The hottest technology of 2007
4th Jan 2008 | 16:17
The Tech.co.uk team picks its favourites
What was the hottest technology of 2007? Was it the Apple iPhone? Intel's 45nm Penryn processor? Or how about the BBC's iPlayer? The Tech.co.uk team pick the products (or technology) that had the biggest effect on them this year...
Dean Evans, Editor: It's been a strong year for technology... AMD and Intel jockeyed for attention in an 'our quad-core's better than yours' contest; Blu-ray and HD DVD continued to exchange tit-for-tat sales stats (while few people actually gave a stuff); and, thanks to the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and Sony PS3, it's arguably been the most exciting year for videogaming.
But our most popular story of the year is also the biggest story of the year - the Apple iPhone. Not because it's the best mobile phone ever produced. It's blatently not. But because Apple jumped ahead of Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola (and Microsoft's Windows Mobile) with a superbly intuitive UI. I'm on record as saying that I'd never own an iPod. Ever. But the converged handiness of the iPhone simply won me over. That said, I'm looking forward to seeing what Google does with its Android platform.
I've also been impressed with HD DVD this year and I think it will be a travesty if the half-finished Blu-ray format (recently updated to Profile 1.1) wins out in the end. Ultimately, though, there's a good chance that both formats will be marginalised as broadband TV and movie services take off. Microsoft's Video Marketplace on Xbox Live might be full of old Warner Bros movies nobody wants to rent, but such HD digital downloads are a taste of things to come.
Nick Merritt, Editor-in-chief: This year's most exciting tech was the humble computer interface. Thanks to falls in the cost of processing, we're seeing proper multi touch interfaces. These put that power to proper use, rather than squandering it on UI eye candy (Vista, I mean you).
The whizziest tech? Microsoft Surface. Forget the coffee-table, this showed a host of excellent ideas: seamless linking of external devices, intuitive hands-on manipulation of objects, multi-touch, the life-likeness and speed of the response.
The coolest? Photosynth. Proper genius: this stitches together images from any source into a single coherent whole, viewable from any angle. Sound dull? Click the URL and be blown away. While it might seem more of a photo application rather than an interface, imagine every image on the Web being linked into this system. That's an interface.
The most effective? The iPhone. Forget the phone, it's the interface that matters. It's proof that Direct Manipulation works, simplifies the complex, is fun to use and makes money. Which means they'll be everywhere soon.
Rob Mead, Associate Editor: Without doubt, my first choice is the Apple iPhone. The hype and anticipation around it has dominated the year in tech. Even though it's not the best phone in world in terms of what it can do, it beats the competition hands-down when it comes to usability. No phone has ever been so easy to use.
It goes without saying then that the iPod touch takes second place. It may look like a watered down iPhone, but it's just as revolutionary in its way. Rival MP3 players - including regular iPods - just seem lame by comparison.
But the one piece of tech I couldn't have gone without this year is my 15-inch MacBook Pro - paid for with my own hard cash, it's proved to be reliable, fast, powerful and a delight to use. The only thing I haven't liked about it is that it runs very hot, so hot that the bottom case has started to warp. I couldn't have done half my work on Tech.co.uk without it.
Martin James, Reviews Editor: Pioneer's Kuro plasmas have had technology journalists reaching for their thesauruses with ever increasing desperation as they look for yet another new way of saying: 'look, it's a bloody brilliant telly'. If you haven't already, audition one. And if you have the money, buy one. It really is that simple.
We all know that Macs are very good but very expensive, right? No longer. I surprised even myself by naming the Apple MacBook the best laptop under £1,000, and the new iMac may turn out to be my bank manager's best friend in the next couple of months.
A few weeks ago I had a session of Heavenly Sword on PS3 then switched over to some bowling action on the Wii. And if there was an Xbox around, I would have given that a whirl too. So I'm gonna say they're all great and they've made 2007 the year when having more than one console no longer makes you a geek.
James Rivington, Writer: Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GT graphics card has well and truly broken the mould when it comes to PC cards. It's almost as fast as the market-leading 8800 GTX and yet costs £230 less. Never before have we seen such a cutting-edge, powerful graphics card at such a ludicrous and fantastic price. Plus, its 65nm architecture means it's a much slimmer card that takes up less space inside your PC and pumps out a lot less heat.
You may have seen Pioneer's quirky Kuro adverts on TV, but until you've actually seen one in person you can't imagine how fantastic they are. LCD makers like to display their sets in bright showrooms to make the TV's blacks look more black. Pioneer showed off its Kuros in moodily lit rooms and the blacks are still deep and rich. You've got to see it to believe it. If you're in the market - and if you can afford one - the Pioneer Kuro is the TV to buy in 2007.
Sony's PlayStation 3 console may have gotten a lot of criticism this year, but it's still a fantastic bit of kit. It's unbelievably powerful; it runs smooth and silent (unlike my editor's Xbox); it starts up in just a few seconds; the interface is slick and easy to navigate; and when the big games arrive in 2008 it's going to be hot property. It's even affordable now - you can get one for under £280. So while it may have a tarnished reputation, the PS3 is on the way up.
Gary Marshall, writer: I'm nominating Windows Vista and OS X Leopard as my tech of the year. Not because they rocked my world - they didn't. But because they proved once and for all that operating systems really don't matter any more. Even the pirates can't be bothered downloading them.
The most useful thing was RSS. Not a glamorous choice, I know, but superb for keeping on top of stuff. Comments on my Flickr photos, new pics uploaded by my friends, tedious updates from Facebook... it's all in my newsreader so I don't have to go hunting for it. Excellent.
I thought the iPhone was proof that Apple could sell any old crap to fanboys. But then I used one... And then I bought one. For all its flaws, the iPhone gets right what so many firms have got wrong for years. So while on paper it's no smarter than an O2 XDA, in your hands it's a wonder gadget. EDGE is still rubbish, though.
J Mark Lytle, Contributing Editor: Living and working in Tokyo makes me spoilt for choice when it comes to new technology, however this year's standout is a no-brainer that gets the single recommendation I'll be handing out. RFID technology is nothing new and phone companies here have been sticking the chips in phones for a couple of years now, but it's the widespread acceptance of these 'wallet' phones as e-cash that won me over in 2007.
This year, the Java-based software phones needed to manage the chips properly really came of age - this, coupled with a rapid spread of RFID terminals from corners shops to supermarkets, has made them easy to use, flexible and incredibly useful.
So much so in fact, the thought of ever having to use a phone that can't get me on a bus or train and pay for everything from newspapers through to the Christmas shopping appeals about as much as going back to a 56K modem.
James Morris, writer: Intel is really back on form these days. First to quad-core processors by around a year, the company blew AMD even further down the river when it introduced its 45nm process - just as AMD was finally getting round to releasing its own quad-core parts. Codenamed Penryn, the 45nm Intel processors have a few minor architectural improvements, and 50 per cent more L2 cache. But the smaller process means they clock to high heaven. We've already seen the extreme overclocking community hit 6GHz with Penryn, and Intel launched a bona fide 3.2GHz quad-core version, the QX9770, soon after the first 3GHz one.
It may have had teething problems for some people, but the arrival of BBC's iPlayer is a huge leap forward for making Internet TV mainstream. Whilst computers still haven't found their way into many living rooms, the iPlayer brings TV you stream when you want to a big step closer.
Finally, after the Stanford Racing Team won the second Grand Challenge in 2005, Darpa upped the ante and moved the autonomously driving car competition to city streets. But at its first attempt Carnegie Mellon University's Boss has already managed to navigate Californian roads safely, winning its team $2 million in the process. Maybe robot taxis really are waiting just around the corner.
Jeremy Laird, writer: Call me predictable ( you're predictable - Ed), but it's Intel's awesome new 45nm Core 2 CPU that gets my gong for 2007. It may not lift stock-clocked performance by a huge amount. But with its sickeningly effective high-K, metal gate 45nm process technology, Intel has reversed the recent trend for spiralling current leakage and power consumption. The Core 2 Extreme QX9650 is an astonishingly parsimonious processor. Long live Moore's Law.
Elsewhere, I'm extremely pleased to see that large widescreen PC monitors have officially entered the mainstream. Hard to believe it, but 22-inch panels are heading inexorably for the £100 barrier. Even 24 inchers are sailing south of £300. And 24 inches is where really enjoyable, ergonomic computing begins - in my little world of 30-inch LCD luxury, anyway.
Finally, high definition video disks and players may not be new in 2007, but they did become affordable. For an incorrigible HD addict like yours truly, 2007 marked the beginning of major new content library - and a major new drain on my resources!