In the spirit of the bazillion other year-end lists you will see over the coming weeks, I decided to list my Top 5 Most Influential Technologies of the year. These are the technologies that I think librarians need to be aware of, examine, and find uses for in their library. Not all of these started this year, but 2008 was the year they broke out and became necessities in many people's lives.
#5 - Ebook readers
While there's been a lot of criticism heaped upon the Amazon Kindle this year (it's ugly, it's too expensive, it's a DRM nightmare ), it remains the E-reader that garnered the most publicity. It's not the only game in town for E-readers, with the Sony Reader and the iRex Iliad on the market as well. These have roughly the same feature set as the Kindle, with one glaring exception: they do not have constantly available wireless integration with the Amazon Kindle Store, the largest selection of ebooks in the world. In my mind, this sets the Kindle apart and makes it the one to beat. Full disclosure: I own a Kindle, and nothing has disrupted my media consumption habits so fully since I received my first iPod. It really is a revolutionary device.
#4 - Clouds, clouds, everywhere
Cloud computing became a buzzword, but the worlds of business and academia started to take a hard look at how these tools really could help customers. Google Docs, file sync services like Dropbox, backup services like Mozy and Carbonite, and Amazon.com's variety of services like their S3 storage or SimpleDB database service are all examples of the cloud services that people are beginning to rely on for their everyday computing. For the record, I do all of my writing on Google Docs, because it does a better job of letting me pour text out and gives me the same text everywhere I might happen to be. The power inherent in the lack of geographic necessity is hard to overstate.
#3 - Microblogging
Twitter set the bar for microblogging services, all of which allow you to pour out your thoughts in 140 characters or less. Like this.
#2 - The Rise of the Netbook
The largest growth segment in personal computers this year was a segment that didn't even exist seriously a year ago...the netbook. The name is given to what might have previously been called a subnotebook--these devices aim to be just good enough for the common set of uses for the mobile worker. The machine that created this new class of laptop was the eeePC, from Asus, with a 7 inch screen and a price of just $249. Just about the size of a hardback book, it was perfect for the on-the-go techie. After the success of the Asus, nearly every other computer manufacturer quickly hit the market with their version of the netbook, all priced below $500 and of varying sizes, specifications, and operating systems.
#1 - iPhone 3G
The iPhone has driven the mobile space into a completely new realm. With the release this year of the App Store, Apple has created an entirely new way of delivering content that may end up being even more important than the iTunes Store. The iPhone 3G changed all the rules about what a cell phone could be, and the repercussions from the iPhone are going to haunt not just the cell phone market, but every part of the technology realm. While its dominance won't last forever, for the time being, there is no better or more important mobile device than Apple's glossy wonderphone.
Disagree with one of my choices? Did I miss something that should definitely be on the list? Let me know in the comments!