16 most-anticipated tech products of 2012

Each year around this time I do a roundup of the most-anticipated products of the coming year. This year I came up with 16 things we can't wait to see.

Since many companies like to keep future new releases under tight wraps so they don't short-circuit sales of their current products, we can't predict what all the new hot gadgets will be. But as usual, we expect to see a fair amount of intriguing stuff at this year's CES in Las Vegas, and we know that plenty of sequels to today's popular products are on the way--whether the company wants you to know it or not.

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Here's our list. As always feel free to voice your opinion. And if you don't like our selections, suggest new ones. As I said, right now, we're at 16 picks (they're listed in random order), but I've left a few slots open for reader contributions. Make a good case and I'll add the product to the slideshow.

Nintendo Wii U

Once again Nintendo is trying to revolutionize the gaming industry with a system that has a new controller with an embedded touch screen that allows you to continue a gaming session on the portable controller even when your TV is off.

On a more mundane level, this Wii supports 1080p visuals and is backward-compatible with all Wii gaming accessories and games. That latter trait may be its biggest selling point.

No word on pricing or exactly when the Wii U will hit the market, but Nintendo says it will be in stores in 2012. CNET's game experts got some early hands-on time with the Wii U. Here's what they thought.

Image credit: Nintendo

Google Ice Cream Sandwich products

The first Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) smartphones have just started trickling out onto the market. Loads more are coming in 2012. Yummy.

Image credit: Screenshot by Josh Long/CNET

iPad Mini

Will Apple do a 7-inch iPad? Some say no, some say yes, particularly with the success of Amazon's Kindle Fire. We hope Apple does go small. $299. 16GB. Slam dunk.

Better, more-affordable ultrabooks

Forget those underpowered Netbooks. The ultrabook is the new Netbook. We already saw the price for these lightweight machines head into reasonable territory in 2011. Now we look forward to the next batch offering similar performance for even less money.

Next-gen MacBook Air

Rumor has it that the next generation of MacBook Pros and Airs will get new designs, and we may very well see a 15-inch Air. Will the Air get even slimmer?

Why not?

Image: MacBook Air  (Apple)

More-affordable Apple AirPlay products

In case you don't know what it is, Apple's AirPlay is a wireless streaming feature available on Apple mobile devices that allows you to stream audio and video over Wi-Fi. However, except for Apple TV and AirPort Express, AirPlay-compatible products tend to be pricey (most are speakers).

They could all stand to shave $100 off their list prices (and more in some cases). Hopefully that will happen in 2012.


Image credit: James Martin/CNET

Kindle Fire 2 (and Amazon's 10-inch tablet)

The Kindle Fire's been a big hit and it isn't even that great. Just imagine what the Kindle Fire 2 will be like. And oh, Amazon may well release a 10-inch tablet that undercuts the iPad's price significantly. Can't wait for that to happen.

iPhone 5

For those of you who waited all 2011 for an iPhone 5, we've got news: you get to do some more waiting in 2012. When we'll see the iPhone 5 launch is anybody's guess, but whether it's released in June or November, it seems like a safe bet that it will have a new design and most likely support for 4G networks.

Apple iTV

Rumor has it that Apple will enter the TV market in 2012 with a set that will be a game-changer and once again turn another market on its head. We'll believe it when we see it.

iPad 3

Everybody's waiting--and expecting--an iPad 3 with a higher-resolution display. If the past is any indication, hear all about it in February or March, with a release soon after.

PlayStation Vita

Sony's next-generation handheld gaming device is slated to arrive in the U.S. on February 22, with dual analog sticks, a touch screen, and graphics that rival the PS3's. The Wi-Fi version is priced at $249 and the Wi-Fi/3G version will cost $299.99 (3G service plan extra).

While many think the Vita has an uphill road, it also has the potential to be a much-needed hit for Sony, which has lost a lot of luster in recent years. CNET editors got an early look at the Vita. See what they thought.

Wider LTE (4G) rollout

We'll see lots more 4G phones in 2012--and hopefully lots more 4G service

coverage with true broadband speeds.

Nook Tablet 2

Barnes & Noble continues to do a lot of things right with its color Nook products. One request for the next model, most likely due to arrive in November: a little Bluetooth, please.

Nikon D800

The much-anticipated successor to the full-frame Nikon D700 was supposed to arrive in 2011. Alas, it didn't. Word is this rumored 36-megapixel prosumer camera will finally launch in early 2012. Price tag: We're guessing somewhere just south of $3,000.

Canon 5D Mark III

Like the Nikon D800, Canon's full-frame follow-up to the EOS 5D Mark II was widely expected to arrive in 2011. It failed to come, and was most likely delayed by the combination of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and Thailand flood tragedies. The current 5D Mark II costs around $2,000. This one will start out higher, most likely in the $2,500 range.

Windows 8

Unity is the theme with Windows 8, as Microsoft is bringing the Metro UI found on smartphones and Xbox 360 to the PC and tablets. Word is a beta may be out as soon as February with the final product ready to ship on PCs in late fall.