Innovation, said a certain Mr. Jobs, distinguishes between a leader and a follower. Well, this year has seen its fair share of pioneering technology. From the <a href="http://www.cnet.com/apple-iphone.html"> Apple iPhone</a> to Honda's production hydrogen fuel-cell car to <a href="/e-book-readers/amazon-kindle/4505-3508_7-32751890.html">Amazon's Kindle</a>, a number of products distinguish themselves as prototypes of future tech. Here is our roundup of forerunners for technology in 2008.
The Voyager VX10000 is one handset that can match--and also surpass--the iPhone in many ways. It might not have Wi-Fi, but the Voyager features everything that we liked from the VX9800 and the enV, and then raises the bar immensely by offering redesigned controls, V Cast Mobile TV, and a huge external touch screen that's both luscious and user-friendly.
For those who want to cut the cord between their MP3 player and their headphones, the slender, touch-screen Samsung YP-P2 is the way to go. The YP-P2 uses Bluetooth streaming to connect to its wireless headphones and can also be paired to a cell phone for taking incoming calls. The wireless wonder is is also packed with multimedia features including video playback, a great FM radio, support for subscription music and Datacasts, and a plethora of sound-enhancement options.
As one of the most-anticipated gadgets of all time, the iPhone couldn't possibly live up to the stratospheric amount of hype that preceded its launch. Apple's hero product does, however, open up a new era in cell phone design. While the iPhone wasn't the first touch-screen phone to market, its sleek form and intuitive multitouch technology gave it the edge over its predecessors and most of its successive competitors. And with its integration of Apple's CoverFlow browsing interface as well as its Safari-based support for third-party apps, the iPhone's innovation went beyond its head-turning hardware. Look out for more music-playing, Web-enabled, touch-screen cell phones in the year ahead.
Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX9650 quad-core CPU may come with a four-figure price tag, but it lays the groundwork for what is likely to be a stream of new chips manufactured with a more power-efficient method. With the forthcoming release of Intel's Core 2 Quad (probably in early January) and AMD's recently released Phenom processor, 2008 will likely be the year that quad-core processors go mainstream.
The Blackbird 002 desktop PC is the first joint venture product from HP and its year-old boutique acquisition, Voodoo PC and the collaboration shows what can be done with some blue-sky production thinking. Aside from its striking exterior and clean interior design, the high-end gaming PC relies on some real technical innovation through its cross-standard strategy. By matching two ATI cards in CrossFire mode on an Nvidia NForce 680i SLI motherboard the Blackbird 002 offers expanded graphics upgrade options, which have potential benefit for DIY upgraders in general.
It might not be the first eBook reader, but with its free W-iFi connection and access to Amazon's vast online bookstore, Kindle does represent something of a revolution in paperless reading. Packing a high-contrast electrophoteric (non-backlit) display, the Kindle holds the equivalent of 200 books. While its once-a-day "delivery" of virtual versions of major newspapers is a curious throwback, the Kindle promises to light a fire in the post dead-tree-media world.
Vudu may be the closest thing to a video store in a box that we've ever seen. With its clean interface, excellent content availability, and superior playback quality, the Internet-connected set top box enables viewers to rent or buy movies on demand without monthly fees. Time to cancel that Netflix subscription.
Honda is driving the hydrogen highway forward with the release of its FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle. The four-door sedan features a compact fuel-cell stack and a lithium ion battery pack, to drive the car with zero emissions. The Clarity will be produced in small numbers and leased to retail customers in 2008.
While the high-definition format war rumbles on, LG stole a march on its competitors by being first to market with a dual-format player able to handle both Blu-Ray and HD DVD discs. It may have its drawbacks (limited soundtrack support, lack of HDi interactive features), but the LG BH100 set the stage for a generation of dual format players that followed from Samsung, Pioneer and NEC, among others.
Designed in collaboration with Microsoft, Ford's Sync application represents a real leap forward in in-car communications and entertainment technology. The fully-integrated, flash memory-based system enables drivers to call hands-free and to control a range of digital audio via one of the most advanced voice recognition systems in production. Priced at a very reasonable $400, Sync will be an available option on select 2008 models from Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln.
In the absence of any real headline hardware news, 2007 was the year of the controller in the gaming world. The arrival of Rock Band opened up a whole new world of stardom for Guitar Heros and Heroines, while the Wii Zapper, the Wii Wheel, and the much anticipated Wii Fit all give gamers even more ways to shoot, steer, and swing their ways to virtual success.
With the high-profile realization of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and new products from Intel and Asus, a new genre of child-friendly laptops made its way into the public eye this year. Designed primarily to meet the needs of children in developing countries, OLPC's XO laptop and Intel's Classmate PC (pictured) combine low-power consumption, rugged design and a simple interfaces in low-cost packages. Asus brings a similar philosophy to the mass market with its Eee PC, which is expected to go on sale in December 2007.