The year's best hardware, software, and cloud services
InfoWorld's Test Center unveils the 2012 Technology of the Year AwardsFollow @peterwayner
Our list includes a number of other unstoppable juggernauts that are similarly condemned to repeat the past. The iPad 2 follows the first iPad into the winner's circle. The MacBook Air is also faster and better, like the iPad the model for a forthcoming wave of competing products. Apple continues to delight us with a walled paradise built on iOS and the App Store while delivering surprises like Siri, a tool that for some odd reason makes us smile instead of poke fun as we did with the Newton. The reality distortion field lives on. All of these tools are better connected to the cloud, which in this case means the Apple-only iCloud.
The bulk of the new products in this list all live in the cloud and are thoroughly part of the cloud ecology, delivering on cloud promises. We're afraid that we'll be condemned to repeating this "cloud" word for a long time.
Triumphs of the cloud
The cloud of 2011, though, is a far cry from the cloud of just a few years ago. The tools are more sophisticated, and there are more places to turn. The customers are more sophisticated too. We're better equipped to know what we want from the so-called cloud, and that means the vendors are better prepared to deliver it. We want flexibility, simplicity, and the freedom to click our mouse three times, say "there's no place like /home," and find ourselves taken there immediately on a freshly started machine with the distro of our choice.
There's certainly no place like Amazon Web Services, a turnkey supercomputer available to anyone with a credit card. Hadoop, too, appears here in all of its glory (making the leap from Bossies fame), although it's rapidly becoming a collection of programs and distributions. Not only is there a wide range of open source tools that make it easier to run your Hadoop cluster, but there's also a growing collection of commercial tools and services to help. Clouds -- public or private -- for distributed data processing are rapidly turning into an important part of the infrastructure.
Other winning tools bring more power and convenience to Web application developers. CakePHP and Web2py have been adding features that make it simpler to build and deploy PHP and Python applications to the cloud or, for that matter, to any machine. We also took notice of application platforms Heroku and CloudBees, which have integrated versioning tools into the cloud and made it simpler to build and deploy your applications there.