can't wait to finally see Nintendo's Wii U in action. The original Wii revolutionised motion-control in gaming and became the most popular console in the world; but it's since faded a little due to dated hardware and a dearth of quality third-party titles.

The Wii U represents Nintendo's answer to those criticisms — with HD graphics on par with the current competition, a stellar legacy of innovation and Nintendo's formidable stable of games, the Wii U is easily one of the most anticipated 2012 launches in gaming.

Right up there with the Wii U, though, is the PlayStation Vita. Going by its powerful specifications alone, the Vita is quite exciting; when you also consider that it claims to deliver PS3-level graphics and a full array of control options in a hand-held device, it becomes positively drool-worthy. As always, rumours abound about the next generation of Microsoft's and Sony's consoles.

Will 2012 see the release of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox 720 or whatever else they might be called? It's unlikely; however, given all the evidence pointing to something big coming our way at the end of next year, an announcement or two doesn't seem outside the bounds of possibility.

Truly smart

Meanwhile, ASUS is keeping the flag flying with its sheer out-of-left-field designs. The company that gave us the excellent Transformer Prime tablet — which turned into a capable net-book with the addition of a keyboard dock — is once again pushing the boundaries with the ASUS Padfone.

The Padfone is a 4.3-inch smartphone (reportedly running Android 4.0 at launch) that integrates with a 10.1-inch display dock, effectively enabling it to serve as either a phone or a tablet. And if that wasn't enough to pique your interest, the Padfone will also be running on a quad-core Tegra 3 chip; thus making it one of the most powerful smartphones around.

Say cheese!

In terms of sheer potential, the gadget we're most intrigued is from the field of photography. We're not alone in having such high hopes for the Lytro Light Field Camera; it's been described as the biggest thing to happen to photography since it went digital.

What's all the fuss about? Well, the Lytro camera uses light-field technology to capture all the light information from a given scene comprehensively enough to create what the company calls ‘living pictures'. You can adjust the focus of these living pictures at your own leisure, or even convert them into 3D images.

While it does have its limitations right now, the “shoot now, focus later” USP that Lytro is going with is undeniably exciting, and provides a solid platform to build on. The technology used in the camera isn't new; however, until now, it's solely been the province of those with research labs and supercomputers.

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Game, set, play!December 28, 2011