Top three tech innovations of 2020

Let's take a look at some of the amazing innovations that came out of 2020, the year of the pandemic.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

What a year 2020 has been.

In many ways a brutal year, but in others a testament to human resourcefulness and resilience.

It's tempting to say that SARS-CoV-2, the little packet of genetic information responsible for COVID-19, was the biggest tech innovation of 2020, and perhaps of the entire decade. It pivoted businesses all across the world into making many years' worth of changes in how they operated over the course of a few months.

SARS-CoV-2 was a huge catalyst for change. But it came with massive downsides in the form of death, suffering, and the destruction of livelihoods, and I hope 2021 will be the beginning of the end for SARS-CoV-2.

I've thought long and hard about what I see as the top three innovations to come out of 2020 were, and while it wasn't hard to draw up a shortlist, picking three was actually quite tough.

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Apple M1 SoC

Yeah, this is something that 'Apple Watchers' had seen coming for a while, but the embodiment of the technology went far, far beyond what most could have predicted.

Apple's WWDC 2020 virtual keynote was where the company first unveiled its plans to cut ties with chip giant Intel, it was only a few months until the first crop of Macs running Apple's new M1 chip were released.

And right out of the gate, Apple came out strong. While the tech media had assumed that Apple would come out with something that was good, no one seriously expected the first generation M1 processors to be giving Intel's mightiest silicon a run for its money.

But the M1 is the biggest thing to shake up chips in a very long time.

I've learned over the years to not bet against Apple, so while I'm blown away by what the M1 chips are currently delivering, I'm also confident that over the next few years we are going to see serious performance and power-per-watt growths that's going to make the M1 seem, well, old.

This is a space to watch with great interest.

Apple Silicon M1 chip -- in pictures

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Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise

Parallels, the company best-known for bringing Windows to the Mac, did something that I really didn't see coming.

It bought Windows to the Chromebook

Now, it's easy to underestimate the reach of the Chromebook, but the changing landscape of work and education as a result of COVID-19 has been good for Chromebook sales, making them 10 percent of all PCs sold.

On top of that, there's been a proliferation of higher-powered Chromebooks hitting the market. To those wondering why you might want to buy a high-powered Chromebook, here's your answer. This is where that investment pays off.

This was an amazing achievement for Parallels, not only getting Windows 10 to run seamlessly on a Chromebook, but also getting permission from Google to be able to install software onto the Chromebook hardware. This is a first for the Chrome OS platform, and a sign of how important Google views this.

This is one of those odd tech innovations that leaves everyone happy. Google is happy. Parallels is happy. The hardware OEMs are happy. Microsoft is happy. Enterprise customers are happy. Apple is… OK, well, maybe Apple isn't happy, but I doubt it cares.

It's easy to think that Windows is a has-been platform and that it's time for us to all move on, but there are plenty of people who rely on it to get work done, and now they can get the best of both running a Chromebook and being able to run Windows and Windows applications when needed.

Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise

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2020 is been the year where, rather than Skyping or Teaming, people have instead been Zooming.

Sure, the other collaboration and online video platforms have seen a meteoric rise, but Zoom brought easy video collaboration to people who otherwise may very well have been left behind as the coronavirus pandemic caused social venues to close and forced people into their homes.

I know of lots of people for whom Zoom has been a much-needed lifeline to the outside world. It was quick and easy to install, and the whole process of creating meetings -- both formal or informal -- was simple (this became more complex as Zoom added more security to meetings following the rise in zoombombing attacks).

It also became a platform that companies who were caught on the hop could use to start to put together a work from home plan. Far from perfect, but a quick and simple solution during those chaotic first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

And Zoom's 2020 was itself a little rocky, especially when it came to security and encryption, but the company did step up to the challenges that came its way.

Zoom makes it onto this list less because of Zoom itself and more because of what it represents -- the idea that we don't need to move our physical beings to different places in order to have meetings, take part in trainings, or even to connect with others for leisure and relaxation. None of this is to say that people will never travel again, but I think that the genie is out of the bottle in terms of things being offered both as an in-person event and a virtual event.

That's not going to go away, and I think that's a very good thing.

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Let me know what you think, and if you disagree, let me know what's on your list.

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