Better batteries? Gadgets get everything but!

Remember the revolution in battery technology? It never happened. So why is battery life so much better?

Now the fun really starts

Squeezing maximum life out of old-school Lithium-ion batteries is nice, but there's so much more going on in mobile technology R&D.

Intel, with help from MIT, this week demonstrated "wireless power" -- the company showed how to make a 60-watt light bulb glow using an energy source that was a yard away. Although far from ready for market, the technology -- which MIT calls "WiTricity," short for "wireless electricity" -- could one day enable gadgets to be charged without ever being plugged in or even touching anything.

A new, forthcoming power brick from Dell should be able to charge a laptop 80 percent in just an hour, which is pretty good. And here's another power trick: You'll be able to charge USB devices while the laptop is completely turned off.

And other companies are looking at a wide range of power-boosting alternatives to better batteries. One of the most interesting is a line of solar-powered backpacks and laptop bags from a company called Voltaic.

Voltaic's top-of-the-line bag, called the Voltaic Generator, is a full-size attaché-style laptop bag. It has solar panels on the outside and a battery on the inside. So it's charging itself whenever there's enough light shining on it, then you charge your laptop, mobile phone, iPod or whatever from the internal battery.

If you think it's worth $500 extra to get 19 hours of battery life (from Dell), maybe you'll be tempted to pay $600 extra for the Voltaic Generator bag -- and get several years of battery life for all your gadgets.

The Dell Latitude E6400, HP Elitebook 6930, Lattitude ON, Intel's mobile processor technologies, "WiTricity" and the Voltaic Generator solar laptop bag are just a few examples of what's happening in the long-battery-life arena. We're on the business end of a new era in incredible power-management, power conservation and power-generation devices.

And it's no thanks to batteries.

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