After a good deal of--ahem--lively discussion, the editors at PC World have completed this year's list of the 100 best technology products available today. How did we do it? After nominating hundreds of devices, apps, sites, and services we knew to be good, we rated each one on its design, functionality, performance, and impact; the ones garnering the highest total scores made our list. Note that we chose not to rate products specifically on their price or value, focusing instead on their overall quality. After the scoring was over and the dust had cleared, we had a list that served, among other things, to remind us of what an exciting time in tech this truly is, with game-changing product development happening on many fronts.
1. Hulu (video site, free/ad-based) Hulu may offer the best-looking, most watchable Web video to date, rivaling the standard-definition content of regular TV. A well-financed joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corporation, Hulu is ultimately a one-stop on-demand repository for high-quality programming--the holy grail of online video.
Hulu's content includes current prime-time shows from Fox, NBC, MGM, Sony, Warner Brothers, and others, plus TV reruns new and old. Hulu's list of full-length movies has burgeoned since the site's debut last October. The high-def content gallery is mostly a clipfest so far, but it should blossom as video compression and broadband speeds improve.
Hulu also lets you cut and share clips with friends as you watch. If Web video is destined to clobber cable and satellite by giving us more control over our TV viewing experience, Hulu represents easily the best attempt yet at that ideal. ReviewThe 100 Best Products, Numbers 2 through 10
2. Apple iPhone (smart phone, $400 with two-year AT&T wireless contract) Rarely have handsome industrial design and breakthrough technology (including the supercool multitouch interface and visual voicemail) mated so happily as in the iPhone--and the rest is history. Review | Check prices
3. Facebook (online social network, free) Facebook is a very popular way to stay in touch your friends' status, photos, plans, events, and more. But it lands at number 3 on our list because the application development platform it created last year is beginning to spawn some truly useful third-party-developed tools. Site
4. Microsoft Windows XP (operating system, not sold separately) It has been discontinued except as an option for certain low-end PCs, but XP is leaner, meaner, and less bloated than Vista. Despite the outcry from users, however, at press time Microsoft still planned to retire the OS on June 30, 2008. Review | Check prices
5. Lenovo ThinkPad X300 (ultraportable laptop, $2500) As everyone swooned over Apple's hot Air, Lenovo snuck in the back door with a business-centric notebook that answers most of the Air's shortcomings. It has processing power to burn, plenty of ports--and a paper-thin optical drive. Stick that in your manila envelope, Steve. Review | Check prices
6. Flock (browser, free) Sick of having to surf to all your favorite sites and services? Flock integrates Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, Flickr photo streams, Gmail and Yahoo Mail, and blogging tools into a single navigation (and browsing) interface. Review | Download