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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  • Chromecast sneaks into the office

    A $35 dongle that weighs less than an ounce, plugs into a standard HDMI port, and streams from the web or a PC? The obvious application in the living room, where sufficiently tech-centric hobbyists can use a Google Chromecast as yet another way to throw Internet videos onto a big-screen TV. But that’s just a sideshow, as far as we’re concerned. This little device has tremendous potential as a useful business tool that will really shine in corporate conference rooms.

    For example, you can cast any video stream that plays in the Chrome web browser to any HDTV equipped with a Chromecast. That turns out to be a very effective way to push a web-based video-conference—Google+ Hangouts, WebEx, or GoToMeeting, for example—to that big screen at the end of the conference table. No more awkward huddling around a small PC screen. And as a bonus, you’ll use a fraction of the bandwidth that your office would use if a dozen employees are tuning in to the same conference from separate devices.

    The Chromecast is also a potential game-changer for sales and marketing pros who spend their time on the road making presentations to small groups. Lugging around a projector and going through the incantations to make it work can suck the soul from even the most battle-hardened road warrior. But if you know you're going to be taking your show to a room equipped with a modern TV and WiFi, you can set up the Chromecast in a matter of minutes and deliver your web-based presentation effortlessly, putting the business back into show business.

    — Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols



  • Office 365’s epic transformation

    Microsoft Office is the very definition of legacy Windows desktop software, having begun its existence as a bundle of productivity apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1990. It’s also one of Microsoft’s crown jewels, contributing more revenue than Windows to the company’s bottom line in recent years.

    So the fact that the company has managed to transform its most profitable legacy software product into a successful subscription service is a very big deal. Office 365 debuted in early 2013. Less than a year later, it’s bringing in $1.5 billion a year in revenue and is continuing to grow. The Home Premium edition has 2 million paying subscribers, who each pay $99 a year for the right to install the full collection of Office programs on up to five PCs or Macs. And it’s gaining traction in the enterprise as well, with 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies having purchased Office 365 licenses in the past year. (If you’re confused by the different editions, you’re not alone: Here’s an explainer.)

    Behind the scenes, Office 365 uses a technology called Click-to-Run virtualization to stream apps to a client device. Signing in with an Office 365 account eliminates the need for activation and long product keys. Subscribers can deactivate an installation anytime and install the software on a different device—a very useful feature in a multi-device world.

    What appears in Office often shows up later in Windows. So how long until Microsoft debuts a Windows as a subscription product using the same model?

    — Ed Bott


  • 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

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).