Photos: Tech's highs and lows in 2010

From Google Wave to the rise and rise of the tablet PC
By Nick Heath, Contributor
1 of 8 CBS Interactive

From Google Wave to the rise and rise of the tablet PC

A huge amount of technology innovation took place in 2010 - but not all of it turned out to be a runaway success. Here silicon.com takes a look at some of the highs and lows of 2010.

App stores
During 2010 the unstoppable march of software apps continued, spreading from smartphones to PCs and even to TV set-top boxes.

Today, every smartphone manufacturer has the obligatory app store: RIM for its BlackBerry handsets, Google for its Android devices and of course Apple, whose App Store carries about 300,000 apps and has notched up more than seven billion downloads.

Apps - with their endless variety and bite-size packages of functionality - seem destined to become an integral part of the way we use electronic devices, from Apple Macs to Google TV set-top boxes.

Technology industry expert and MIT professor Michael Cusumano believes that apps will soon supersede computing hardware as the biggest earners for technology companies.

Given the choice, consumers today would seem to prefer a £4.99 app, which does one thing, to a £50 software suite that does far more than they need. The age of à la carte software, it seems, has arrived.

2 of 8 James Martin/CNET

Apple iPad
Tablet PCs may have been available for years but it was Apple that made them popular with the launch of the iPad in April 2010.

Even business executives are finding a use for the tablet, as this testimony from IT director Nic Bellenberg makes clear.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then last year certainly brought Apple its share of compliments, with Samsung releasing the Galaxy Tab, HP releasing the Slate 500 tablet and Dell launching the Streak.

Since the iPad's release, sales of tablet devices have risen sharply, with analyst house Gartner predicting that 19.5 million tablet PCs would be sold by the end of 2010.

3 of 8 Microsoft

Microsoft Kinect
Microsoft's motion-control device for the Xbox 360 gaming console has been selling like the proverbial since it launched in November.

More than two million Kinects shifted during the device's first 25 days on sale, and Microsoft said it was confident of hitting its target of more than five million sales by the end of the year.

But it is the hacking community who have shown the true potential of the device and the wider computer vision technology the device is based on.

By hooking up a Kinect to a PC they have shown off uses, including superimposing digital characters on a live video feed, capturing a 3D scan of a room and teaching a computer to recognise objects.

According to Robert Cipolla, MD of Toshiba's Cambridge Research Lab: "This is going to be the decade of computer vision" - whether it be estate agents using the tech to create 3D computer models of homes or online shoppers using it to create photo-realistic 3D avatars to try on clothing.

4 of 8 Cabinet Office

Ian Watmore
Ian Watmore is a winner in a literal sense, taking top spot in the silicon.com Government IT Agenda Setters 2010 list.

Watmore was chosen as the person with the greatest influence on government IT, in recognition of his ability to drive IT reform across Whitehall.

This year Watmore will not only become chairman of the CIO Council, the body responsible for setting IT strategy across government, but will continue in his role as COO of the Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG).

In his CIO Council role Watmore will determine how the public sector uses IT, while in his ERG role he will help end the public sector's budget-busting tech projects and set out how tech should be used to cut the cost of running government.

5 of 8 James Martin/CNET

But not every product launched in 2010 fared so well.

Microsoft Kin
You'll be forgiven for not remembering the Microsoft Kin, so short was the lifespan of Microsoft's social-networking-orientated smartphone.

Just two months after launching the phone on the US market, Microsoft pulled the product amid lacklustre sales.

The phone, which was built around a social-media-centric interface, was never even released in Europe.

Microsoft put a positive spin on the announcement, claiming it was planning on "incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases", as well as shifting its entire Kin development team to work on Windows Phone 7.

6 of 8 Apple

Apple's iPhone Antennagate
The Apple iPhone is undoubtedly a capable piece of kit but its reputation took a hit last year after its latest incarnation appeared to be suffering reception issues.

Not long after the launch of the iPhone 4 users began reporting a drop in signal strength on the phone when the handset was held in a certain way.

The problem appeared to arise when users gripped a stainless steel band running around the phone's edge, which also forms part of the phone's antenna. Speaking at the launch of the iPhone 4, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had described the decision to incorporate the band into the phone's antenna system as "brilliant engineering".

Although Jobs reportedly told one dissatisfied user who had emailed him about the problems to "avoid holding [the phone] that way", Apple did follow up the complaints with a number of fixes.

It issued a software update that meant the iPhone displayed a more accurate representation of the available signal, as well as offering a free case that helped resolve the signal problems by covering the outer rim of the phone.

7 of 8 Nick Heath/ZDNET

Google Wave
2010 was also the year when it was time to wave bye-bye to Google Wave - the search giant's real-time, web-based collaboration tool.

In August last year Google announced it was halting development on Google Wave because "Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked", despite companies such as software giant SAP developing Wave products.

Google Wave allowed users to participate in a conversation with a number of other individuals inside a browser window, where they could add instant messages, documents, links, images and video.

Google has released an open-source package of its Wave server and web client, which is being worked on by a community of developers.

Screenshot credit: Google

8 of 8 Home Office

ID cards
Despite the Labour government spending £257m and several years developing the ID card project, just 13,200 of the cards were issued to British citizens.

After being elected in May, the coalition government swiftly announced the project's demise, with Home Secretary Theresa May stating "we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history".

As to where it all went wrong, one of the architects of the ID cards project, former Home Secretary David Blunkett told silicon.com that the project had become sidetracked because "we got all tied up with civil rights and privacy when the intention was never to intrude on people's privacy at all."

In reality there was never a compelling reason for people to shell out £30 for an ID card when the card's only uses - as a European travel document or as a proof of age card - were already served by passports, driving licences and other official paperwork.

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