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Nokia Lumia 1020
How many digital point-and-shoot cameras are now gathering dust on closet shelves or junk drawers? Lots and lots. They’ve been rendered obsolete, shipped off to the Island of Misfit Toys and replaced by smartphone cameras.
Apple has defined the category with its superb iPhone cameras and software. This year Nokia raised the bar mightily with its Lumia 1020, which boasts a long list of first-of-its-kind specs: a 41-megapixel main sensor, optical image stabilization, Full HD video, and pro-grade software that has evolved steadily since the product’s launch. Or you can ignore the specs and just look at the photos this phone produces, which explain why our reviewer called it “the photographer’s smartphone.”
The 1020 and its companions at the high end of the Lumia line also show off Nokia's exceptional industrial design chops. When Nokia’s acquisition by Microsoft is complete next year, it will join a hardware team that has already produced some impressive industrial design under the Surface brand name. That’s a significant transformation for a company that Stave Jobs once infamously said “has no taste.”
— Ed Bott
2-in-1s: notebook and tablet in a single device
A screen you can’t touch somehow seems incomplete these days. Smartphones and tablets have conditioned us to expect devices to respond to a tap or a swipe, and Microsoft is betting the future of Windows on making touch an equal partner to the more traditional mouse-and-keyboard forms of input.
And thus was born the 2-in-1 PC, which works both as a notebook computer and a tablet. Microsoft’s Surface and Surface Pro lines, with click-in keyboards that double as covers, were the first, but all the major PC OEMs have gotten into the act, experimenting with abandon in their attempts to create variations on the theme. On some, the display detaches to work as a tablet; others allow the display to bend 180 degrees to become a tablet; still others incorporate a display that flips on a hinge or within a frame.
Even after a year of breakneck experimentation, it's still too soon to tell whether this new form factor is catching on with consumers. But don't expect Microsoft and the OEMs to give up. They're too far down the 2-in-1 path to give up now. And don’t be surprised if Apple joins the party. After all, they won a patent for just such a device back in 2010.
— Larry Seltzer
Amazon’s amazing Kindle ecosystem
2013 might go down in history as the year all of the big tech companies officially gave up on the dream of interoperability and began building ecosystems where your best chance of success comes with using their devices with their software and their services.
And no one has been more determined than Amazon to build its own ecosystem, or more successful. The Kindle readers have evolved in a few short years to be world-class tablets sold at a discount to their competitors. The Kindle Fire HDX is arguably the best 7-inch device you can buy, feather light, with a gorgeous screen. Amazon remade Android in a way that fits its strengths as the world’s largest bookseller.
And the icing on the cake in 2013 was a ruling in Federal court that Amazon’s biggest, most feared rival, Apple, was guilty of violating antitrust law by colluding with publishers to fix prices. The biggest winner is the book-buying public, which will continue to see Amazon aggressively price online books, even selling them below cost to drive sales of the Kindle Fire HDX. Thus keeping it all in the family.
— Ed Bott