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January 2013

My Top 5 in Tech: 2012

Sunday, January 6, 2013 0

For the past few years, I’ve compiled my top five in tech lists and they are always a shock and a pleasure to look back over year after year – not only as a reminder of what I thought were the defining gadgets in my life, but also to track just how far and how quickly technology moves on, as well as how some items can stand the test of time.

In 2011 my number one item, the Amazon Kindle, is still very much a device that I really adore, so much so that at the end of this very year I treated myself to the new Kindle Paperwhite – truly a gadget that continues to thrive.

A reminder of last year’s top five can be found here, but in order here they are again:

  1. Amazon Kindle
  2. Nokia Lumia 800
  3. LaCie Network Space 2
  4. Microsoft Touch Mouse 
  5. Dyson Hot

Without further ado then, let’s get to 2012 and in reverse order…..

NUMBER FIVE: MagiMix 4150 Food Processor

Admittedly, this is a last minute addition to my top five list having only just purchased it in last week; but I’ve been in the market for a food processor for a couple of years now, but had failed to find ‘the one’ that would finally make me put my hand in my pocket and purchase. 

MagiMix is a manufacture renowned for quality and as soon as I seen Amazon include this model in their ‘Lightening Deals’ section for only £155 I knew I had to have one.  Whilst I’m yet to actually use the machine at this time of writing, I have received and looked in awe of the quality, finish and design of the item – it really is a diamond.
The model I’ve purchased has an 800 watt motor, which runs almost silently and whilst the machine is extremely heavy, the 12 year warranty for the motor that accompanies the processor screams quality and brilliance.  The mixing blades and slicers are capable of producing an endless amount of food dishes from breads to pastries to slices and dices of whatever you can think of.
The innovation is pretty funky too – the design of two bowls in one (some models actually offer three), is original and as genius as anything Apple or Dyson are capable of producing in their own design workshops.  This really is a beautiful kitchen appliance.

I can’t wait to start using this machine for real and to see what it is actually capable of and that’s why I simply had to include it in my top five.

NUMBER FOUR: Microsoft OneNote & SkyDrive

Amazing to think that two years ago, Microsoft Live Mesh was my number one in tech as the very starting ground to the movement towards the cloud and the very foundation of Microsoft SkyDrive which has simply flourished throughout this year as Live Mesh moves towards its retirement.

SkyDrive may not yet have the market recognition that ‘DropBox’ does yet, but having recently watched a friend of mine try to upload files onto his DropBox account via the browser and struggling to navigate and register through the confusing website, it brought to light just how simple to use and brilliant the Microsoft alternative is.

Combined this with a just as easy to use application to synchronise content between devices (including Apple, iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows itself), it really shines as an innovation worthy of recognition by the masses.  But that’s not where it ends for SkyDrive – it now has an Xbox application allowing you to view your photographs from your console, it plugs into other applications, forms the basis and default save location for Microsoft Office 2013 and OneNote.

And OneNote is truly my application of the year; it has become a hub for just about everything I do.  It stores my recipes, my work documentation, samples of my PowerShell scripts, my order numbers for tracking parcels and also my endless amounts of notes and website clippings that collect and take on my computer and my phone.  It really has become one of the most important applications that I use on a daily basis.

Combined with SkyDrive, all of these notes and documents are there at the very touch of my fingertips at all times, synchronised and completely up-to-date everywhere.  The Office 2013 is a delight to use and the OneNote MX touch enabled version (complete with revolutionary ‘formatting wheel’), is superb – and better yet, free!

It would be a crime to omit OneNote from my list, but it needs to be paired with SkyDrive in order for the real magic of this software to shine.  A tooth

NUMBER THREE: Colgate ProClinical A1500

A toothbrush?  If you’d have told me at the start of the year that a toothbrush would be in my tech top five for this year I’d have told  you that you’d be crazy.  How can a brush with an electric motor be regarded as a technological breakthrough of 2012, after all electric toothbrushes have been around for quite a long time already?

The answer is simple – just look at the tech behind the Colgate ProClinical A1500 brush.  The sensors contained within the device work like an accelerometer that you find in most modern day smart phones and depending on the angle and position of the brush, the speed and type of cleaning the brush provides adjusts accordingly to provide the best cleaning you can ever hope to achieve.

This really is a technological progression from previous electric brushes – this really is the invention of the ‘smart brush’, a brush that ‘thinks’ and changes, calculates and adjusts in real time.  It’s different, its modern and it works.

They are expensive (I thoroughly recommend that you shop around for them as prices really do differ), but they are brilliant.  In other years this technology could have been number one on my list, but in 2012 third is not a position to be simply disregarded.

NUMBER TWO: Windows Phone 8 & Nokia Lumia 920

Twelve months ago the Lumia 800 easily made my top five as Nokia finally woke up from their slump and decided to recapture some of the market lost to the Apple iPhone market.  Twelve months later Nokia have worked extremely hard to innovate and move the Lumia 800 forward and in some ways, they have even beaten this year’s iPhone 5 iteration. 

The PureView camera in the 920 is truly a market changing innovation that shifts mobile phone camera capabilities beyond what we have come to expect, wireless charging (originally seen in the Palm Pre), is back and the inclusion of NFC (Near Field Communications), is something that I believe Apple have really overlooked and missed from the iPhone 5.

NFC might be a hit or miss technology; something else may replace it rather quickly, but having purchased the Nokia Luna NFC Bluetooth headset (which I’d also recommend), this year it really does bridge the gaps between tricky technology (such as Bluetooth pairing), to something as simple as a tap of the device on the back of the phone.

But the hardware and innovations of Nokia are only part of the story; Microsoft have also been busy to move the phone market forward with Windows Phone 8.

Don’t be dazzled by the fact that tiles can now be re-sized, the improvements and changes go way deeper; the kernel is now based on the same technology as Windows operating systems meaning the phone technology now moves at the same pace as the desktop/laptop/tablet market and the coding of applications between desktop and mobile is much, much easier – bringing the markets closer together.

Visual changes in Windows Phone 8 however are also just as innovative; software camera lenses, digital wallets, kid’s corners, SkyDrive and Office 2013 innovations, a new Store, Smartglass for use with Xbox – the Microsoft phone really has become a pillar of their strategy and they deserve to be applauded for creating something that really has made the phone market look again at Microsoft and not discount them.  I believe in their strategy and wouldn’t hesitate for a second before recommending Microsoft Windows Phone 8 and Nokia Lumia 920 technology.

NUMBER ONE: Windows 8 & Surface

So, so much has been written already about Microsoft Windows 8 – some people love it, whilst others hate it and so many more people have been left unsure of it as an alternative from the already successful Windows 7 – which I can completely understand.

Earlier this year I too was unsure and disliked the new OS, so much so I moved quickly back to Windows 7 from the beta/consumer previews of 8.  My early concerns were that Microsoft would re-visit the ‘Vista’ disaster – and yet, and yet – Microsoft completely turned it around on me; as soon as I got my head around the two sides to the new OS it has become a breath of fresh air and a delight to use.

I find myself using the ‘metro’ environment more and more, and split screen applications just help me to work.  The search ‘charm’ facility in Windows 8 is something unique and works phenomenally well.  The OS flows well (after about a week of getting used to how it works), and some where I really enjoy working and playing on my laptop.

Reading reviews of Windows 8 these past couple of months, you’d think that it was a software release to avoid, I couldn’t disagree more – even for those already running Windows 7.  My advice and message to all is to upgrade to 8 now, even more so whilst its cheap to upgrade – with another OS update rumoured to be coming soon to bring further improvements, the changes in 8 are not something Microsoft are going to back down on and having gotten used to the them myself, I agree with their stance completely; accept the changes and adapt now – it will be worth it, trust me.

The brilliance and difference of Windows 8 is why Microsoft felt they needed to produce their own tablet; a ‘showcase’ for the software they claimed, the Surface was born. 

Again, like the software, the reviews have been a mixed bag; everyone seems to agree that the device is a marvel to hold in your hands and is extremely well designed, with outstanding build quality, but is let down by a few quirks in the Windows 8 software (which have been ironed out) and the lack of applications overall.

The applications will come - it’s not all about the overall number of them - it’s about having the applications that you need to be available and I believe most of what I need is already available.  The Surface is a next generation concept and shouldn’t be compared to the iPad tablet; the Surface isn’t about applications, it’s about productivity – that is why Microsoft bundled the touch keyboard into the cover of their device.  The reviews are wrong because they haven’t been put in the right context – everyone wants to compare against Apple.

Surface isn’t all easy though; there is one major issue that I am still wrestling with myself and that’s the split between the RT and Pro versions.  Both have a place and purpose, the problem is that picking between them is extremely difficult for a computer user who expects as much as I do; the RT has a much longer battery life and is a modern tablet complete with Office, but is missing the handwriting features and application capability features the Pro can offer, albeit without the battery life and an additional cost of Office software.

It’s a tricky one to decide and probably the reason that I’ve had to combine my number one device for this year with the software that makes it work.  I believe in the product, but Microsoft really have to do more in 2013 to remove the confusion that surrounds these two great innovations.

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