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The Gods and Goats of 2005

Best and worst of an eventful year By Charlie White

Weve reached the end of another tumultuous year in the world of technology, and its time to take stock, assessing which products, companies, services or concepts were the Gods and which were the Goats of 2005. So here they are, the ones worth remembering and those which would be best forgotten from the past year.

The Gods of 2005

Google was the company from whom all blessings flowed in 2005. It was the leader, the trendsetter, the innovator, and the rich kid on the block, and in exchange for that, its stock shot up hundreds of dollars per share in value in a very short period of time. Not only does Google have the best search engine in the world, its developed a lot of other outstanding applications such as its desktop search capability, which indexes everything on your hard drive and spits it all back at you in a matter of seconds. The company has also ruled the roost with its unique advertising schemes, bringing ad revenue to almost anyone. Also its Google Earth and Google Local software applications have changed our world and the way we look at it. In 2005, it was hard to beat Google, the company thats pointing the direction on the Internet for everybody else.

iPod nano
Of course, any 2005 roundup wouldnt be complete without adding the contributions of Apples iPod nano. Sure, other iPods could do other tricks, such as the iPod G5 which can play video, but the nano was the true innovator. Its slim design, its solid-state flash memory storage inside, and its groundbreaking pricing changed the world of music listening as we know it?again. Hang that iPod nano around your neck with the optional Apple lanyard headphones, and youve reached digital music listening Nirvana. Theres no two ways about it, the nano was probably the best consumer electronics device introduced in 2005, if not ever.

Many past years have been called ?The Year of HDTV, however 2005 really was that year. The cost of HDTV sets plummeted, program offerings proliferated, and the general public started to understand the true value of HDTV. At the same time, low-cost HDV camcorders became more popular as their prices fell, and at the same time Panasonics DVCPro HD with the P2 solid-state memory put a fire under HDV, showing users that long-GOP MPEG high definition was not the only cheap way to skin the high-definition cat. Welcome to the explosion of high-definition television, where 2005 was just the beginning. As soon as digital rights management (DRM) issues are worked out, there will be high-definition in every home and a chicken in every pot. 

While Intel snoozed in its feather bed with newfound love Apple, AMDs dual core Opteron processors brought home the honors as the fastest chips we saw here at the Midwest Test Facility in 2005. The trick here was AMDs motherboard and chipset technology, which gave computer makers the ability to place two dual core processors on one motherboard for the first time. The result? The fastest PCs in the world, where we even saw a four-way AMD Opteron dual core machine, giving the equivalent of eight processors crunching those numbers faster than anything weve ever seen. Sure, Apple released a dual core machine toward the end of the year, but those are dead processors on a dead platform?look to Apple to move to the Intel platform and perhaps wish that it had chosen AMD instead.

Vonage is a telephone system that piggybacks onto an existing broadband connection and gives you prices that are lower than the world has ever seen for long-distance and local telephone service. Ive tested Vonage, and to be honest with you, its actually not that great of a service?it doesnt sound as good as conventional telephone service, and its customer service department is pretty much clueless. However, I call it one of the best of 2005 because it was able to cut the cost of long-distance service by two-thirds without cutting its quality by that much. In the year that Ive used Vonage, its actually improved by about 50%, and the company itself has grown by leaps and bounds since the beginning of 2005. Vonage and other companies like it are sounding the death knell for old-fashioned telephone service, and not a minute too soon.

Hybrid Vehicles
Just try to buy a hybrid car today. If you are able to get one, youll have to wait a couple of months and pay retail price or even higher. Theres good reason for that, too, because hybrid cars are just downright excellent. Sure, theyre expensive, but softening that blow was a $2000 tax credit for buying a hybrid vehicle in 2005, with some sources saying that number might even rise to an even richer tax advantage in 2006. Plus, hybrid vehicles dont suffer much of a performance hit compared to conventional cars. Making them even more appealing are the ultra-hip and modern components included within such as GPS, Bluetooth, and more. Hybrid vehicle technology is another area in mid-explosion in 2005; its one of those great technological leaps that pays for itself over the life of the product. 

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