2010 was a productive year for Geek Tech news.
New gadgets were unveiled, some became popular, others not so much.
The evolution of computers, especially mobile devices, continued to accelerate at lightning speed, while the usual popular online destinations that have dominated the dynamic web continue to grow in popularity more than ever before.
Apple unveiled several devices this year that shook things up. All were mobile.
The iPad, though disappointing to some critics for not being a full blown tablet running OS X, has become enormously popular. Many wondered if there was a niche for something like the iPad, existing in the middle, between a smartphone and a laptop, and, indeed there is a market. The iPad is a great device, and a huge success for Apple.
The iPhone 4 was also unleashed this year, and it’s a big improvement over previous versions. It’s faster, has a front-facing camera, sleek design, and incredible high resolution display. Despite the much hyped “death grip” controversy, the iPhone 4 is a hit, and deserves to be.
Apple also updated it’s Macbook Air this year. The new model is a fantastic upgrade from Apple’s first attempt at an ultra-light “netbook” style laptop. The Macbook Air is a winner.
HP bought Palm in 2010, and while there haven’t been any major new devices revealed just yet, 2011 will probably see Palm’s WebOS on HP hardware such as phones, tablets, and even printers.
Blackberry continues to tread water. They revealed their plans for a tablet – the PlayBook. Perhaps, however, they should be concentrating on their phones, which are getting smoked by iOS and Android when it comes to features and innovation.
The popularity of Google’s Android OS skyrocketed in 2010. More and more handsets fill the market that are running the always evolving Android OS. Samsung released their Galaxy Tab, the first viable Android Tablet, but 2011 will surely see a true explosion in Android tablets, especially because Google’s recently revealed new tablet-specific version of Android will be available.
Microsoft had a good year in 2010. A company once known for it’s dominant, yet aging operating system, is now doing very interesting things. Windows 7 is a hit, and smartphones running Windows Phone 7 are out, with good reviews. It’s interesting that Microsoft has taken a unique approach to it’s Windows Phone 7 GUI, rather than try to just mimic iOS and Android. 2010 also saw Microsoft release Kinect for Xbox 360. Kinect is an astonishing, fresh take on how we interact with not just video games, but computers in general.
Google continues to dominate the web with a variety of services, as well as Android, though 2010 saw them pull the plug on the ambitious Google Wave project. Google Wave was meant as an email replacement of sorts, or at least a clever take on live online collaboration, but it simply didn’t catch on.
Google also moved forward with Chrome OS, releasing 60,000 laptops running the slim browser-based OS to developers and other early adopters. Cynics slam Chrome OS, but I’m very intrigued by it. I think there could be a place for a light, cheap netbook that runs everything in a web browser. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple come up with something similar someday. Perhaps a “Macbook nano” that runs a version of iOS instead of full blown OS X?
Speaking of netbooks – 2009 may have been the year of the netbook, but 2010 has seen the popularity of netbooks drop. For the average consumer, why pay $299 for an underpowered netbook that runs Windows XP or an unfamiliar version of Linux, when for a bit more money you could have a real, full-size laptop running Windows 7, or an iPad? I personally still like the idea of super cheap netbooks for basic needs though. I still love my Asus EEE running Ubuntu. This is why I think Chrome OS netbooks could be cool, and could catch on as a niche thing. Time will tell.
2010 also saw big (and small) tech players take aim at the living room TV.
Google came out with Google TV, which for now, it seems is a convoluted flop. Google TV, which I’ve tried out in stores, seems to add complication, not simplicity to the TV experience.
Apple simplified their Apple TV box. It’s physically smaller, more about streaming than storage, and is much cheaper at $99. I have one, and it’s a nice, simple device for accessing iTunes across your home network.
There’s also Roku and Boxee. Roku is especially gaining in popularity due the range of inexpensive devices it has to choose from. The Boxee Box has mixed reviews, but definitely deserves a chance.
The big winner of course is Netflix. Apple added Netflix to the Apple TV, and so with Netflix available on the Apple TV, Roku, Wii, Xbox, PS3, and baked in to many TVs and Blu-ray players, Netflix is becoming truly ubiquitous in the living room. Their new $7.99 streaming plan is a no-brainer.
2010 also looks to be the year that the acceptance and popularity of ebook readers has turned the corner. Amazon is selling more Kindles than ever, and digital books are becoming very popular. Barnes and Noble released a color version of their Kindle-competitor, the Nook, and it too is garnering pretty good reviews.
There were many other Geek Tech stories in 2010: Wikileaks, net neutrality, Apple vs. Flash, the promise of HTML5, the continued Borg-like online dominance of Twitter and Facebook, and the explosion in popularity of geolocation services like Foursquare.
2010 was an exciting year for Geek Tech. There have been interesting shifts this year in how we use computers, particularly our mobile computing life, with the rise of tablets, the evolution of smartphones, and the dense web of apps and services that are spun together into the digital fabric of our lives.
We are so ubiquitously connected like never before, for better or worse.