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The business climate in the U.S. is even more competitive than ever and things are not expected to slow down in 2012. For many small businesses this may mean a technology upgrade to stay on the cutting edge, and a lot of new information and gadgets were revealed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Some trends to keep an eye on in the New Year include smart-business application offerings from phone companies, more reliance on mobile computing that involves tablets and “ultrabook” portable computers and new offerings from tech underdog Blackberry. For more on this continue reading the following article from TheStreet.

Last year is done. The tax man will soon reap his bloody vengeance. But at events such as the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, the geeks already showed some of the cards they plan to lay down later this year. That means it's time to sit down, grab a big Diet Coke -- my brain beverage of choice -- and try to get a feel for the tech tools you'll want to lay down cold hard cash for this year. It could be your best chance to make it through the next 12 months still in business.

Here are my top tech trends to watch this year if you want to stay competitive:

1. Don't write off BlackBerry just yet.
You read it here first: The demise of the BlackBerry might be the most overhyped prediction for 2012. Why? Later this year, parent company Research in Motion(RIMM) will most likely -- finally -- debut a new generation of BlackBerry devices with a combined operating system that will work both on smartphones and tablets. Yes, there is gobs of negative press about the new OS and devices, but based on the developer chatter I am hearing, having apps that can work easily across all 70 million or so BlackBerry devices worldwide is attractive.

No, the BlackBerry experience probably won't rival what you find on an Apple(AAPL) iPhone or a Google(GOOG) Android device. But if your firm is like mine -- and you love the BlackBerry keyboard, battery life and bomb-proof email -- you can expect some improvement from RIM. Progress will be made. But either way, no matter what you do, don't junk your BlackBerry until you get a feel for where these new tools are going.

If RIM gets lucky, it might just have one heck of a mobile business tool on its hands.

2. Bank on smart-business applications from your phone company.
Companies in the phone business don't seem to want to be in the phone business any more. Instead, they want to follow in the footsteps of IBM(IBM) and become services companies for businesses. Literally every operator I have spoken with over the past few weeks, from AT&T(T) to Verizon(VZ), says while they obviously still plan to offer excellent connectivity and great phones, the sweet spot they see is in providing sophisticated business applications. This includes advanced connectivity to remote devices and direct software development support for business applications.

There might be some real productivity options here -- I like what AT&T is doing with its Mobility Services products. One of the cheaper services, at less than a $100 a month and capable of enabling remote business forms, might be worth a shot.

3. Bet about a grand on a better mobile computing strategy.
Computing on the road has gotten darn impressive. Several trends are at work here. For one thing, the iPad has revolutionized the tablet market. Now you can get excellent mobile tablet PCs from makers such as Motorola(MOT) at a reasonable cost.

But equally impressive is a new generation of portable notebook computers. You will see the term "Ultrabook" used to describe these low-cost, superthin, superlight laptop devices. I have been very impressed with tools from makers including Acer, Toshiba and Lenovo, among many others. Most weigh less than 3 pounds, boast slick HD screens, have great processing power and are often less than an inch thick. And they can be had starting at about $1,000. Not bad.

Between tablets and this new generation of portable computers, if you're lugging around a 6-pound beast, chances are you are not as efficient as you could be. This is probably the year to upgrade.

This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.