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

 |  Image 5 of 14

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10
  • Thumbnail 11
  • Thumbnail 12
  • Thumbnail 13
  • Thumbnail 14
  • Cheap tablets that don’t suck

    In the beginning, there was the iPad. Then there were a few Android tablets from Samsung and Google. Then Amazon got into the act with the Kindle Fire, and Microsoft released Windows 8.1, which enabled a whole class of tablet-sized devices. The result is a glut of great tablets to choose from.

    Yes, there are plenty of dirt-cheap Android devices that deliver an awful experience, but they’re easy enough to avoid in favor of very good brand-name devices. There’s the 7-inch Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX. Dell has a pair of 8-inch tablets, one running Android and the other running Windows 8.1. And there are plenty of iPad alternatives in the 8.9-inch-and-up form factor, including Microsoft’s Surface and Surface 2. If you’re happy with last year’s technology, the Kindle Fire HD and the original Surface are seriously discounted.

    There are so many tablets, in fact, that manufacturers are falling over themselves to offer eye-popping discounts. Those Dell tablets, for example, have been offered for as little as $129 (Venue 8, Android) and $99 (Venue 8 Pro, Windows 8.1), and Amazon is aggressively comparing its $379 price tag on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 to the much pricier iPad Air.

    Those prices are really good news for consumers, although it’s doubtful that any of the companies involved are making much of a profit at those prices. It’s even good news for business buyers, because many of these devices are perfectly capable of doing work as well as play.

    — Ed Bott

  • ARM becomes the engine of the Internet of Things

    When you use a modern smartphone or a tablet, chances are good that it’s powered by a microprocessor or System on a Chip (SOC) based on a design created by ARM Holdings. That UK-based firm is the acknowledged leader in embedded, low-power processor designs that are required by virtually all consumer mobile devices.

    PCs and laptops may still use Intel’s chips for raw power and application compatibility, but when it comes to mobile and consumer electronics, ARM is king.

    What’s most amazing about ARM is that it doesn't even make chips; instead, it licenses chip reference designs and intellectual property to companies like Samsung, nVidia, Qualcomm, and Apple. Those companies in turn create their own chips, and that silicon eventually ends up in products you recognize, like iPhone and iPads, Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, and countless Android devices. Even Microsoft has gotten into the game with its Surface devices and Windows Phones from its soon-to-be-subsidiary Nokia.

    But ARM-based chips also end up in products you don't directly interact with, like your Wi-Fi router, your Internet-connected TV, and streaming media devices like the Roku and Apple TV. ARM technology is in smart home products like the NEST thermostat, in home appliances, and, of course, in your car. Collectively, ARM powers an amazing percentage of "The Internet of Things," which will eventually be interconnected with apps and services in unexpected (and, we hope, delightful) ways.

    — Jason Perlow

  • Self-updating software

    First it was Google’s Chrome browser, which turned automatic background updates into a standard feature. Then it was iOS, which pushes free updates out to every device that can run a new version. And now almost everybody is doing it. Well, maybe not Android.

    Office 365 (which has its own place on this list) uses Click-to-Run virtualization, allowing it to update automatically with no user intervention required. Both Microsoft and Apple delivered the latest versions of their operating systems (OS X Mavericks and Windows 8.1, respectively) as free updates via their app stores.

    Software companies and customers have a strong common interest in making updates free and as painless as possible. There’s still lots of room for improvement, of course, especially when third-party hardware manufacturers get involved. That’s why the Android installed base is so fragmented and it’s why so many owners of Windows PCs still have to struggle to find and apply firmware and driver updates. Maybe next year.

    And there’s also entrenched resistance from enterprises that don’t want the disruption that comes with frequent updates. That’s why the aging, increasingly insecure Windows XP will continue to be insanely popular even after Microsoft ends support for it in April 2014.

    — Ed Bott

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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 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).