The Biggest 'Wins' of 2010
We've already seen some of the biggest tech "failures" of 2010 -- including Google Buzz, Android tablets, and the iPhone 4's antenna issues -- but what about this year's winners?
True, some of these products are hyped-up winners of marketing -- not necessarily life-changing magical devices -- but there's no denying that they've gone "for the win" this year as some of tech's biggest successes.
When Apple's much-awaited tablet was unveiled in January, tech reporters were skeptical about its "magical" properties. After all, aside from being a tablet, its specs were pretty lackluster: no USB ports, no GPS, no camera, large and somewhat awkward to handle, no HDMI out, no touch camera, and so on. It appears the joke was on us, though, because the iPad has since become the most quickly adopted non-phone electronic device ever, and is still selling at a rate of about 4.5 million units per quarter.
To be fair, the Droid X launched right around the same time as the iPhone 4's antenna problems became a big deal, so that may have had something to do with the phone's initial sales. That said, the Droid X -- which features a 4.3-inch display and an 8MP camera, among other specs -- managed to sell out online and in stores, despite Verizon's extra preparation for the phone's launch.
Rovio Mobile probably had no idea what a potent combination little green pigs and slingshot-launching birds could be when it came out with Angry Birds in December 2009. The physics-based puzzle game, which features birds using themselves as cannon fodder in order to break down the defenses of egg-stealing pigs, has since been downloaded more than 50 million times across multiple mobile platforms.
Social-buying phenomenon Groupon may have started in 2008, but it really came into its own in 2010, with a projected end-of-year income of $500 million and the luxury of being able to turn down a $6 billion offer from Google. The fastest-growing web company in history even managed to land CEO Andrew Mason a spot on the cover of Forbes.
Despite being only marginally faster than Vista (according to PCWorld's in-house benchmark tests), Windows 7 was a definite success for Microsoft -- it even managed to become the biggest-grossing preorder in Amazon history, even besting pre-order records for the seventh Harry Potter book. Thus, we can conclude that either Windows 7 is better than Harry Potter, or that Vista users were even more dissatisfied than Harry Potter fans were excited. Crazy.
Most of the major wireless carriers haven't even released their new 4G networks yet, but the new super-fast data option is already buzzing on everybody's minds. HTC released the first 4G phone in June, the HTC EVO 4G, on Sprint's 4G network, and T-Mobile released its own MyTouch 4G shortly after. Verizon just recently announced that its 4G LTE network is available in 39 U.S. cities, though Verizon currently has no 4G-capable phones available.
While 3D HDTVs didn't exactly sweep the market this year (mostly due to expensive peripherals and lack of 3D content), James Cameron's fantasy-sci-fi Pandora world of Avatar certainly did a lot to increase interest in the new technology. Unfortunately, the increased interest will have to wait -- Panasonic has exclusive rights to the 3D Blu-ray version of Avatar until 2012, and is only selling the sought-after disc as part of expensive bundles.
Google Voice has been around for a year and a half, but the online phone management service made some pretty big leaps in 2010. It was successfully ported to the iPhone in November, more than a year after it was initially rejected from the App Store. Google also added a free (though for a limited time) integrated call-to-phone service for Gmail users, and Gmail users responded enthusiastically by placing a million calls in the first 24 hours the service was available.
You thought the iPad was special for selling 3 million units in the first 80 days? Well StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty sold half that number in the first two days. The much, much-anticipated sequel to Blizzard's original real-time strategy game was 12 years in the making -- and it shows. Needless to say, gamers young and old lined up (virtually and physically) to snag the game when it was released on July 27.
In many ways, the iPhone 4 was a fail. Not only did the iPhone 4 have serious antenna problems, which the company tried to pawn off as a software issue (though it finally relented), but the white version mysteriously went missing. These issues didn't keep Apple from beating its own sales records, though -- in the fourth quarter of 2010, Apple reported that its iPhone sales were up 91 percent (14.1 million units total) from the same quarter last year.
While it might seem like Sony's Move controller for the Playstation 3 and Microsoft's Kinect device for the Xbox 360 are a little behind the times compared to Nintendo's Wii, that didn't stop the add-ons to the two popular gaming consoles from selling quickly. Of course, it probably helps that both products launched later in the year -- the Kinect, in fact, launched just a week before Black Friday.
No, not the delicious make-it-yourself Pinkberry-inspired frozen treat (although I would definitely put that at the top of my list), but Google's Android version 2.2, colloquially known as "Froyo." Android 2.2 was not only faster and sexier than previous Android iterations, but it included full flash support (take that, Apple!) and tethering. Perhaps Android 2.3--which was just released--will be a hit in 2011, but for now I'm sticking with Froyo.
The iPhone Dev-Team and Apple Hacking
In July, the U.S. Copyright Office declared jailbreaking/unlocking iPhones to be legal--a win for consumers (at least, the hack-minded ones). But let's face it, most of us are not really smart enough to figure out how to hack our devices all by ourselves. So thank you, iPhone Dev-Team, for all of your hard, unpaid work.