NEW YORK — Tablet computing, newcomer hardware developers and 3-D TVs are technology trends to watch, according to Sam Grobart, assistant technology editor for The New York Times.

The rumor mill is grinding about whether iPhone creator Apple Inc. will soon announce a tablet computer — tablet computers are not a new concept but the computing power has grown tremendously since earlier forms hit the market, and Wi-Fi is now "pervasive," Grobart said.

Bill Gates had said in 2001 that he expected tablet PCs to be the most popular computer in the world within five years, he also noted.

NEW YORK — Tablet computing, newcomer hardware developers and 3-D TVs are technology trends to watch, according to Sam Grobart, assistant technology editor for The New York Times.

The rumor mill is grinding about whether iPhone creator Apple Inc. will soon announce a tablet computer — tablet computers are not a new concept but the computing power has grown tremendously since earlier forms hit the market, and Wi-Fi is now "pervasive," Grobart said, noting that Bill Gates was a bit premature when he said in 2001 that he expected tablet PCs to be the most popular computer in the world within five years.

Grobart, speaking during the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City on Thursday, noted that devices like the iPhone have made computers fashionable and mainstream, and the old paradigm of a desktop computer and monitor has been turned on its head.

"We’re all sort of nerds now. For those of you who are new to the party, welcome," he said.

"We’re all becoming technologically savvy — we’re all becoming interested in technology and what it can do for us."

Another important technology trend is the relative ease to bring new products to market, with some uncommon entrants: Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book readers, and Google’s Nexus One portable phone, Grobart noted.

"(These products) all come from companies that are not by definition or by history manufacturers. They don’t have factories — they don’t have giant R&D labs. What this is showing us is the changing nature of manufacturing," he said.

Innovators with an idea can simply outsource the manufacturing, he noted. …CONTINUED

The iPhone may have a leg up on other similar mobile devices because of its sheer volume of apps, "which isn’t to say that situation won’t change," he said, though he noted that BlackBerry still enjoys "an entrenched position … certainly among business executives."

As for 3-D TVs, Grobart said most manufacturers have developed or are developing models, and the applications could range from watching movies to playing video games.

But home screens may lack the impact and effect of giant 3-D movie theater screens, he said, and there’s "also the matter of these goggles — the goggles themselves have gotten bulkier.

"And I just don’t buy it that people are going to come home after a day of work and everybody is going to look like the ‘Terminator’ and just sort of sit there. There are things I don’t want to see in 3-D," he said.

As for the real estate potential of 3-D screen technology, perhaps online virtual tours of homes could incorporate 3-D imagery, he said.

Mike Mangino, president and founder of Elevated Rails, a software development company, delivered a presentation about mobile applications that may be particularly useful to real estate professionals.

He noted that there are several customer relationship management (CRM) tools for mobile devices, such as Highrise by 37signals and a related TopFloor mobile client, and Mobile Lite by Salesforce.com.

Mobile apps for accessing Facebook and Twitter (such as Tweetie 2) are also available, he noted. Also on his list: apps from crowd-sourced review site Yelp.com, and GPS navigation apps — Google offers a free one for Android devices, and there are other apps available for a price for the iPhone.

There are thousands of mortgage calculator apps available, too, Mangino said, including about 1,500 free ones, and the EveryBlock app offers hyperlocal crime, news and other information.

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