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Published December 31, 2010
2010 saw the release of several long-anticipated PC games -- the most notable of which was StarCraft II -- while others like Crysis 2 didn’t make the cut and are now expected to debut sometime next year. Soon we’ll compile a list of the PC games to keep an eye on for 2011, including Duke Nukem Forever, which was brought back from the dead by Gearbox and may finally shed its vaporware status after over a decade of on and off development and hype.
Digital distribution platforms and Steam in particular continued to gain massive popularity. The latter found a new audience in Mac owners, while OnLive brought a new gaming offering to the market despite skepticism and criticism of its streaming model – can it become the Netflix of gaming? It won’t happen overnight that’s for sure. On the console side of things there was a noticeable decline in interest for the Wii towards the second part of the year as Sony and Microsoft focused their efforts in entering the motion-controlled gaming market. Nintendo hopes to maintain its lead and fend off new entrants to the portable gaming scene (iOS and Android-based devices) when it releases the 3DS handheld next March.
Mainstream laptops were blessed with Intel’s Core i3 and i5 chips featuring integrated graphics, while higher-end systems used Core i7 variants and discrete graphics from both AMD and Nvidia. Nvidia introduced an automatic graphics switching system known as Optimus and did wonders for battery life and discrete mobile GPUs. Laptops got thinner and sleeker, no surprises there, and we hope to see more improvements with the arrival of Sandy Bridge and Fusion chips in early 2011. We also saw the netbook craze slowly wind down throughout the year, in part due to the convergence with entry level laptops as new ultra low-power processors hit the market, but also because slate devices or tablets took the spotlight away from them.
Apple reinvented such market with the iPad at the beginning of the year, building on the success of the iPhone platform (renamed iOS), and now everyone is gunning for a piece of this still nascent business. Expect a lot of tablet-related announcements at CES followed by the successor to Apple’s device sometime during the first quarter of 2011. The iPhone had another stellar year despite some very publicized issues with the device’s cell reception, while Android made some major strides in the smartphone business and Microsoft is playing catch up with Windows Phone 7.
Laptops and Mobile PC Hardware
Privacy, net neutrality and Wikileaks were hot topics in 2010. We didn’t delve much in the latter as the discourse was mostly political and outside our general scope – but we’re sure you got a healthy dose of it surfing around the web. They did help bring some new light to the Google versus China controversy and made a few enemies in the tech world as well. Friendly folks at the media industry were rather absent from the news compared to previous years after deciding that suing individual file sharers wasn’t really paying off. The RIAA managed a legal victory against LimeWire towards the end of the year and we’re sure champagne corks popped with the recently passed (not yet implemented) anti-piracy law.
In contrast with this it was also a big year for legitimate media businesses like Hulu, which launched its premium paid service, Netflix and Spotify in Europe. Other than that the big guys are still big, others are on a steady rise, and some can’t catch a break: Google is still an 800 pound gorilla, Facebook is now valued at around $50 billion, Groupon has been the target of billionaire acquisition attempts and Yahoo shows no sign of turning things around.
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