04 January 2006

Hob's Top 5's for 2005 and looking ahead

Well everyone else is doing it, so here's a few top 5 lists I put together. Obviously from an Apple-fan viewpoint, but as you'll see, I've included a few other things!

Hob's top 5 gadgets for 2005

(Requirement is that I've bought it and used it in 2005!)
1. iPod 5th Gen (video). While the iPod nano is also an exceptional introduction, I think the engineering in the full-size iPod is unbelievable - a significantly smaller package that does a lot more at the same price point. It is not the definitive portable video device, but it will open up the market for such devices and will usher in new ways of delivering content.
2. My Airnimal Black Rhino bike.
I also love the engineering here too - a full-suspension folding bike with as few compromises as you could have. I've covered about 700 miles on this so far and hope to do an international adventure this year, but it has been great fun already and very useful
3. Nokia 6680 3G Phone. I'm quite impressed with this - it's just about the right compromise for me in size vs functionality. Most of it works well, and I am pleased with the Bluetooth functionality for synching with the Mac, the Salling Clicker remote control software, and photo transfer. I've also been pleased with the data access side - esp using Opera. WAP pages are fast and easy to navigate. I'd just wish for a longer battery life even if just 50% my previous model, and a better camera!
4. Apple Mac mini. I'm really pleased with this. It's worked flawlessly and is very quiet. It is a great addition to my hifi/tv cabinet.
5. Etymotic ER6i earphones. It is amazing to me how something so small can produce such great sound. Sure there are better ones available, but these are just about affordable for someone buying a high-end iPod. And if you care about your music you'd do well to earmark your budget to some like this (or Shure)

Hob's Top 5 Software faves for 2005

1. NetNewsWire.
This really has transformed my productivity. It's a great application, and I hope it's recent takeover is a postive one. If you're reading this blog, you probably already know about RSS and RSS readers. But if not and you're a mac user, get the lite version of this app and give yourself a day or so to see what it can do.
2. Mac OS X 10.4. Yes, this is an important development. It has been very robust in my experience, and while a bit memory hungry, generally performs well and faster than previous versions. It is the benchmark on which Vista will be judged.
3. Salling Clicker. What a clever piece of software! And now it supports PC's too. If you have a compatible Bluetooth phone/device you should try this out. I particularly like a new feature in v3 whereby I can connect using BT to my powerbook then thru to the Mac mini which is out of BT range using the house 802.11g network. And little things like pausing a DVD your watching when the phone rings is so cool! Great value.
4. ElGato EyeTV. I'm also in love with this application (and hardware too I guess). The size of the tuner is incredible. It performs pretty well though I do still have a problem with letting the machine sleep. With the included subscription I can set recordings anywhere on the net. I particularly like recording BBC radio stations and exporting them to iTunes for playing on long car journeys.
5. NoteBook 2.0. This is also a clever app which both Sue and I have used extensively (Sue's use is for her lab notebook). It's the first notebook I've ever used which I haven't given up on in a few weeks. Very useful for clips of information or writing a complete set of interview notes. Anything can be found very quickly indeed. Finally somewhere you can keep EVERYTHING.

Honourable mentions also for: Keynote 2.0; Skype. And next year I hope to have concluded which tools to use for video compression/iPod transfer including Handbrake, ffmpegx, Podner.

Top 5 developments this year (IT wise)

1. iPod video and video iTMS - the kick-start for video-everywhere.
2. XBox360 - the start of the next generation games consoles and an important introduction in home device convergence.
3. Desktop Search - as realised by Google and Mac OS X. These tools have changed the way we find things. While not rendering folder structures obsolete, they are much more forgiving of our own filing failures.
4. Web2.0. I mention this as I'm not sure at this point that it's just Bubble 2.0 or real. It's nice to see some energy back in this area though. 2006 should decide.
5. Apple + Intel. This is a fascinating development with huge potential repercussions if Apple can get it right. Again 2006 will be a defining year for how it actually transpires.

Top 5 things to watch for in 2006 (IT again)

1. Vista. This has to be number 1. Microsoft has a lot to lose by getting this wrong. We won't know till towards the end of the year at the earliest, but this story is going to be key to IT in 2007 onwards. It's a real challenge to Apple (as well as an opportunity).
2. Playstation3 introduction. Again this will be fascinating for the power play between Sony and MS. I don't think Sony can afford to fail, but will it be too little too late? Also will be a key to what happens with home device convergence.
3. HD-DVD vs Blu-ray format war. Perhaps linked with the PS3 intro, but this story will also be important. As much as anything for whether either can take off. How will consumers take to them - especially if they introduce more restrictive DRM into our lives?
4. DRM. This topic will be fascinating during 2006. But there are 2 elements to this that both are interesting - creeping DRM in physical formats as demonstrated by Sony's mistakes in 2005, and the new formats mentioned above. And proprietary DRM's in digital formats (Apple's Fairplay; MS Plays-for-sure). Will consumers turn off or will they embrace one or more DRM's? Will the content providers wake up and realise they need to provide at least an open and fair DRM?
5. Apple + Intel. 2005 was the announcement, but 2006 is the year of delivery. Will it be revolutionary or evolutionary? How can Apple build on success of iPod? Will it shoot itself in the foot again?

(Heh, not bad - just one Apple topic in that last list!)

And a couple of other forecasts:
1. The first Apple Mac OS X virus or spyware will be unleashed. It will cause a lot of publicity, but will in fact have relatively little effect.
2. There will a major ground shift in the IT industry which will change the competitive landscape significantly most likely through M&A or via a significant partnership. (no, I'm not being more specific even if it is a cheap forecast!).

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