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Important Tech 2

In my last blog entry I listed and discussed Walt Mossberg’s first 6 most important products of the last 20 years, so I will complete that today with the second 6 from 2004 to 2010 (I guess nothing else important has happened since then).

7. Facebook from 2004.

Continuing the trend of previous entries (and it really has been a universal rule rather than a trend) Facebook wasn’t the first product of its kind, or even necessarily the best, but it is the one which made the difference and has lead to the vast social internet of today.

For many people the use of Facebook makes up their main interaction with the internet. I personally think they are missing out on a lot of stuff which is much better (I use Facebook but find it tedious and awkward), but whatever I think over a billion people now disagree!

8. Twitter from 2006

I usually create an account on all new internet services soon after they become available, just to see if they are useful. I did that in the early days of Twitter but either I just didn’t get it, or the content at that time was just too undeveloped.

But that has certainly changed now, although a lot of people still don’t get it. I now use Twitter a lot and find it quite useful. Like many similar services it’s really a mater of using it appropriately: following the right people and spending an appropriate amount of time reading their tweets.

9. The iPhone from 2007.

Wow! Has anything in recent times revolutionised technology as much as the iPhone? Just before it was released I had a very expensive top-model Sony phone which had every feature imaginable – in fact far more than the original iPhone – but I didn’t use any of them because they were just horribly implemented and unreliable. To be fair, at the time data on cell networks was also slow and expensive.

Now the iPhone is the one thing I always have with me and of all my gadgets (and I have a lot of them) it is probably my favourite. It really is a stunning technological achievement, packing an incredible array of functionality, a beautifully elegant user interface, and good battery life, into a surprisingly small and light case.

I agree some Android phones also have impressive features but they lack the elegant user interface and balanced design, and anyway, they only exist because Apple showed them how to do it with the iPhone.

10. Android from 2008.

As I said above, the best Android phones are excellent devices even though I rate the Apple iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) as better devices overall, especially in terms of use. But Android is a bit like Windows for mobile devices (because let’s face it, Microsoft has failed miserably in this area) in some ways, and more like Linux (being free and open) in others.

Android is already used on more smartphones than any other system (including Apple’s iOS) and will probably eventually do the same on tablets (currently the iPad is way out in front). That doesn’t mean it’s better in any way of course, just that it’s cheap and easily available. But as Microsoft found with Windows being used on so many PCs: being cheap and available isn’t a bad combination!

11. The MacBook Air from 2008.

The original MacBook Air was a very elegant device although it had some limitations in performance (the current models are much better) but it did show how a super-compact laptop should be designed and it set the standard.

Again Apple took an existing product category, stripped away all the useless gimmicks, and delivered a device that was actually usable.

12. The iPad from 2010.

At the time the iPad was released tablets as a product category were going nowhere and again it took Apple to show everyone else how to do it by including what was needed, taking out what wasn’t needed, and most importantly making a device which was totally intuitive and fun to use.

I got an iPad before they were even released here and recently got an iPad Air (again before they were officially released) and I love it. it is hard to describe what Apple does that no one else seems to be able to do quite the same but whatever it is they did it again with the iPad!

Summary.

So that’s it. Those are Mossberg’s picks from 20 years of (computer) technology. I think he has chosen fairly well although I might debate some of them (I’m thinking mainly of the Palm Pilot and Twitter).

One interesting point appeared in every case: the first product in a category was never the eventual winner. Sometimes it really is better to wait a bit longer until things can be done properly instead of just trying to be first.

And it is interesting to see that Microsoft products only appear once in the list (Windows 95), Google products twice (Google Search and Android), but Apple stuff appears no less than 5 times (the Newton, the iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air, and the iPad). I think that shows that Apple really is the company which makes technology work!

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