Innovation is everywhere: In sleek industrial design (Apple's iPod Nano), in unique technologies that enable new capabilities (Kodak's dual-lens EasyShare V570), and in products that bring the cost of high-end technologies down from the stratosphere (Sony's Handycam HDR-HC1 high-definition camcorder). Innovative products and services do it first, do it well, or re-imagine what's been done before. They're the kind of products that make you wonder: Why didn't I think of that?
It wasn't easy to narrow down this year's list of PC World Innovations Award winners--but the 25 hardware devices, software products, and Web services spotlighted here say a lot about where technology is today and where it's going. While some products, notably Fujitsu's LifeBook P1510D convertible Tablet PC/notebook and NEC's MultiSync LCD2180WG-LED monitor, are aimed at boosting productivity, this year's picks clearly have a common theme: The majority of them aim to change the way you consume media and entertainment--whether in the living room, the den, or on the go (see our methodology for more on how we made our picks).
As PC World Editor in Chief Harry McCracken noted in his recent Up Front column, many of these products defy clear categorization. Nonetheless, we've managed to group our 25 favorites into five categories: Audio, Cameras and Camcorders, Entertainment, Mobile and Wireless, and Video. And the winners are...AudioMobile and WirelessApple iPod NanoAirgo True MIMO Gen3JVC RX-D702B AvvenuSonos Digital Music SystemFujitsu LifeBook P1510DYamaha RX-V4600 Google EarthYamaha YSP-1000Nokia N91Cameras and CamcordersPanasonic OxyrideJVC Everio GZ-MG70VideoKodak EasyShare V570 Maxtor Shared Storage PlusSony Cyber-shot DSC-R1Mitsubishi HC3000USony Handycam HDR-HC1NEC MultiSync LCD2180WG-LEDEntertainmentSling Media SlingboxCreative Zen Vision Sony DVDirect VRD-MC1Microsoft Xbox 360Toshiba RD-XS54Nintendo Nintendogs for Nintendo DSTiVoToGoAudio
Apple iPod Nano
PORTABLE AUDIO PLAYER ($249) Overnight, the svelte iPod Nano () irrevocably altered the landscape for portable audio players. Not only did this model take clean design aesthetics to a new level, but it brought us the first high-capacity (4GB) flash-based player--and one priced within reach of the masses, no less. Now, if only it didn't have that scratch-prone surface....
JVC RX-D702B HOME THEATER RECEIVER ($880) There are lots of ways to play digital music on your stereo system. The problem is how to make the music sound good, since speakers of any quality will show the imperfections of compressed audio files. JVC's receiver () uses a wireless USB link to transmit music from your PC to your stereo, but the real magic is what the receiver then does with it. Technology the company has dubbed "CC Conversion" cleans up digital music signals, making even music streamed off the Internet sound fabulous on my system. One caveat: We found that the wireless USB link broke up if we moved the notebook more than 15 to 20 feet from the receiver. If you want to use a distant PC, you'll need to connect it to the receiver through an ethernet cable.