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Harry McCracken Rounds Up the Year In Tech 86

Velcroman1 writes "Windows got less annoying. Smartphones became smarter. The Internet continued to change entertainment for the better. All in all, it was a good year for technology and the folks who use it. Harry McCracken, the brains behind Technologizer and the former editor-in-chief of PC World, reveals his picks and pans for the most interesting tech stories of the year."
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Harry McCracken Rounds Up the Year In Tech

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  • Not big stories. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:27PM (#30585226)
    While obviously Snow Leopard and Windows 7 were big deals, there are a lot more game changers and important things out there. The ION platform is a big thing, its already used in a few HTPC setups and I expect it to grow even more in 2010. The cheap full laptops are also going to be big things. Its hard to beat a laptop with a 15 inch screen, a 2.2 ghz CPU and 2 gigs DDR2 and a decent sized HDD for $300 or less. A cheap netbook is good for a geek, kids or the businessman. However, for the elderly, those unemployed and looking for a good laptop, and students, these cheap laptops are going to help change the market.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @03:16PM (#30585944) Journal
      Given that Intel is rapidly giving Atoms without on-die graphics the nerve pinch, ION's long-term prospects look grim(ok, VIA might get around to shipping something, 18 months from now). If they want to offer anything for the Pine Trail Atoms, it will need to hang off the PCIe bus(and, given that the Pine Trails have an on-die memory controller, and relatively anemic off-chip I/O, quite possibly dedicated video RAM) That'll raise the cost significantly.

      For strict low-end HTPC use, I'd expect that most people will just suck it up and pair the new Atom with a dedicated video accelerator like Broadcom's offering. That will be near useless for 3D graphics; but it'll get you full h246 acceleration for absolute peanuts.

      At price(and power draw, though that matters less for something on AC power) points just above that, you run into the combination of a low-end Athlon and an integrated Radeon. Better CPU performance than anything Atom, some GPU capability, and full video acceleration.

      Above that, you get into the land of normal desktop processors and, if desired, discrete video cards. Unless Nvidia can somehow get an interconnect licence out of Intel, or get VIA up to speed, and soon, ION is doomed. Which is a pity, Intel's graphics offerings in the area are pitiful, and their tactics could hardly be described as fair; but that doesn't help Nvidia much.
    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      The ION platform is a big thing, its already used in a few HTPC setups and I expect it to grow even more in 2010.

      For the price the ION is great (I have an Acer Revo, and it is a badass computer for $200), but I can't imagine making it an HTPC workhorse, the performance is just too lacking.
    • Mate, the unemployed don't waste money on laptops, unless they had good redundancy packages from their ex employers in the financial industry.

      • Depends, I know a lot of unemployed people who live life on credit cards. Yeah, I tell them its going to bite them in the rear later on, but so far they really don't listen to me, some have bought new TVs, -good- new laptops (one got a new Macbook pro) and others have increased their internet speed to "help" them search for a job.
  • "Didn't I tell you to call me Ernie, or Big Ern?"
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      "Didn't I tell you to call me Ernie, or Big Ern?"

      Perhaps you have him confused with his brother Phil McCracken?

  • Of these changes, the browser market having real more-than-2-way competition was one I wouldn't have predicted, although admittedly the competition for actual users is still mostly 2-way (Firefox/IE) at the moment. But I'll give that one.

    Facebook/Twitter as 2009 stories is basically the same as Facebook/Twitter as 2008 stories, but with more users and more mainstream notice. In fact, these were in various pundits' 2008 lists, weren't they?

    The Pre is alright I guess, but not sure whether it really changed th

    • Boring and Predictable is what IT is now. We're in a mature period, where very little is actually revolutionary. "Game Changer" depends on public viewpoint and impact, and in that regard, I'd say the last real game changer was the iPhone, and that was years ago.

      • I wouldn't classify the iPhone as a game changer? What new thing did it bring to the table? Sure, it's a pretty cool smart phone, but that had already been done by BB.

      • "I'd say the last real game changer was the iPhone, and that was years ago."

        You obviously haven't been paying attention. The current game changer is Android. Right now the only reason to develop for iPhone is because of the large user base. The only reason to buy an iPhone right now is ignorance of Android or a morbid desire to stay with AT&T.

        • My wife has an iPhone and if I were inclined to buy a phone right now, I would probably get one. Mostly because of the apps (including iTunes) and the industrial design of the phone itself.

          I live in Texas and we haven't had any problems with AT&T's service. I understand if you live in San Francisco or New York your experience would be different, but out here, it works well enough.

          I especially like how Apple chose to not write "Apple" or "AT&T" on the front of the phone. There are lots of other phone

          • "My wife has an iPhone and if I were inclined to buy a phone right now, I would probably get one. Mostly because of the pps (including iTunes) and the industrial design of the phone itself."

            Right. I already said ignorance of Android is one reason someone might do that. It is not intended as an insult (recall that ignorance is lack of knowlege, not stupidity.) I have an HTC phone running Android, and there are apps that are music apps that are better than what iPhone has, and Android does true multitaskin

            • I'm not ignorant of Android and I still prefer the iPhone. In fact, my experience with Android (and its now fragmenting market) is why I prefer the iPhone. So, your theory has holes.

              Are there Android apps that are better than iPhone apps? That is a matter of opinion. Will there be an Android/[pick your hardware] combination that I will like better than the iPhone in the futuremaybe. I'll judge each on its merits as they are released (and as I do now).

              • "I'm not ignorant of Android and I still prefer the iPhone. In fact, my experience with Android (and its now fragmenting market) is why I prefer the iPhone. So, your theory has holes."

                There is no "fragmenting market" issue. You only have to buy one, not the whole market. My theory is rock solid. You looked at something running Android - maybe even owned it - and you didn't like it as much as you like the iPhone. You clearly remain ignorant of the hardware/app combos that are better than what the iPhone ca

                • Wrong again. I'm fully aware of the multi-tasking issue. However, you are the one asking the wrong question.

                  The right question is, "Does the platform enable me to be more productive?" So far, the iPhone is better, for me. As I said earlier, maybe tomorrow the iPhone will not be the answer. Today it is.

                  As to fragmenting, you are the one that is ignorant or caught up in religious zeal that is blinding you. When a developer has to look as hardware that is widely different, with very different capabilities, and

                  • "wait, it can't do that without multi-taksing right?darn, guess that blows your multi-tasking plank"

                    Since you like to twist my words I'm not going to address everything you say. I'll stick to debunking your ridiculous claim that you debunked what I said, and touching on a few major points. I said 3rd party apps can't multitask, since Apple won't allow it. Obviously the iPhone OS, which is a Darwin derivative, does multitasking. Also, you switched up from which is better as a user to which as better as

                    • My points stand. The applications have to multi-task to receive the message passed to them. Both user experience and developer points are valid. As a user, if I have to look for that golden combination of hardware and software, then I'm on a hunt that could be a waste of time. Today, going with the iPhone, I just buy the new one, and I know that any software written for it will do the job it was written to do.

                      Seems you tried to stick a square peg in a round hole. ;-)

                    • "My points stand on quicksand."

                      There, I fixed that for you. Now off you go ...

                    • Don't give up your day jobcomedy is not your forte. And, for your sake, I hope your day job isn't Android application coding. Not much money there either. In the future, there will be. But not today.

                    • "Don't give up your day jobcomedy is not your forte."

                      I can accept that. On the other hand, having read your posts, you might want to give it a try ...

            • I got to use the driod last week. while there are some cool features, it doesn't beat my iphone by a far margin. The first being a responsive screen. It would take 2-3 tries to unlock the phone. the touch sensor just didn't want to hang on to the unlock bar as i slid my finger. There were a couple of cool apps, but the browser was slower to use(not the speed of the download which varies a lot no matter which provider you use.) but scrolling pages wasn't always smooth.

              I have other nitpicks about the ha

            • What music app is that? I hate the stock Android music app, but don't have the time to sort through the pile.
    • Referring to the unremarkable?

      A list of this kind must be predictable by definition, otherwise is of no real use.

  • If you want a low quality, detail light overview of the shit you heard the names of most on teh teevee, read TFA. Or you could masturbate for yourself. fapfapfapfapfapfap
  • by ausoleil ( 322752 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:52PM (#30585568) Homepage

    AT&T Wireless seems to be a company intent on hari-kari. It has sold its customers the wildly popular iPhone, and now blames its customer base for using the device: [9to5mac.com]

    AT&T made more threatening remarks aimed at iPhone users ("Wireless data hogs") who use too much "audio and video streaming" today. AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega told attendees at a UBS conference in New York...

    Wireless data hogs who jam the airwaves by watching video on their iPhones will be put on tighter leashes, ...[AT&T] will also give high-bandwidth users incentives to "reduce or modify their usage."

    Just 3 percent of "smart" phone users are consuming 40 percent of the network capacity, de la Vega said, adding that the most high-bandwidth activity is video and audio streaming. Several applications on the iPhone provide nonstop Internet radio.

    De la Vega also defended the network's performance, saying testing showed that AT&T's third-generation, or 3G, network was faster than that of competitors, and that major problems are concentrated in New York and San Francisco, which are packed with smart phone users.

    AT&T has already pushed iPhone Tethering back into 2010 with no hard date in sight.

    Obviously, these threats by De la Vega are not going well with its customer base, one who has grown increasingly surly. While the first of Dan Lyons' "Operation Chokehold" customer protests may have been unsuccessful, it would be easy to see how iPhone/AT&T customers could find other ways to show their dissatisfaction. And surely, all of this has been noted and noted well in Cupertino at Apple HQ. The last thing it wants in the face of increased competition for smartphone sales is a customer revolt towards an antagonistic company. That in and of itself would suggest that Apple must surely be planning to not renew its exclusivity contract with AT&T, not without some contractually specified infrastructure improvements at the very least.

    While other smartphone brand owners and carriers may smugly note that they do not have these problems, they would be wise to note this emerging issue. As Droid and other smartphones become more widely accepted and used on other carrier networks, it is seemingly inevitable that they too will join the ranks of the disconnected unless they happen to be nearby a traditional wireless router that they can connect their pocket device to.

    The bottom line is that adoption may well bring about data caps with high charges for heavy users, simply because there are not that many providers and should they note that one sees a revenue increase by raising its rates, they can easily follow suit. This in turn will slow the adoption of broadband migration to smartphone devices at least until compression and connection technologies catch up and surpass this problem.

    • Wireless data hogs who jam the airwaves by watching video on their iPhones will be put on tighter leashes, ...[AT&T] will also give high-bandwidth users incentives to "reduce or modify their usage."

      For $40+/mo I expect a lot of leeway in my data plan usage. Perhaps they could offer me a rebate for using less? It'll seem a lot less nickel-and-dimey than the alternatives.

    • Just 3 percent of "smart" phone users are consuming 40 percent of the network capacity, de la Vega said, adding that the most high-bandwidth activity is video and audio streaming. Several applications on the iPhone provide nonstop Internet radio. I am shocked and surprised -- only 3% of iPhone owners use them for pr0n and constantly streaming music? If you're not gonna do that, what's the point of owning an iPhone? If you just wanted to, ya know, talk to people, than any old phone would do.
    • So it seems AT&T did a great job in the US contract with Apple, here in the UK we have now 3 carriers selling the iPhone (and you can get unlocked 2nd hand iPhones in reputable stores everywhere).

      So the "Wireless data hogs" (so you give consumers a service, with a device that encourages your users to use your service, and when they buy too much of it, you get angry at them. Wow, just wow) will eventually be less of a problem, when good old fashioned competition kicks in.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:57PM (#30585638) Homepage

    It's only been out since October 22nd, 2009. It seems a bit early to say that it "is far more likely than Vista to run decently on the computer you already own."

    We'll find out, because I believe that upgrades to Windows 7 are far more likely to be attempted than Windows upgrades usually are. Because of Vista's problems, because of concern that Vista will almost be an orphaned product--not by Microsoft but by all the vendors developing for Windows, and because the listed system requirements for Windows 7 are the same as for Vista, a lot of organizations are going to want to move swiftly to put Vista behind them. Corporations will want to standardize. The safest choice is to throw out the computers with Vista installed and buy new ones with Windows 7 preinstalled, but the Vista computers are a little too new for that. The remaining choices are to drag feet on moving to Windows 7 or to upgrade, and this time I think many will opt to upgrade.

    So, we will see.

    I hope it will turn out that upgrading to Vista is smooth. Microsoft has shown that it can do it: the transition from MS-DOS 3.3 to MS-DOS 5.0 was a model of what an OS upgrade should be.

    But it is early for McCracken to be celebrating it as an established fact, rather than a reasonable expectation based on listed system requirements and Windows 7's reputation as being not much more than a service pack.

    • Sure, it's early still, but I'm sure tech history will vindicate that which we already know: Windows 7 doesn't suck anywhere near as badly as Vista; it is in fact the OS release that Vista SHOULD have been, had not Microsoft badly mismanaged it.
      • Seconded. Just finished setting up a new Windows 7-operating computer for a friend of mine and was pleasantly surprised at its operation after spending much time with Vista on my work machine.
    • It's only been out since October 22nd, 2009.

      Net Applications and w3Schools have been tracking Win 7 since January.

      If there were any show-stoppers for Win 7, it seems reasonable to assume they would have been exposed by now.

      In round numbers:

      Net Applications:

      Win 7 Jan 0% Nov 4%
      In daily tracking 5%

      Linux 1% Through Jan-Nov 09.

      W3Schools:

      Win 7 Jan 0% Nov 7%

      Linux 4% Unchanged since January 2008.

      Top Operating System Share Trend [hitslink.com], Windows 7 Breaks 5% in Daily Tracking [hitslink.com]

      OS Platform Statistics [w3schools.com]

  • "Consumers appear to like the cheap little laptops known as netbooks -- during a disappointing year for PC sales, they were the only type of netbook that saw an increase in sales rather than a decline."

    Well, umm, yeah, I'd expect netbooks to be the only type of netbook that saw increase in sales, duh ;-)

  • My hits and misses. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @04:34PM (#30586858) Homepage Journal

    Hits
    Microsoft Windows 7 doesn't suck. It is a good update to XP and runs well on most PC that chocked on Vista. Vista took all the heat for missing drivers and such so Vista didn't have too.

    Android looks like ti will be the Windows of smartphones. It is everywhere and soon will be available on on carriers.

    Twitter has become the darling of the year. Now if they just figure out how to make money with it.

    Google Chrome. It is fast and it works well. Yet another browser steps up and shows that choice is good.

    Motorola is back. Motorola when from hero to zero and now back to hero thanks to the Droid. Keep pushing big M we need you

    EBook readers. This is the dawning of the year of the EBook or not but they are everywhere.

    The ZuneHD. Wow it is pretty and has a nice interface. It is a great media player and ZunePass makes it so tempting.

    NetFlix streaming. It is on the XBox, Roku, PS3, and now showing up on BluRay players. Just too cool and too handy.

    3D movies. I think they are here to stay

    The Kodak Zi8. It is a better HD camcorder than the Flip and at under $200 is a bargain. Now anybody can shoot HD at 1080p. And you thought slid shows where bad! I will not get into the terror of amature HD pron that I suspect will soon be flooding the Internet. Still a win but one that should scare us all.

    Misses
    MindowsMobile. It has no mind share and looks like it will be the dull also ran of the smartphone world. Unless Microsoft does something mind blowing soon it should just walk away.

    Nokia what are you doing? No really what are you doing? We have no idea and wonder if you do. Is the future S60 or Linux for you? Wait you came out with a netbook... Running WINDOWS?.

    PSP Go or as many people call it PSP Go Away... Really it is more expensive than the PSP, you have no way to play your UMD games on it and games are showing first in UMD form and only latter
    in the online store! Sony are you nuts?

    The ZuneHD, wait that was a hit? Yes it was from a tech and design standpoint the problem is that nobody cares. It lacks an open app store like the iPod Touch does and frankly nobody really cares about it. The ZuneHD is a miss because it is just invisible. Microsoft if you had made it a phone with an open app store you would have knocked it out of the ball park.

    Linux. I love Linux but it is still not doing it on the Desktop. Linux could have made huge inroads because Vista sucked and wouldn't run on netbooks. The first netbooks ran Linux but they sucked. They had a strange flavor of Linux. Had the Linux community gotten it's act together it could have really made headway. The number one problem is that it is hard to sell software for Linux. I still have hope. Folks this is what we need. A pretty and fast version of Linux. Might I suggest that it use QT embedded and ditch X or run X on top of QT embedded for programs that must use X. Next get an app store so people can buy and sell apps. Next It has to support Flash. Finally make a Smartbook that will run for hours on a battery charge supports HD video in hardware, looks good, and is under $350. It also must have an HDMI and and a ir port for a remote. Now make a deal with NetFlix, Blockbluster, and Amazon to sell download and streaming media on it. Yes I love Linux.

    AT&T your ads suck. No really that you can surf the web while talking on your cell phone just isn't that big of a deal to most people. To the none techies they are going why would you ever do that? The techies all know it only works on your small 3G network and will not work on the much bigger edge network. It is a sad reply to the Verizon ads.

    Comcast and AT&T. We are paying you to access the internet! WE THE CUSTOMERS THAT ARE PAYING WILL DECIDED WHAT SITES WE WANT TO GO TO! WE DO NOT WANT YOU SELL BETTER ACCESS TO ONE SITE BECAUSE WE ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND WE WANT EVERY SITE WE USE AND EVERY SERVICE WE USE TO BE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!!!! WE AS A NATION HAVE GIVEN YOU BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR BROADBAND AND WE HAVE

    • EBook readers. This is the dawning of the year of the EBook or not but they are everywhere.

      If by "everywhere" you mean "a small number of people in North America own eBook readers, but hardly anyone else does."

      The Kodak Zi8. It is a better HD camcorder than the Flip and at under $200 is a bargain. Now anybody can shoot HD at 1080p.

      What's the point in shooting 1080p if you do it through lousy optics in terrible lighting conditions? As always, consumer video and photography will remain awful, regardless of the technology.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        No everywhere means all over the news and in the public eye. Amazon has an international version of the Kindle and I am sure that Sony will be pushing them in Japan.
        "What's the point in shooting 1080p if you do it through lousy optics in terrible lighting conditions? As always, consumer video and photography will remain awful, regardless of the technology."
        So? really most writing is terrible even with word processing software everywhere. Most blogs are useless. 99% of everything on the web is junk. Heck eve

        • No everywhere means all over the news and in the public eye.

          Being on the tech news doesn't mean being in the public eye. It's not something that many people care about yet.

          So? really most writing is terrible even with word processing software everywhere. Most blogs are useless. 99% of everything on the web is junk. Heck even a 80% of printed material is junk.

          Right. So, how does that make the Kodak Zi8 a "hit of the year"? Most people have never heard of it.

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            The Kindle was Amazons most gifted item ever this year. Also both the Zi8 and the all the ebook readers have been on the Today and the CBS morning show which pretty much are extreme cases of mainstream press.
            The Zi8 I put as a hit because it is so good and was selling so well that Amazon and other retailers raised the price during the Christmas season. The Ebooks are a given they have super high buzz on the mainstream press. Will they last? That I don't know but this year at CES I think you will see more E

  • Try this tech yardstick. Tell us how sales were at PC Mag this year! If the industry makes no money development will suffer big time.

  • (no surname necessary) With Steve around, thre is no need to worry about technological creativity.
  •   He obviously doesn't do tech support.

    SB

  • Thanks to sites such as Hulu, software like Boxee, and gadgets such as the Roku player, it's now possible to do a high percentage of your TV watching at your convenience on the Internet

    It is strange that the author did not mention Youtube, where I watch a lot more of my favorite shows (albeit not current, but I don't care) than anywhere else, probably by an order of magnitude. Chunking into 10-minute pieces doesn't bother me, particularly when playlists are available. You can also see a lot of foreign shows that neither Hulu nor Netflix have. And why isn't Netflix streaming mentioned?

    So much for the notion that the cloud is always a more reliable repository for our stuff than an old-fashioned PC

    Don't you just love it when authors argue seemingly with themselves? I have not heard anyone make the abov

  • The author mentioned that Palm's new OS is a huge hit, but why was there no mention of Android in the same paragraph? It has stormed the cell phone market across several carriers and has brought a new "hybrid" model of software that is partially open source to the table. How is this not a bigger deal than Palm's OS? Palm has been making mobile operating systems and placing them on phones for years; this is hardly new.

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