5 tech products I'm thankful for
It's Thanksgiving day here in the states and, with the turkey not yet in the oven and football having not kicked off, I thought it appropriate to take a moment to give thanks. No, not for my family or for the chance to live my life the way I do, though all of those are on my list, but for tech products -- this is a technology news site, after all.
I've given careful consideration to this and looked at what I used most over the past year -- the products that got the most hands-on, that provided the best experience. I've whittled that list down to just five, and now its time to share, to give each a hearty thank-you. I'd offer them a bit of pumpkin pie if I could.
1. Amazon Prime
The web's top retailer offers its Prime service for just $79 per year, and for that small fee it proceeds to offer infinite value. For less than the annual cost of Netflix, I get streaming movies and TV shows, including new original content. This not only molds itself right into my Kindle Fire tablets, but also is native on my Google TV, putting this content right in the living room on the big screen.
As a bonus, Prime also ships me items within two days (sometimes the next day) free of charge, and even allows me to "borrow books" from its library for use on a Kindle or Kindle app.
Google's mobile operating system has taken the world by storm, and there are good reasons for that. The platform is infinitely hackable and has a seemingly bottomless supply of apps -- there really isn't much I can think of that I can't find an app for.
I have played with iPads and reviewed Windows tablets, I even own a Windows Phone -- which I honestly think is a beautiful piece of hardware with a great OS -- but when it comes to being mobile, it is really hard to top Android. The phones and tablets that run Google's platform are constantly evolving, and the "OK Google" feature in 4.4 KitKat is amazing.
3. Office 365 Home Premium
Microsoft received a bit of criticism for making the new version of Office a service -- yes you can still buy it as Office 2013, but why would you want to? For just over $9 per month I get that same Office 2013 on my computer, and I can put it on four other computers in my home as well. I can even use it on the web, via Office365.com.
With two children in school, both of whom have computers and need them for school work (I trust that's what they are doing), and the fact I change computers more often than the average person, this is a true blessing. Microsoft allows me to kill the license on a computer no longer in use and get that license back to add to a new system. It's genius.
4. Google TV
For years I have maintained a home theater PC in my entertainment cabinet. It ran Windows 7 with Media Center set to start upon boot. It was a wonderful experience, but earlier this year the PC started to show signs of age. I considered the options -- I could buy a decent, but cheap system and do the same thing, or I could build a custom setup using one of the many HTPC-centric cases available.
In the end, I said no to both of those choices and purchased a Vizio Co-Star. And you know what? I don't regret that choice, ever. Thanks to Plex I still have access to all of my media files, which now reside in the office. I have native Amazon Prime (see choice number one) and HDMI pass-thru brings my TV and DVR right into the box. There are also numerous apps available, as it is Android, after all (see choice number two).
I know most of you have just done a double-take, perhaps even checked the author name to make sure it was me. No, I haven't joined the dark side, I've never actually owned a product from the fruit logo company, though I have played with the devices on many occasions, and find them well made and intuitive.
The reason I am thankful for Apple is simple -- competition. Without Mac computers, iPads, iPods and iPhones, the tech world would not be where it is today. Microsoft and Google would have less incentive to innovate. Apple helped shape the tech world we now live in, and for that I am truly grateful.