David vs. Goliath
The ancient tale of David's victory over the mighty Goliath has become a symbol of how smaller competitors can rival larger ones using intelligence and determination. The story has repeated itself time and time again in the tech industry--think Microsoft and IBM, Google and Yahoo, and Facebook and MySpace.
Today you can find numerous upstarts rivaling their larger competitors. Here's a look at 15 interesting David vs. Goliath-like tech shake-ups going on right now.
Kindle Fire vs. iPad
Nearly two years after its introduction, the iPad remains the most popular tablet device. Apple has sold nearly 40 million iPads since April 2010, while competitors' tablets languish on store shelves. Amazon hopes to change this trend with the Kindle Fire, an 8GB, media-focused tablet priced at just $199. The Kindle Fire ships November 15, and many people believe it will be the iPad's first serious challenger.
Voice Controls vs. Keyboards
For nearly 150 years, since the first typewriter was sold in the 1860s, the keyboard has been the most popular input device. Google and Apple are looking to rival the keyboard by introducing voice-based input systems such as Voice Actions for Android and the iPhone 4S's Siri.
Google has even started experimenting with voice input features for its Web browser, Chrome. While voice input technologies aren't yet reliable enough to replace your keyboard, they're definitely getting there.
Tablets vs. Laptops
We may be in the "post-PC era," but laptops are still going strong. Market research firm IDC (PCWorld and IDC are both owned by International Data Group) recently predicted that laptop sales will rise by nearly 11 percent in 2012, despite the relative popularity of tablets today.
Spotify vs. iTunes
Apple's iTunes revolutionized the music industry in 2003 by letting customers purchase songs on the cheap. But now Spotify and other music subscription services are gaining ground by giving users access to an unlimited library of songs--songs that they don't own, and can only stream. Spotify claims to have 10 million worldwide users, 2 million of whom are paying subscribers.
iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 vs. BlackBerry
As recently as early 2010, RIM's BlackBerry devices were the most popular smartphones in North America. But now, just a year and a half later, RIM has all but disappeared behind Android and iOS as consumers opt for media-focused smartphones instead of business-oriented devices. RIM is trying to keep up--it's introducing a new operating system called BBX OS in 2012--but it may be too late.
iPhone vs. Point-and-Shoot Cameras
The iPhone isn't just upending the smartphone market--it's also challenging basic point-and-shoot cameras. The iPhone 4 is now the most popular "camera" on Flickr, beating out the Nikon D90 and three Canon EOS devices. The iPhone has even been used to shoot magazine covers and movies, and now the iPhone 4S comes with a better, 8-megapixel camera.
NFC vs. Credit Cards
You may soon be waving your smartphone around, instead of your credit or debit card. Near Field Communications (NFC) chips are making smartphone payments possible. Several new Android phones have NFC tech built in, RIM is experimenting with NFC, and Microsoft is thinking of making Windows Phone 7 NFC-compatible. Apple has also applied for NFC-based ATM patents, though the iPhone doesn't yet have an NFC chip.
HTML 5 vs. Flash
HTML 5 may soon replace Adobe Flash as the most dominant video platform on the Web. Apple started the revolution by banning Flash from its iOS devices, and Microsoft recently said that Flash plug-ins will not run on IE 10, which is being built for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8. But Flash still has supporters--despite getting the cold shoulder from Apple and Microsoft, almost every PC on the market, as well as many Android devices, can run Flash.
SSD vs. HDD
Solid-state drives (SSDs) are already the preferred method of storage for mobile devices, and they may soon replace hard disks (HDDs) in many laptops. SSD storage helps powerful, ultrathin laptops, such as Intel's Ultrabook and Apple's MacBook Air, stay slim. SSDs boot faster and have no moving parts, which leads many to believe that they may be more durable than HDDs (but the jury is still out on that one).
Google+ vs. Facebook
After years of failed social networking experiments such as Orkut and Buzz, Google is finally making waves with Google+. Even the reigning social network giant, Facebook, has taken notice--Facebook has answered both privacy concerns and specific Google+ features (such as Circles and multiuser video chat). Google+ still has a long way to go, though--Facebook has about 800 million users, while Google+ has just 40 million.
LightSquared vs. Wireless Carriers
A company called LightSquared may upend the dominance of national wireless carriers. LightSquared is working on creating a nationwide 4G LTE network, with satellites offering coverage where network towers are unavailable. Instead of offering cell service itself, LightSquared will sell network capacity to regional carriers and other businesses that want to offer wireless service.
Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office
Google Docs has been trying to compete with Microsoft Office for several years now, but so far Google hasn't made a serious dent in Microsoft's business. In September, however, Google claimed that its paid version of Docs had about 40 million subscribers. (A few years ago, Microsoft said that Office had some 750 million users worldwide.)
Microsoft isn't sitting still, though. In 2010, the company rolled out a free online version of Office as a complement to its desktop suite. In June, the company launched Office 365, an online productivity suite for enterprises.
Mobile Web vs. Traditional Web
In September, market research firm IDC predicted that, by 2015, more people in the United States will be accessing the Web via mobile devices than via PCs. At the moment, most people still use computers to go online, but tablets such as the iPad are quickly gaining prominence. These mobile devices often have to access simplified mobile versions of websites. However, as mobile devices become more capable, they are being used more often to access the regular, PC version of sites. So one day there may be no distinction between the "mobile" Web and the "traditional" Web.
Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air
Though Apple doesn't break down its sales figures, the new MacBook Airs are believed to be some of the most popular Mac devices available today. Intel is now trying to answer the MacBook Air's thin design and light weight with a new class of PCs called "ultrabooks." Critics wonder if ultrabook manufacturers such as Asus, Acer, and Lenovo can compete with the MacBook Air, especially since we've already seen older devices (such as Dell's Adamo line and Sony's Vaio X505) try and fail.
Instagram vs. Flickr
Flickr is one of the most popular and comprehensive photo-sharing services on the Web, with 51 million registered users. Instagram, on the other hand, is a simple iPhone app with just 9 million users. Instagram, despite its limited functionality and iOS exclusivity, hit 150 million uploaded photos in just ten months--while Flickr took nearly two years to hit 100 million photos. Flickr's taken notice--the Yahoo-owned site recently launched an Android application that rivals Instagram's features.
Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors