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Blogcritics Best Tech of 2005

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It’s difficult to think of anything truly revolutionary that came down the technology pike in 2005; rather, this seems to have been a year in which many technologies that were already in place saw refinements, improvements and wider acceptance among users. The internet saw Mozilla’s Firefox browser continue to grow in popularity, enjoying a year-end growth spurt with the release of version 1.5; Apple continued to refine the iPod by introducing video capabilities in its fifth generation players, and Microsoft raised the bar for video gaming with the Xbox 360. As is often the case in the realm of consumer technology, increments in performance and features are often accompanied by lower prices, which means that you can now have better and cheaper digital cameras and audio-visual components than you could have a few years ago.

People are continuing to find more ways in which to use technology, and it’s fair to say that home technology is just as important to many of us as is business technology. More than ever, our homes are set up with broadband internet access and wireless networking; the availability of high-quality, low-cost photo printers, coupled with increasingly better (and cheaper) digital cameras has rendered the corner photo lab nearly obsolete, and falling revenues in the film industry have been blamed on the increased prevalence of home theater set-ups (once again fueled by better technology and lower prices).

The internet continues to change the way we learn, the way we do business, and the way in which we acquire information. Blogging continues to grow, and podcasting is on the rise. The impact of all of this on traditional media continues to be felt, although it will be some time before an entirely new model reveals itself. As more of us are plugged in, it’s important to remember that most of the world is not; 2005 statistics estimate that barely more than 15% of the world’s population is online. If the internet is redefining the future of business and the acquisition of power derived from access to information, then we’re still a long way from having a level playing field.

In the spirit of finding out what technological innovations rocked people’s worlds in the past year, I posed the question to a few of my fellow Blogcritics. Here’s what they had to say:

Gregory Schoppe chose the Optimus Keyboard by Art. Lebedev, and had this to say about his choice:

As a graphic designer cum programmer, I often find myself using keyboard shortcuts as much as actual typing. Although I have no issue with taking the time to learn these commands, it is infuriating to hunt through manuals for those commands I forget. As a gamer, I often find it hard to find the “home position” (w-s-a-d for first person shooters) on my keyboard when changing games. Art. Lebdev, arguably the largest design firm in Russia, has publicized designs for a keyboard for people like me. The Optimus keyboard’s keys are each topped with a seperate OLED screen that can be configured by their multiplatform toolkit to command programs, macros, shortcuts, or normal keystrokes. With the touch of a button, you can switch from Cyrillic to English, from Photoshop to quake, from QWERTY to DVORAK; it allows for truly custom keyboards. Currently, the Optimus keyboard is slated for a late 2006 launch with a price tag of upwards of $300.

deekay likes the new video-enabled iPod, and these are her reasons:

I break out in hives at the thought of picking THE most important technological innovation of the year, but since my own SciTech nerd-dom is fairly specific to the entertainment industry, I’ll say one of the biggest in that area is the video iPod. Not so much the device itself, but more what innovations it signals: the TV industry is getting serious about legal downloads by embracing the technology and selling recent shows as content. Taken with the fact that more networks are offering free, legal downloads of some shows on their websites, and that the Motion Picture Association of America has joined the Internet2 consortium to look at new technologies for content distribution and rights management, things are looking up for an industry that has been reluctant to use Internet technologies to their full advantage.

Aaman Lamba didn’t have enough time to write a whole post, but named Microsoft’s database platform SQL Server 2005 (for 64-bit technology, CLR integration, scalability, and stability) as his pick of the year. Here’s hoping the Comments section will draw forth some elaboration from Aaman.

My own favorite technical innovation from 2005 is Google Earth. Formerly known as Keyhole (Google purchased Keyhole, Inc. in 2004), Google Earth is a virtual globe which combines satellite imagery, aerial photography and other types of geospatial data and overlays them onto a 3-D model of the earth. Google Earth can be downloaded for free (there are paid versions which provide an even higher degree of functionality), and it allows users to not only view highly detailed maps (and to move from place to place via flyover), but also to search for addresses, annotate the maps (and share those annotations with the user community), and even add their own data (which can also be shared). As technology continues to shrink the world, the ability to visualize and manage geographic information at this level of sophistication is most welcome.

And now we’d like to hear from you. What makes your work life easier? Did Santa leave any tech toys under your tree? What technology rocked your world in 2005?

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