December 05, 2012, 8:33 PM — We wrap up our week-long coverage of the best products of 2012 with a look at the business and productivity category. And there's plenty to chew on, starting with Microsoft's entrely new operating system and ending withinterestingly enoughsoftware that enables musicians to use ethernet networks in a completely new way.
What do you think of our picks? Please drop us a line in the comments section below. And be sure to read our complete list of the 100 best products of 2012.
Windows 8 Professional (operating system)
With its biggest OS rollout since Windows 95, Microsoft seeks to embrace all things computing with a one-size-fits-all operating system. Windows 8 has already spawned new designs and all sorts of hardware experiments. This bold step forward has rattled some longtime users, but the new look just might win over a new generation that Microsoft must attract to remain relevant. In our eyes, it's the most important product of 2012.
Stardock Start8 (Windows 8 add-on)
Many early Windows 8 adopters miss the Start Menu. Stardock, known for desktop customization software Fences and ObjectDock, responded with Start8, an inexpensive utility that adds a StartMenu to the new OS and allows you to disable the new hot corners to make your transition less jarring. We placed it at number 23 on our top 100 list.
Kickstarter (crowd-funding site)
Were recognizing this three-year-old crowd-funding sitethe 25th most-important product of the year in our viewbecause it opened the crowd-funding floodgates this year. Marquee products such as the Pebble E-Paper Watch and the Ouya game console raised millions, demonstrating that Kickstarter isn't just for amateurs and side projects; its changing the way new products get funded.
Google Hangouts (video-chat service)
Yes, this free video-chat service debuted in late last year, but it really took off in 2012. It supports up to 10 callers equipped with browsers, webcams, and Google+ accounts. Its not only a fun way to connect with friendsits also a fabulous workplace collaboration tool. Participants can share a screen and view joint presentations. Hangouts landed 49th on our Top 100 list.
Sensible Vision Fast Access (facial-recognition software)
Stop memorizing passwords. Show your mug to your smartphone, tablet, or PC, instead. This facial-recognition software will then require you to identify a secret symbol to gain access to secure apps and websites. That two-factor authentication will foil efforts to fool the software with a photograph or video.