It's been a bumper year in 2009 for software, services and apps as the overarching trend of tech creeps glacially away from its hardware focus and more towards what the Internet and its friends can do for us. So, before you shout out in the comments who you think should be nominated for the Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 Best Software/Service/App - and we hope you do - here's a little reminder of how the year panned out.
The Big Players
It was something of a solar eclipse moment in 2009 with both Apple and Microsoft releasing completely new versions of their desktop operating systems. Although Snow Leopard only claimed to be a relatively small upgrade there was still plenty to get excited about with the arrival of 64-bit computing and addition of Grand Central Station, as well as all the other speed, efficiency and power boosts under the hood of the new caged cat. Microsoft, on the other hand, was a lot more overt about the scale of Windows 7 - partially because of the disappointment over Vista and also, with good reason, because of the success with which the product has launched. Like Snow Leopard, it boasts speed and efficiency but, more importantly, the coming of age of the new AERO look and feel which its predecessor introduced.
Naturally, a new version of iTunes came with the OS for Apple with more playlists and more album art as well as offering a block to the Palm Pre's compatibility feature. Aside that, it was really just the next release in the hugely popular video editing Final Cut series with the launch of Final Cut Studio. It seems the Cupertino company was keeping itself busy on mobile matters but more on that in a minute.
The 'Soft, though, hasn't been so content to leave things as thin. 2009 has seen Gates, Ballmer & Sons embrace the cloud with their re-offensive on Google. First there was the highly successful revamp of the MSN Live search into the colourful Bing, and later the launch of Office 2010 web apps to try to take something back from Google Docs. Beyond that, the company has had another go at both the MSN music download store and the free offering of Microsoft Security Essentials, plus there's been some mobile movements with Microsoft too but, again, more of that later.
The real powerhouse this year though has undoubtedly been Google. The company has spread its arms even wider round the globe with its fingers now in the telephone industry with Google Voice, social location software with Google Latitude, the encyclopeadia business with Sidewiki, the energy saving push with Power Meter and, of course, the what-the-hell-is-it business with Google Wave. More recently the company has announced the smack down on TomTom and friends with the arrival of Google Maps for Navigation for Android 2.0, which may or may not make it out in time for a nomination.
Of course, Android itself has been a very big deal but leaving its mobile impact alone for now, let's not forget the OS's arrival as desktop software on products like the Archo 9 and more recently the dual booting Acer Aspire One D250. It hasn't had the traction to make any significant in-roads this year but it's certainly a space to watch for 2010.
As the cloud rolls in there's a storm slowly gathering for desktop software. By no means will it ever disappear, but what we're certainly seeing is a lot less diversity in this sector. 2009 has largely been left to improvements from the old guard. Avid has put a smile on the faces of both video and music editing enthusiasts with the launch just last month of the Pinnacle and ProTools suites, Adobe has done the same for the imaging community with the more basic Photoshop Elements 8 and the photographer's friend in the free beta of Lightroom 3.0, and Roxio has thrown in a bit of everything with the company's annual release. This season's colour is Roxio Creator 10.
Antivirus has been as strong an area as ever with malware, phishing and scareware on the rise and a tonne of Christmas shopping round the corner. Symantec's new Norton 2010 product managed to block 100% of threats in independent testing - making it the first time ever for any such software but, of course, if you'd still rather not pay, then at least AVG are still helping out on that front.
Last, and more certainly not least, a certain Swedish company also happened to a make a certain popular social music streaming application that rather set the world on fire. Technically, Spotify was released in private beta in November last year, just before our 2009 awards cut off limit, but it has since gone public within the required time frame. Just to confuse matters it's in private beta once more, so I'll leave it to the judges to sort that one out.
During the current aftermath of the eighth renaissance of the bursting of the dot com bubble, new sites have been thin on the ground - certainly ones worth mentioning anyway. The majority of developers and start ups have moved to mobile apps in search of the gold, but there have still been one or two notables over the year - all heavily on the quirky side. Wolfram Alpha provided an alternative, well-meaning but rather leftfield form of internet search; Hunch added a layer of advice to the conundrum and Invisible Hand has begun in its quest to help us find cheaper prices on the Web automatically. As with most of these things, it'll take a while for them to catch on. Twitter wasn't built in a day.
Finally here, the latest craze could be on its way with FourSquare. Like Twitter it was released at the general and social media liquorice allsort that is SXSW and it's been going great guns in the States. Now on UK shores, has it left it too late to win our coveted award or have we assessed its potential already?
From apps to OSes it's all about mobile phones these days. We know this. Smartphones have become our windows on the world. If there's a great service on the Internet, then we want it as an app, and most of all, we want it to run like clockwork.
We've seen four significant mobile operating systems launched this year with the rebranded, reskinned and user-friendlified Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 now known as Windows Phone. We've also seen the coming of age of Android - or at least its growth into adolescence - and the launch of the superb iPhone 3.0 software with its 100 or so features. Finally, we saw a rather specific piece of software from Palm with webOS at January's Las Vegas annual tech binge, but that didn't stop it making an enormous splash and perhaps inspiring a few ideas in other mobile software developers.
On the next tier down are those that have deemed their handsets too special to run the common-or-garden versions of Android and Windows Phone and have come up with their own Custom UIs. Probably the two of most note, and certainly the ones who qualify for this year's awards would be HTC Sense as seen on the Hero with its social contacts integration and Motoblur on the Dext.
Any phone can of course have its OS customised by the addition of an alternative browser. Opera has been going strong for years and supplying those on the Symbian platform with a very strong option. 2009 has brought Opera Mini 10 and for the first time, Firefox has gone to the small screen too with the currently underused Mozilla Fennec. Still both certainly well worth a shout though.
At the bottom of it all, though, and yet king of the mountain for many consumers are apps. We saw the little devils explode in 2008 with the launch of the iTunes App Store and this year has taken the trend to a sickening extreme. The world and its wife now has some kind of platform where they can pedal often highly novelty and often profitable software along with a good chunk that are seriously useful too.
It's the latter group which we'd rather you considered for this year's award but if the Mr T Soundboard ends up being the most popular, then so be it. The apps of major note in 2009 have been largely for the iPhone with the arrival of Tweetdeck, Google Lattitude and TomTom. Spotify has offered its premium service for music streaming on the move to both the Apple phone and Android and finally Facebook has got round to supporting Google's mobile OS too. But the big question is which is your favourite? Which is the app you simply can't do without? Let us know at the bottom.
What do you think?
But these are just some of the fantastic choices our readers have had in 2009. What would you like to see held aloft as the winner of Pocket-lint Best Software/Service/App 2009? Who have we missed out? Which are your unsung heroes and of those we've already mentioned, which would get your vote? Let us know in the comments below and you can help our panel decide which make the shortlist of nominees to be announced here on Pocket-lint on 16 November. We'll have all out coverage of the Vodafone Pocket-lint awards 2009 right here. Don't miss a minute of it.