postheadericon ECS: Best and Worst Tech in 2010

This past year has seen new tech come in and out of our lives as fast as we can get through the revolving doors at KTM’s new shopping malls...and with most of us (being the fickle consumers that we are) opting for new technology that makes budgetary sense over tech sensational.

Take for example Microsoft’s miserable attempt this year at introducing a smartphone geared for teens. The Kin was a scaled down phone that had tight integration with Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social networking tools of 2010, yet the US release and then cancelled European release make this the biggest fail of 2010. Even teens today are smart enough to know that a phone that can’t play games or run apps is over-priced – no matter what the cost!

The Kin is in sharp contrast one of the biggest hits in 2010: phones running on the Android operating system, with that software designed by search giant Google. Hundreds of thousands of Asians per day are activating Android-based phones, and over 55 million new users were added in 2010 alone. This was a big win for Google, even though Android’s big brother “Chrome” seems doomed. Chrome is an operating system geared for netbooks, which were eclipsed this year by Apple’s introduction of the iPad. So in other words, Google Chrome is most likely DOA for 2011.

The impending death of Chrome is directly related to the decline of netbook sales, which dropped dramatically in 2010. Once upon a time (just 18 or so months ago) netbooks were considered a viable alternative to shoppers needing a laptop, or for those with light computing needs, such as getting emails and using the web. Once the best new tech of 2009, netbooks are passé with netbook sales “halved” by Apple’s iPad sales, says Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn.

In 2010, the iPad became king of devices for surfing and consuming media of all kinds, albeit without being able to display Flash from popular websites. Despite this limitation and the iPad’s high price (over $500 USD), Apple has sold over 7 million tablets in just twelve months (with a 95.5% market share) and with no other manufacture coming close despite last minute attempts during 2010 to catch up. For example, the Viewsonic “G” tablet was pulled from store shelves when it was discovered that the graphics display processor was not up to the job, and customers were totally disgusted with this tablet’s performance. Yet 2011 promises a boatload of other iPad-like devices, with most having more features then the original success story and with a much lower price tag.

In sharp contrast to 2010’s iPad and iPhone 4 successes – the iPhone 4 introduced in June sold almost 3 million in just 3 days – there have been a slew of tech gadget disasters, with the Cisco Flip Slide HD pocket cam being high on the list. This over-priced addition to the popular Flip HD line of camcorders is a big fail for customer’s inability to figure out how to use it, coupled with an insulting $250+ USD price tag for a camcorder that shoots mediocre HD video at best.

Other failures with 2010’s enlightened consumers include Google TV, which represents a cutting edge tech idea that hopes to merge the Internet with normal TV viewing. Hard to classify as a device, and even harder to use, you can find Google TV built into many Sony TVs and Blu-ray DVD players. Logitech also has the Revue TV product (Google-driven) that attempts to combine web videos with TV channels, if you can ever figure it out. This product was clearly brought to market ahead of its time, which perhaps is just around the corner.

Like Internet TV and cheaper tablet devices, 3D TV sets are starting to pop up in showrooms around the world, and even here in Nepal. It’s hard to say whether 3D TVs like the Samsung UE467000 and associated 3D glasses SSG 2100RB will be a hit or a miss...it’s too early to tell, as early adopters are a bit shy about criticizing their $2000+ USD investment, and there just isn’t that much 3D media out to view.

But for folks that can’t focus their left and right eye simultaneously on any given spot (2 to 3% of the population at large), 3D tech today just won’t work, and for others, headaches or other eye strains could occur; consult your physician if in doubt, so says the manual.

Personally, I have not been impressed with 2010’s 3D technology, either in the theatre or on a flat screen TV. The idea of wearing funky glasses is appalling from a fashion sense, and seems it would be an impossible pre-requisite in the home, as all of already can’t find the remote when we need it, how about hunting down a pair of glasses to boot! However, the $2000+ USD 3DTvs make excellent 2D televisions as well, so if you got the bucks...

And for those that had more bucks to spend on gadgets in 2010, one hit in the Canon ballpark was the Canon G12 compact point-and-shoot, as this is a semi-professional camera that includes HD video recording at 720p with manual focus and RAW processing. I use the earlier prototype, the G10 introduced in 2009, and this class of camera is the next best thing to a much more expensive, larger and heavier DLSR. The G12 fits in a small purse or a very large pocket, and is built like a little tank, producing superb digital photos and movie clips.

Well, that’s this year’s roundup of best and worst tech, with 2011 sure to bring on even more amazing products and equally amazing duds. In 2010 we saw one clear game-changer, the iPad, and 2011 could also be another year that produces a revolutionary product...can you guess what that would be?

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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