Technology of the Year: Apple's iPad

The year's most significant new technology was a disruptive product made by Apple.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

The year's most significant new technology was a disruptive product made by Apple.

This year, the editors of TIME Magazine chose for its Person of the Year award a young, enterprising 27-year old male who built a social networking website that has 500 million users and now has a net worth of $30 billion.

Man, that's so 2006.

I mean, was 2010 so crappy that the only real choice was between an obnoxious, ethically-challenged egotistic Web 2.0 billionaire Wunderkind or an Information Technology terrorist pretending to be a journalist and Internet activist? Couldn't they come up with someone who did something legitimately decent for the planet?

I'm sorry TIME, but you could have done better.

Frankly, I'm personally having trouble coming up with a person that should be awarded Man or Woman of the Year. However, I can certainly come up with people. On that list I'd probably include the trapped Chilean miners who endured 60 days of subterranean hell, and the engineers and workers who worked tirelessly to get them out.

Or the many thousands of rescue and aid workers that flew into Haiti to help salvage a nation destroyed by a devastating earthquake. Or even the workers at British Petroleum and other contractors and offshore drilling specialists who toiled countless hours to cap the Gulf oil spill, in the face of public outrage and thankless scrutiny.

If there were ever people that truly deserved to be on the cover of that magazine, it would be them.

But at the end of the day, ZDNet is a technology website. And if I had to name a single technology that made the greatest impact in 2010, it was without a doubt Apple's iPad.

The iPad? So shouldn't Man of the Year be Steve Jobs?

Well, no. I mean, Steve is a very important ingredient in the iPad's creation and overall vision. Much of the iPad's DNA has to be credited to him, without question. But we can't give him credit for its engineering and design -- that distinction must go to the corps of Apple software and hardware engineers that created what is almost certainly going to be the product which changes the face of computing for the next two decades.

Also Read: Special Coverage, Apple iPad (ZDNet)

When the iPad was first introduced to the public in late January, there was immediate derision of the product by naysayers that felt that it was nothing more than an oversized iPhone or iPod Touch. The mainstream technology press questioned whether or not the product would even catch on.

They were proven wrong.

Very. Very. Very. Wrong.

In the 4th quarter of 2010 alone, Apple sold 4.2 million iPads, with estimated yearly sales topping 9 million units worldwide. The holiday shopping season isn't over yet, so it might go as high as even 10 or 12 million to finish off CY 2010.

The iPad is, without any doubt, the most successful product that Apple has launched since the iPhone or even the iPod. In terms of cultural significance and impact to the technology industry, it has in one short year changed the way we view the entire future of personal computing.

Instead of being tied to our desks in order to access our critical productivity applications, we now have the ability to enjoy a full, rich Internet browsing experience from the couch or from our bedside. We can enjoy rich multimedia applications, read books, play games, all from one easy-to-use, effectively maintenance-free 26-ounce hand-held device.

The iPad was certainly not the first computing tablet and nor did the idea originate at Apple or in Steve Jobs' mind. Its legacy started in popular Science Fiction novels and television shows such as Star Trek, and it represents the combined achievement from over 40 years of advancements in computing and miniaturization, which will ultimately lead towards a transparent and ubiquitous computing experience which I call "The Screen".

But we must give the credit where the credit is due. Apple and its engineers have changed the game. Forever.

Also Read: Apple iPad, We've Reached Star Trek-nology (Tech Broiler)

The iPad is certainly a very transformative, disruptive technology. It has in such a short period of time caused every single company in our industry to completely re-think the end-user computing experience and how to best enable their applications and infrastructure to support it and other "thin" technologies that are similar to it or compete with it altogether.

These include the current and forthcoming Android Tablets, Windows 7 and HP Palm Slates, RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook and also Google's Chrome OS netbooks and tablets.

It has not only changed the technology industry, but it has also changed how media will be consumed, be it web sites, books and other traditional print media such as newspapers and magazines. It is a giant leap forward in bringing about a truly paperless society where access to information is instantaneous and from everywhere, as long as you have the means to afford it.

2010 will be remembered by many as difficult year, with numerous challenges that everyone had to face, be it economically, sociologically, politically and emotionally. But in our industry it will be marked by the introduction of the device that changed everything -- the iPad.

Was 2010 the Year of the iPad? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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