Around the office, the Technology of the Year package is known by the acronym TOY, and many of the winners this year are perfect examples of why someone's subconscious chose this title. For the serious technologist, most everything on this list is just asking to be unpacked and played with. It's just like that bumper sticker on a pickup truck reading "Home Depot is my toy store."
The list of winners was built over the year as we watched what we reviewed, then chose the items that we came back to play with again and again. They were the "best" products we saw, but remember that the notion of "best" is not computed on any absolute scale. Windows 8, for instance, required a zillion times more work to create than most of the items on this list, and we remain in awe of the Herculian effort it took to build it, even though we found too many reasons to be disappointed or unforgiving to include it. As President Kennedy once said, "Life is not fair."
There is no rule for what defined the list, but there were common themes. Each item was chosen for itself alone, but some patterns started appearing. The software world, like everything else of human origin, is subject to fads and obsessions.
One big theme is ease. The companies on the list didn't invent a flying car or a quantum computer. They took well-understood ideas and did the hard work to make them more fun to use. A number of the products are simpler to configure and, thus, more practical and efficient to deploy. They're sort of the enterprise equivalent of that kitchen toy that bakes bread with a push of a button.
Better living through cloud computing The drive for ease and flexibility is a big part of the industry's obsession with the cloud, and we were not immune to it. The various cloud services are on the list because they made things simpler than filling out the requisition forms, buying your own machines, and even configuring the stacks. You push some buttons on a Web page and you have root.
Providing ease wasn't enough, though, because the industry is full of clouds that do that. We ended up awarding Joyent Cloud and Windows Azure, two clouds that offered faster machines at lower prices. That makes it easier to present the bill to your CFO.
The new clouds are also starting to offer well-defined services, and these are meant to be easier than doing all of the installation and configuration work yourself. You send your packets into the cloud, and someone else worries about making it all work together and scale up to be as big as your CFO's dreams. The packets go in and your answers come out. You don't have to worry about what happens in between.
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