Since he founded CI Host, a Dallas-based web-hosting and data-center management company, Christopher Faulkner has been a supersleuth for the latest high-tech trends. We recently asked him for the biggest and best developments on the horizon. Here’s a hint: good news for the fast-and-light traveler. 


What’s the one thing that will change our lives most?
We’ll see a massive shift for VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) phone service among consumers. Already we’re seeing a huge migration of companies with fewer than 10 employees making the switch. It’s a big cost savings, and people aren’t afraid of the quality anymore; the buzz says quality is as good as that of a regular line.

For business travelers, it’s fantastic. I travel with my VoIP phone. I can plug it into a broadband connection anywhere and get my phone calls as if I’m at my own desk. I can even use VoIP on my laptop with a headset, via WiFi. Tokyo, L.A., or Dallas — no one has to know where I am.

You’ve talked about cell phones morphing into computerlike devices. Is that really going to happen this year?
It’s already happening. Microsoft’s new Ultra-Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC) is one example. It’s a mini-tablet PC with Sony PSP, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Windows XP [Nokia and DualCor also offer mini-tablet phones]. For business travelers who want to stay connected, these kinds of devices will let you talk, send e-mail, and access any document you need, anytime.

Are there other ways travelers can have easy access to all their documents?
Web-hosted applications are going to come on strong this year. Instead of buying $700 or $800 worth of software for each computer in the office, you’ll pay a small monthly fee — like $5 — to get access to that same software online. Your documents will be stored there, securely, so your work won’t be vulnerable to hard drives crashing or viruses. And you could work on a document in the home office, leave it open, fly to China, get online in your hotel room, and pull up that same document with the cursor blinking exactly as you left it.

Haven’t software companies been talking about this for a while? Why would businesses sign on now?
The fees are going to come down. They’ll be more in line with what a small-business owner would consider paying. Think about it: Lots of business owners have gone for Linux, because it’s free, versus Windows, which requires a big up-front cost. To compete with Linux, Microsoft needs to go this way. I predict that we’ll see costs so low they factor out to $1 or even 50 cents per user per month.

Anything else we should watch for?
Sure, but it’s not good news. Spam and spyware and phishing scams and online fraud are just going to continue increasing. We’re starting to see cyberextortion, where hackers mine data from a business’s computer and then threaten to release it unless the business pays. We all have to be prepared to manage these risks.



VIDEO STARS
Thinking about a videophone? Faulkner picks these as the best of 2006.

From left: A rotating flip-out screen on the Nokia N90 will make you think you’re using a regular camcorder. It’s so easy, your kids might even “borrow” it. $400 The Nokia 6682 has 6X digital zoom (video and camera); share video with its multimedia message service (SMS) or by e-mail — at least until your friends say “Enough already!” $400 The Palm Treo 650 takes great MPEG-4 videos, and its large, 65,000-color screen is very easy on the eyes (like your photos, we’re sure). $500 The Samsung MM-A800 boasts awesome color depth (the screen has 262,000 colors) — and extra-long, high-quality video capture. Can you say “Hollywood”? $500