The best hardware and software products of the year

InfoWorld's 2010 Technology of the Year Awards recognize the top solutions for business and IT professionals

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SimpleDB is ideal for persistent storage and searching of structured data. It is used by AdaptiveBlue's Glue social networking tools, Pluribo Technology's summarization engine, and Mindscape's LightSpeed .Net object/relational mapping tool., a development company that builds cloud tools, uses SimpleDB with Ruby. As with other Amazon Web Services, SimpleDB's strength is its micropricing (which encourages proof-of-concept testing) and its ease-of-use.

-- Rick Grehan

Eclipse is an open source integrated development environment that has grown into an extensible hosting platform for development tools. Eclipse began life as a Java development tool, but its plug-in architecture has allowed it to provide development environments for languages, including C/C++, PHP, Python/Jython, Ruby, Tcl, JavaScript, and more. This versatility is particularly attractive in areas where software development requires working in multiple languages. For example, a PHP developer often requires access to tools that support HTML, XML, JavaScript, and SQL; a single Eclipse installation can be outfitted with plug-ins that handle all of those languages.

The Eclipse IDE is also well served by subprojects that provide construction kits for building tools that abstract higher-level development tasks. For example, the Parallel Tools Platform furnishes building blocks for creating Eclipse-based plug-ins that assist in development within parallel computing environments. Photran -- a FORTRAN development environment in Eclipse -- is a product of the Parallel Tools Platform.

Other toolkits within Eclipse cater to activities adjunct to development. The Data Tools Platform provides tools for managing RDBMSes, executing SQL, managing database meta-content such as triggers and stored procedures, and so on. The Web Tools Platform is invaluable not only for working with Java EE-based applications, but its included Web Services Explorer can be used to interactively navigate SOAP-based Web services.

Best of all, Eclipse is platform agnostic. Eclipse-based tools run on Windows, Linux, Unix, and (in many cases) Mac OS X.

-- Rick Grehan

Apple iPhone OS 3.0 and App Store
How do an evolutionary operating system upgrade and an established online store make our Technology of the Year list? They do it by reinforcing the supremacy of one of the seminal products of the decade.

Some might say that the iPhone 3G S was the big news of the year, but by bringing most of the newest iPhone’s capabilities to the previous generation of hardware (as a free upgrade no less), iPhone OS 3.0 kept a huge block of users happy with their smartphones. It also kept the feature bar high for a parade of would-be iPhone killers, none of which came close to accomplishing the mission.

The challenges posed by the BlackBerry Storm, the Palm Pre, and the Android 2.0-based Droid were all made more difficult by the tens of thousands of applications available for ready purchase, download, and installation through the App Store and iTunes. The applications, which range from silly to mission-critical, have made the iPhone a viable mobile business platform for many, and a source of endless diversion for many more.

While Google’s Android may yet prove to be a serious alternative to the iPhone, it will do so by following the model established by the iPhone and the App Store. The latest version of Apple’s most portable operating system didn’t radically remake the user experience in 2009, but the richness of that user experience and the store that supports it left little opportunity for alternatives. That’s enough to land the pair on the Technology of the Year list.

-- Curtis Franklin, Jr.

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