It's too early to tell what will be the blockbuster tech product of 2012, but a few theories prevail.
According to CNBC's Chris Morris, ultrabooks are primed to be the must-have tech toy of 2012. They are super slim and super fast computers aimed at rivaling Apple's MacBook Air. The system is led by Intel.
But the interesting thing is that utlrabooks and game platforms aren't necessarily "new." Yes, 2012 models have fancy new improvements on the older models, but the simple existence of an older model implies that the market is already saturated with one version or another of the gadget.
And now that every tech object does everything, can there ever really be a "next best thing," or will it always be enhancements of the old?
"The move to a more multifunctional mobile world is consolidating electronics -- and that erects more hurdles for technologies hoping to open up new spaces," writes Morris.
A few exceptions
"Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 are opening up new avenues to search for content and control devices, and could be installed in more electronics."
This relatively new and extremely popular technology has yet to be integrated in the most common tech products like computers and televisions, but it's likely it will be.
"What needs to happen is these products need to find a niche or differentiate themselves," says Arnold, director of industry analysis for consumer tech at NPD. "It's hard to put out a product that's kind of like the Apple ecosystem, but lacks the apps and costs the same amount."
Business section: Investing ideas
Curious which tech stocks will outperform in 2012?
For ideas, we screened a universe of technology stocks with a positive yearly performance greater than 20%. We further screened for companies that have received net positive investments from institutional investors, like hedge funds, in the current quarter.
These tech stocks did well in 2011, and "big money" thinks 2012 will start kick off much the same way -- do you agree with this optimism? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. Silicon Motion Technology
2. FARO Technologies
3. Rightnow Technologies: Provides cloud-based customer experience software products and services. Market cap of $1.41B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 1.4M, which is 5.03% of the company's 27.86M share float. Over the past year the stock value has increased by 57.73%.
4. Globecomm Systems: Provides satellite-based communications infrastructure solutions and services. Market cap of $321.64M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 622.0K, which is 3.04% of the company's 20.48M share float. Over the past year the stock value has increased by 48.11%.
7. The Ultimate Software Group: Designs, markets, implements, and supports unified human capital management (HCM) software-as-service (SaaS) solutions to businesses, providing a single source for comprehensive human resources, payroll, and talent management technology. Market cap of $1.79B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 2.4M, which is 9.49% of the company's 25.29M share float. Over the past year the stock value has increased by 39.99%.
9. Sourcefire: Provides intelligent Cybersecurity solutions for information technology (IT); environments of commercial enterprises, such as health care, financial services, manufacturing, energy, education, retail, and telecommunications; and federal, state, and international government organizations worldwide. Market cap of $923.39M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 3.3M, which is 11.99% of the company's 27.52M share float. Over the past year the stock value has increased by 33.22%.
10. OPNET Technologies: Provides software products and related services for managing applications and networks in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $786.27M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 896.3K, which is 6.03% of the company's 14.87M share float. Over the past year the stock value has increased by 32.61%.
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Data sourced from Finviz.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Cognex, Apple, Microsoft, and Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.