10 Best products of the past 200 issues (Part 3)

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10 Best products of the past 200 issues (Part 3)

Apple iPad


Unless you’ve been in a deep sleep for the past 18 months, you may have noticed that the tablet market has exploded into life. Tablets have been around for a lot longer than you’d think, but their viability was uncertain for a long time. It took the iPad to unlock that potential.

Despite Microsoft’s long history trying to develop a tablet platform, it was Apple’s device that set the world of tablet computing on fire. By taking the already phenomenally successful iPhone and stretching it to tablet size, Apple turned Microsoft’s ideas on their head. Less than 18 months after its launch, the iPad is the dominant player in the tablet market and the device that its competitor want to emulate-in terms of design, and also sales.

The most recent of the 10 best products in this round-up, the original iPad launched in early 2010. It was bigger than a smartphone and smaller than a laptop-a connected web-browsing and home-entertainment gadget, portable enough to slip into your bag, but ideal for surfing the web on the sofa. And the iPad is equally suited to business task and gaming. The iPad concept introduced a putative third device to the arsenal of all tech fans. And yet its success is such that for many people it is now the one device to rule them all.

Rival manufacturers have queued up to take on the iPad. It’s no surprise: in the first year it was on sale Apple sold 15 million units, wiping other tablet makers off the face of the earth. But only latterly have tech giants such as Samsung and Sony been able to get close to what consumers now expect from a tablet. And in at least one of those cases, Apple alleges the credit it all its own.

Apple has earned a deserved reputation as maker of some of the most elegant and user-friendly computers, music players and smartphones in the business. Yet the iPas may be the most impressive piece of Apple hardware we’ve handled. More important than that: the iPad has both redefined and reinvigorated the tablet market, and then took it all for itself. A staggering achievement.

Asus Eee PC


The first Asus Eee PC, the 701, was a milestone in personal computing. It was the original netbook.

Small, low-cost laptops, netbooks became for a while the se facto weapon of choice for business road warriors, students and first-time computer buyers who needed a simple device on which to surf the web. Tablets and cheaper full-spec laptops have now taken back those markets, but even today netbooks have an interesting after afterlife as first PCs for children, and student word processors.

Asus announced its Eee PC 701 and Eee PC 1001 models in 2007, sending shockwaves around the rest of the computing worl with both their low price and tiny size, almost single-handedly queering the pitch for makers of Ultra-Mobile PCs. Initially running Linux, the 7 in Eee PCs ran underclocked Intel Celeron M processors, eventually graduating to Intel Atom chips. They had tiny SSDs for storage, and cramped keyboards at around 90 percent of a standard model’s size.

This combination of cheap price, small size and low power consumption was popular, with Asus selling almost 2 million models in a little over a year on sale. Pretty soon it was releasing 8in and 10in Eee PCs running Window XP, and other PC makers were scrambling to catch up, producing eerily similar models.

But Microsoft wasn’t keen on XP gaining a new lease of life, and limited the spec allowed in order to force vendors and purchasers to select the unloved Windows Vista. As time went by the makers of ‘proper’ laptops found it easier to make cheaper and lighter Vista and Windows 7 models than be restricted by Microsoft’s stringent rules, and as component prices dropped full-sized laptops became a better deal. By the time the iPad arrived and pointed users in the direction of tablet PCs, netbooks were good at nothing more than being cheap.

An underpowered device in an outmoded category, when placed next to more recent portable computing devices such as the iPad, the Eee PC looks like a relic. But when Asus first launched this low-power, lightweight laptop, it changed the world, introducing what became known as the ‘netbook’, driving a massive amount of PC sales, and setting in train the drive toward true mobile computing.



Facebook is so good they made a movie about it, although its inclusion here won’t be universally popular, whether the service constitutes a ‘product’ is one issue, and whether it is a good one is another, given the security issues that have bugged the site as it has grown. But Facebook itself is hugely popular and, unlike almost every other similar service, it continues to grow at a rapid rate more than seven years after it was born.

According to Facebook’s stats, it has more than 800 million active users. The user demographic holds a healthy number of users in age groups from 13 up to 64 and over, each of whom can exchange messages and share photos, join common interest user groups, play games, promote events and more.

Not only the most popular online social network in the world, Facebook is the biggest photo-sharing site on the planet. It’s the fastest-growing gaming platform around, and a staggeringly popular means of communication for users on every corner of the planet. Of course, that very success means that it is the world’s biggest time sink, and a world-class medium for spreading scams and malware. It’s also home to the profiles of at least 7.5 million children, in violation of Facebook’s own terms of service.

And all this from a site founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates in 2004. Not even Zuckerberg could have seen Facebook’s potential, but after initial success with his fellow Harvard students, Facebook was opened to other US college students, then high schools and, finally, the world. A combination of good technology and perfect, fortunate timing, it’s often forgotten that Facebook’s very existence wa revealed to great numbers of the outside world only when Virginia Tech students live-blogged the massacre of 32 of their fellow students by crazed gunman in 2007.

But Facebook’s biggest achievement is handling an exponential growth in users and features, without imploding or selling out. Facebook is an incredible achievement.


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