As 2010 comes to an end we ask… Was it a good year in tech? And we answer… Nope
Nope??? Nope! It was a great year in tech. That’s right. 2010 finally saw some of the key things we have been hoping for come to fruition.
First and foremost 2010 gave us the iPad. The iPad wasn’t significant just because of what it did for Apple but because it finally showed that a tablet form factor can and will work… And be loved by consumers… if it is done right.
Think about it for a minute–the iPad is the first generation device and yet it is fantastic. Yes, there are a few key elements to it that are lacking and that will likely be fixed in the upcoming iPad 2 of the product — such as the lack of a camera, but the device overall is as solid as you’re going to find. There were no major flaws revealed as consumers started using it. There was no iPad equivalent of AntennaGate. In fact there have been no major reports of issues that people have had with it. Yes, the iPad is a little bit on the heavy side if you’re going to be using it for reading, but many of us use it to read anyway. And no, it doesn’t do Flash, but HTML5 has been making that less and less of an issue.
Having been on the tablet/UMPC bandwagon since the early days of tablet devices, I have just about given up hope that there would ever be a mainstream tablet. All the devices are used rather underpowered or too heavy and hot. Then along came the iPad. Within a few days it became my “daily driver”. In fact, if I had to have only one device with me somewhere I suspect I would choose the iPad.
It’s hard to remember now that so many people thought it was just a big iPod Touch. Maybe it is in fact “Just a big iPod Touch” But apparently there is a serious market for this Big iPod touch and it has found an audience with everyone from über-geeks to Judie’s (and soon my) mom. That’s saying a lot.
And to think that when 2010 began, a tablet from Apple was still just part of the rumor mill.
Competition is GOOOD!
2010 was also good because it finally saw the possibility of Apple having some competition in the smart phone and tablet arena. I’m still not a huge fan of Android devices but having recently used the Nexus S for a few days I have to admit that it’s a solid device. In fact I have to admit that — gasp – there’s nothing one could say about the device being bad. No, it doesn’t have the polish and finish of Apple’s offerings but it’s a good device and if I couldn’t have an iPhone needing to carry one of the current crop of android handsets would be far from a hardship. The hardware is decent and Android 2.3 really feels like a maturing platform. (Heck former Apple-fanboy LarryG has a Tab AND an Evo and could not be happier. And YES I did just write FORMER! )
Add in Microsoft’s Windows Phone and things are really moving in the handheld department.
Competition is a good thing, and 2010 finally saw the beginning of some competition directed at Apple and IOS. As a result, all of us will win as devices get better and better.
People Can Be Too Thin. Notebooks … Not So Much!
2010 was also amazing because it saw the first glimpse of the next generation designed for laptops. I owned the very first generation MacBook Air – in fact it arrived on the first day they were shipping, but I found it to be a huge disappointment. It was far too delicate, tremendously underpowered, and it was ridiculously overpriced.
Fast forward just a bit and … Wow. Thin is in and now there are few, if any, compromises to be made when choosing an Air. We just set up Elana’s new 11″ MacBook Air last night. She is using it as her main computer and could not be happier. For under $1000 she has a computer she can take just about anywhere and will do just about everything she needs it to do.
Many of us suspect the MacBook Air is the next-generation of Apple’s laptop design. It establishes some of the many design elements that I think we’ll be seeing in the years to come. It won’t be long before spinning drives are a thing of the past in portable computers. With capacity up, prices down, and effective cloud computing increasingly the majority of people don’t need 500 GB hard drives in their laptops. Solid-state drives allow computers to run quieter, cooler and faster. In the MacBook Air is the first line of computers that only comes with solid-state drives.
In addition, I have very little doubt that we’ll see an increasing number of computers dropping the optical drive built into them. The number of times that we need such the drive is less and less and on the occasions when we do need one using an external drive is certainly more than reasonable. This is especially so since not having the drive built-in means the computers can be smaller and lighter. Smaller and lighter 95% of the time certainly makes up for 5% of inconvenience.
Moreover Apple showed us that we really don’t need the optical drive with actions rather than words. The first MBA came with the OS reinstall on a DVD. To use it you needed an external drive or shared another computer’s drive. Not so with the new Airs. These came with tiny thumb drives instead and in so doing showed us that we really don’t need CDs and DVDs after all.
Shop ‘Til You Drop!
Which leads to the next innovation that we’ll look at–the Mac App Store. One could argue that this innovation really will belong to 2011 since it hasn’t gone live yet. We’ll include it here since it already points the way toward the next generation of computer applications and since new versions of old favorites such as iWork are said the be delayed ONLY so they can make their appearance in the App Store next month. As noted, the MacBook air shipped with a small USB thumb drive instead of optical drives for the operating system. The Mac App Store will make it even easier to forgo optical drives built into laptops. Apple’s iOS App Store has been a runaway success and we’ve already seen others jump on the bandwagon. The iOS App Store didn’t open in 2010 but it was in 2010 that it began to mature and finds its way onto more devices than just the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
Can You Hear Me Now??
2010 was an awesome year in technology because, for the first time, using one’s voice instead of one’s keyboard began to hit the mainstream. I’ve been using Nuance’s voice products for years. On Windows Dragon NaturallySpeaking was quite good a few years ago. When I made the more to the Mac I was disappointed to find that there was no equal for OS X Sure there was a voice-to-text application but it wasn’t in the same league. MacSpeech Dictate got better but still wasn’t there. Then Nuance bought MacSpeech and released Dragon for Mac. There were some initial user issues with the software but a recent update has me able to dictate to my Air without a headset and with almost perfect recognition.
Add in the fact that as I tell people about DragonDictation for their iOS device I discover that more and more of them are already using it and it finally seems that it has gone mainstream… Or is poised to. Vlingo also brings some amazing voice tools to portable devices and, if you use an Android handset with 2.2 or later you can use voice in ANY input window. It still isn’t perfect but it is nothing short of amazing.
Voice has arrived and 2011 will see its use explode.
Invite Me for a Visit but I’m Not Moving In!
Finally 2010 saw streaming media and the services to deliver them finally begin to mature. The Roku box got a nice update, Apple TV went from content box to low-priced streamer, Google TV made an appearance… Kind of… And a host of services such as Netflix and Hulu found a huge and devoted audience. Apple is poised to take their North Carolina center online and may introduce streaming iTunes but we don’t even need it because 2010 saw services like rdio, Slacker, Pandora and more providing Internet radio and/or the ability to stream selected music to your handheld. Many will even cache some of your music locally.
Add in the maturation of Evernote and Dropbox and more and more of our content is truly stored, and safe, in the cloud.
Which leads to the final thought about 2010. It was, in so many ways, a watershed year for technology. Devices and services we have longed for finally came into the market place or matured significantly enough to become truly useful. More than that, however, many of these new technologies work together to maker each better and more useful. For example, the iPad has a maximum capacity of 64GB and the MacBook Air taps out at 256GB of storage. For many that isn’t enough space these days. But when I can stream more of my media to my iPad or my MBA whenever I have a data connection that becomes less of an issue. And now that I can selectively choose which Dropbox folders are synced locally and which are only on their servers but accessible whenever I need them I don’t need nearly as much local storage as I did a year ago.
Yes, 2010 was a huge year for tech… And I for one can’t wait to see what 2011 brings!