Our first 2012-in-review blog was “Business Tech Hits of 2012″, and it covered advances in enterprise computing, integrated systems, and IT. This blog is the consumer tech version of that same blog, covering personal computing and electronics. As always, some will say we should have made other, different, fewer, more, and/or better selections. Be that as it may, here’s what we think you should know about:
Free Office Software — LibreOffice is the best free, open source office software suite. Created by some members of Apache OpenOffice’s original development team, it has outdistanced OpenOffice (more features, fewer bugs) and every other open source Microsoft Office-compatible application for producing presentations, documents, slide shows, spreadsheets, and more. It has you covered on the iMac and has Windows and Linux versions, as well.
Soundbars — The picture quality of today’s plasma display rentals and flat-panel TVs has increased dramatically, but audio quality has actually decreased because it’s difficult, and thus expensive, to build good sound into thin panels. Soundbars emerged as a one-piece, plug-and-play solution, but the first models were unimpressive. In 2012, however, high-quality soundbars arrived from Bowers & Wilkins, Atlantic Technology, and many others. Some are made to replace multiple surround-sound speakers, but the niche is coalescing around the single soundbar. With their own amplifiers and standard line-in jacks, you can use most any digital device from an mp3 player to a CRE MacBook Pro rental to play audio.
Streaming — Audio/video docks for smart phones and tablets are a dying breed, another technology rendered passé by wireless technology. Whether it’s Apple’s Airplay, Bluetooth, DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), or something else, wireless streaming technology solidified its grip on consumer connectivity in 2012. A docked iPad rental isn’t available to you for multitasking while the music or video plays. The only real use for the docks now is charging, so when wireless charging hits its stride, they’re complete goners.
Tablets for Kids— Of all the niches, “tablets for kids” is the one that differentiated itself enough to succeed last year. A fall article at Examiner.com found that “the market for children’s computer tablets [in 2012] was very successful” for the LeapPad from LeapFrog Enterprises, as well as VTech’s InnoTab, Oregon Scientific’s Meep, and the Kurio Kids tablet from TechnoSource. Just as CRE’s tablet PC rentals are configured with the proper applications for professional use, the Tabeo 7-inch kids’ tablet from Toys-R-Us runs Android 4.0, has 50 preinstalled tutorials and games, and includes a reading app called iStoryBooks. Amazon is taking a different route to engage kids: Rather than make special kiddie models, the Fire HD includes a potent and eminently tweakable app, Kindle FreeTime, for parental control of games, activities, and chat rooms, of course.
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