Celebrating the top software and hardware of the year

The 2015 Technology of the Year Awards is an embarrassment of riches, with more inventive new products and technologies than we've ever seen arrive in a single year

There's really only one way to evaluate enterprise products: You need reviewers with hands-on expertise who understand the real challenges customers face. At InfoWorld, over the course of many years, we've worked hard to form a network of expert contributors who fit that profile and write reviews you can count on.

Every year, InfoWorld Executive Editor Doug Dineley pulls together our extended family of reviewers to debate the relative merits of contenders and produce the Technology of the Year Awards. For me, the results never fail to put the previous 12 months in perspective. After witnessing the unprecedented explosion of enterprise technology development last year, I've been particularly excited to see how the 2015 Technology of the Year Awards would play out.

As it turned out, some pretty bold themes emerged from this year's selection of 32 winners. First and foremost is the prevalence of open source, which has become the engine of enterprise technology development. No less than five Apache big data and NoSQL projects made the roster this year: Cassandra, Hive, Hadoop, Spark, and Storm. In addition, you'll find that nearly all of this year's winning programming languages, tools, and frameworks are open source. The plain fact is that open source licensing fosters experimentation and is accelerating both technology development and adoption cycles.

The other thing that jumps out of this year's batch is the quantity of truly new stuff. It's hard to believe that Docker saw its 1.0 version just last June, given the huge amount of activity swirling around its disruptive Linux container model. Another stunning example is Apple's Handoff technology, which debuted with Apple's iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite last fall -- and which Executive Editor Galen Gruman describes as the first example of "liquid computing," where personal tasks follow you from device to device.

Two other pieces of extreme innovation came rocketing out of nowhere: Famo.us delivered an ingenious JavaScript framework that includes 3D layout and physics engines, erasing the line between native and JavaScript app performance. Plus, Splice Machine performed the singular trick of offering ACID transactions on top of Hadoop, combining the scale-out advantages of NoSQL with the traditional benefits of a tried-and-true RDBMS.

Last but not least, one winner will remind you that 2014 was the year Microsoft changed forever: Office for iOS. Its March debut may have represented just one of many changes in Redmond, including Microsoft's newfound affection for open source, but seeing Satya Nadella demoing Office on an iPad was a seminal moment for just about everyone.

I have a feeling this year is going to be just as interesting. In the coming months, you can rely on Doug and his stable of insightful reviewers to put it all in context.