ZDNet’s top products and tech trends for 2013

ZDNet’s top products and tech trends for 2013

Summary: Which products, platforms, and big ideas made the most impact in 2013?

TOPICS: Apple, Amazon, Security

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  • 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

  • Virtualization as malware killer

    Every IT pro knows how virtualization is increasing data center efficiency and streamlining deployment of applications and services. But on desktops, the technology is still mostly a specialized tool for software testers and developers.

    That might all change soon, thanks to Bromium, a startup that specialize in what it calls “micro-virtualization technology.” The company released its first product, vSentry, this year, with the ambitious goal of automatically stopping malware and targeted attacks viruses in their tracks on any computer running Microsoft Windows.

    On a PC running Bromium’s vSentry, every single process is virtualized. Every time you fire up an application—including a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome—it's isolated in its own micro-VM. When you close the application or the process, that micro-VM also dies, as does any malware that may have entered the system via that process. 

    No virus cleaning, no quarantining. No reboots. It vanishes in a puff of logic.

    That, of course, assumes that an attacker was able to get through in the first place. Another Bromium technology, Live Attack Visualization and Analysis (LAVA), monitors every micro-VM for telltale signs of an attack, using crowd-sourced data to spot the behavioral signatures of common attacks. It can spot redirects, cross-site scripting attacks, and phishing attempts as well as rootkits and bootkits, shutting down the micro-VM before it can be compromised.

    In the not so distant future, advanced virtualization technology like Bromium’s could very well make traditional Windows malware a thing of the past.

    — Jason Perlow

Topics: Apple, Amazon, Security


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Seems 2013 was the year of incremental upgrades

    Little happened this year that was really new or exciting, maybe consumer tech is starting to plateau.
    • TouchID is something that is not incremental

      But that is it for this year.
      • 2013 was the year of Edward Snowden and

        how NSA is using weak Windows ecosystem to spy people. It was also the year when millions of people started to think about what real security means - the year to leave Windows, IE, Facebook, and some other social network spying sites. Don't lock yourself to Microsoft, Apple and Google ecosystem. Especially avoid Windows and IE.
        • Is the NSA using Windows to spy on folks?

          Just about everything I've read points to them using either legal loopholes or network, uh, "features" to look at people's data. Are they really getting down at the client level, or even at the level of a particular server OS?
      • Depends on how you define "incremental"

        I had a fingerprint scanner/reader on my desktop many years ago. Motorola had one on their Atrix 4G back in 2011. I own an Iwallet. Iwallet is a hard cased wallet that opens with your fingerprint. However, Apple is the first one to actually make it part of it's cell phone operating system. So does the fact that it has been around and used for many years mean that Apple's implementation is "incremental"?
        • No

          Apple's implementation of the fingerprint scanner is revolutionary and come 2014 everyone will be using it. How well did the fingerprint scanner on the Atrix work? Not very well. It didn't set the world on fire and people forgot about it.

          Apple didn't invent the smart phone, yet the reason every mobile device on the planet today has a touch screen, app store, and a camera is because Apple said so.
  • Kinda sad to see "self-updating software" on the list.

    Kinda sad to see "self-updating software" on the list.

    Not because it's a bad idea, but because we've had the tech to do so for a long, long time.

    Software that updates itself has been around for 10, maybe 20 years. What's happened is not its invention, but rather its popularity. It feels like such a fundamental thing - why did it take so long to become popular?
  • sigh . . .

    "The Chromecast is also a potential game-changer for sales and marketing pros . . ."

    Maybe, but meh. They're not as important as ZDNet tends to think. I consider them to be niche.
    • I said the same thing on that very notion

      so instead of lugging around a projector, they'll lug around a TV?

      Now if the location you're doing the presentation at already has TV's as he mentions, then you weren't lugging around a projector, just plugging your laptop in via HDMI already.

      I thought from the start that SJVN was making up a scenario that doesn't exist to try to give a niche product some relevance.
      • I'm sure it has its uses.

        Oh, I'm sure it has its uses.

        But pretending that "sales and marketing pros" are a major percentage of the general population seems silly to me.
  • Sounds like sandboxie.

    "Virtualization as malware killer"

    Meh, this is no 2013 thing - sandboxie was doing this first.
    • Not the same thing at all

      Very different technology. Bromium is a true hypervisor, for heaven's sake.
      Ed Bott
      • There you go again Ed...

        ....with your grumpy bad attitude problem. Whilst you may be correct in your point, that really does not give you a right to exercise your sanctimonious 'for heavens sake' attitude in correcting someone who may not be so well informed.
        You really should try harder to show a little more respect and tolerance for your readers, whose clicks generate wealth for the company who ultimately pay you. Please try and share your superior knowledge a little more gracefully.
        The Central Scrutinizer
        • Did you read a different post???

          I didn't see any basis for your litany of criticisms.
        • Thanks for the career advice

          Now go away.
          Ed Bott
      • Great Tech

        Bromium's vSentry looks to add functionality that should really be an integral part of every modern OS. This is the way processes should always be run. I've been saying we need a completely new OS with virtual process functionality built into the kernel, virtual device interfaces, and sporting a self-repairing file system for a decade now. To be honest, I'm amazed they were able to add per process virtual machines into the existing Windows spaghetti.
      • A "true hypervisor"?

        A "true hypervisor"?

        Kinda like a true Scotsman, I assume?
  • Looking backwards...

    Doesn't provide much insight to where your next foot step will be. I suppose it fills space though.
  • Thoughts on the "cloud."

    "The cloud turns solid"

    Can you come up with a better word than "cloud" please? I DO NOT WANT A FUZZY WORD LIKE THAT TO BE THE FUTURE OF MANKIND EVEN IF THE TECHNOLOGY STAYS.

    Ugh. It's still a horrible, poorly defined word.

    And while the "cloud" may stay - I do not automatically think that means PCs and local computing power should go away. It's a supplement to local power, not a replacement of it.

    The "fad" is not the idea of remote computing resources, the fad is the idea that remote computing resources completely replaces local computing resources.
    • There is no "cloud"

      I agree, CobraA1. The "cloud" is a bad analogy, a soft word designed to lull us into a false sense of security. In this analogy, we're using just one or two water droplets. A better word is the "RES", short for REmote Servers. You're storing your stuff on a RES (also short for reservations, about which I have many).