Even with all the changes seen recently in mobile and social-networking technologies, this may be a redefining year for how we communicate with one another. Game-changing hardware, operating systems, and ideas are on the horizon. Here are five to keep an eye on.

  1. No, No, No More Notebooks?

    The trend in computer purchasing is toward the much smaller, lightweight netbook. Not loaded for bear like desktop and laptop computers, these ultra-small computers (not to be confused with Ultra Mobile PCs, or UMPCs, which are even smaller) are perfect for the planner on the go. They're built for road warriors, but on the flip side, they have smaller hard drives, less RAM memory (you really can't run more than one program at a time), and no optical (CD, DVD) drive. CNET.com offers reviews of some of the top netbooks.

  2. Google Chrome Reporting for Duty

    Chrome is Google's first attempt at designing an operating system that can compete with Microsoft products. It will probably be mid-2010 before you see any netbooks running the system, but it could be an absolute game changer — and direct competition for the folks in Redmond, Wash. It's going to be open source, which means the community will be able to build and improve upon it. If you're looking for more information about it, check out Google's blog posting from this summer (tinyurl.com/mkt6lv). Speaking of game changing technologies in 2010 …

  3. Soon, You'll Be Doing the Wave

    Part e-mail, part instant-messaging tool, part social-media integration, and all way cool, Google Wave is out in very limited beta test. In theory, Google Wave is reinventing how we look at that archaic form of communication — e-mail — by reinventing it with 21st-century capabilities. If you want to learn more (or you have a beta version and want to figure out how to use it), check out this online book, The Complete Guide to Google Wave. It's free to read online at http://completewaveguide.com and includes some good videos.

  4. You May Not Be Able to Avoid the Raindrop

    Interestingly, at the same time Google Wave is making a splash, Mozilla (makers of the Firefox Web browser) is working on a similar product, Raindrop, an open-source messaging program that supports integration of e-mail, Twitter, and Skype. The verdict is that it has a long way to go. (It's not officially released yet.) Mozilla has a Web site, with videos, with more info.

  5. Does Droid?

    Watching lots of TV is always a good way to see what's happening in technology. Recently, new Google battle lines have been drawn with the “Droid Does” commercials. Droid is the latest smartphone built on Google's Android mobile operating system (from Motorola, with service by Verizon) going up against the iPhone folks. Here's a great link (tinyurl.com/mjd2wn) sharing 45 apps for Android. If you think the netbook market is big, smartphones could make all large computers obsolete.

Between the apps and the cloud (a metaphor for the Internet, where all our files and programs may ultimately reside), our phones will have the capability of doing everything a computer of today can do.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see how the year unfolds.

James Spellos, CMP, is founder and president of Meeting U., a New York-based company that provides training and consulting to meeting professionals. He is a frequent speaker on technology at meetings-industry conferences. Contact him at jspellos@meeting-u.com.