December 07, 2010, 9:32 AM — It would be foolhardy to proclaim the death of the PC in a year in which Windows 7 was key to record quarterly sales for Microsoft. The top stories of 2010, however, show that the PC for many people around the world has already become just one of several devices used to tap the Internet and a world of applications for entertainment and business -- and that increasingly, the main Internet access device is not a PC. The billions of devices connected to the Internet globally are also giving rise to data and security issues for the wired and mobile worlds alike. Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's farewell note to his colleagues in October warned them that the PC software giant has to brace for a "post-PC world." News flash for Mr. Ozzie & Co.: The post-PC era has already begun.
Here, not necessarily in order of importance, are our picks for the top stories of 2010.
Apple does it again: the iPad sets a new direction for computing
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad at the end of January he asked, "Is there room for a third category of device in the middle, something that's between a laptop and a smartphone?" The answer is yes. Though early critics blasted it for being an overblown iPhone, shipments of the iPad tablet totaled more than 7 million by October. After ushering in the personal computer era with the Apple II, changing the music industry with the iPod and the phone market with the iPhone, Apple has helped create another product category. Samsung, Toshiba, Acer and HP are gearing up their own tablets, and there will be a wide variety of the devices on display at January's Consumer Electronics Show. Gartner expects tablet sales worldwide to reach 54.8 million units in 2011, displacing around 10 percent of PC units by 2014.
Microsoft plays catch-up with Windows Phone 7
By November, when it started selling Windows Phone 7, Microsoft's share of the booming smartphone market had shrunk to 2.8 percent. The company is not hurting for cash, but to keep up its current growth rate it badly needs a hit in the mobile phone market. Global mobile phone sales in the third quarter alone totaled 417 million, compared to a forecast 352 million for PC sales for the entire year, according to Gartner. The rapidly growing smartphone category accounts for about 20 percent of all mobile phone sales and in emerging markets more than 90 percent of 18- to 27-year-olds use mobile phones as their primary access to the Internet. WP7 differentiates itself from rival OS by categorizing applications, services and Web content under hubs, and Office integration will be important for professionals. But with sales of iPhones and Android devices booming, and RIM's BlackBerry a favorite for corporate users, Microsoft has an uphill battle.
Verizon launches LTE network -- 4G or not, it's next generation