After a year's worth of hardware and software news, these six developments are the ones to remember.
December is often the time of year when you take a look back. You may have already started reviewing your financials for the year, studying what worked and didn't work in your marketing campaigns, and started the wonderful process of employee evaluations.
For any technologist, this is also the month to look back at the tech trends of the year: which websites became the de facto standard for lead generation, which new tools became the new must-haves, and which technologies rose to the surface as critical for doing business. Here are my top picks.
1. Pinterest becomes the new social graph.
Pinterest became a major traffic generator in 2012. The site, which shows colorful pictures of unique gift items and crafts, overtook Yahoo in September as the Web's fourth largest traffic driver, just behind Google and Facebook and ahead of Twitter and Bing. For many businesses, a shift happened from "I have a Pinterest board" to now "most of my sales come from Pinterest." I started noticing this trend when email signatures started dropping Twitter and Facebook handles and started including Pinterest links.
2. Analytics is everything.
On the Internet, you can analyze just about anything--from how many people are pinning your products on Pinterest (using something like Viralheat) to who is visiting your site and where they're clicking (using Google Analytics). In the last year, analytics tools like GeckoBoard and GoSquared became much more useful, and they started integrating with more services. You can now see, at a glance, your sales for the month right alongside your pageviews for one particular section of an e-commerce site.
3. Touch is finally here to stay.
Many companies have promised that touch computers would take over in small business. The iPad has dominated for several years. But in 2012, touch became a business reality. Windows 8 was a main driver, of course, but every device manufacturer from Acer to Lenovo embraced this trend with a multitude of touchscreen ultrabooks, 10-inch tablets, and even desktop all-in-one computers. This trend became even clearer to me during a visit to Caribou Coffee recently--just about every patron was interacting with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone by touch. The exciting prospect: Maybe touch will make business easier.
4. Android phones gain ground.
This is perhaps my most controversial opinion of the bunch: In 2012 Android became cool. I'm not seeing the platform overtake the iPhone in small business quite yet. At a recent tech conference, most of the marketing reps had iPhones. Yet, statistics don't lie. IDC reported recently that Android phones account for 47% of the market compared to the iPhone at 18%. It's still true that the best new apps make their debut on the iPhone (or the iPad), but the shift this past year was that many of those apps release simultaneously on both platforms. And, the Samsung Galaxy SIII is arguably a better hardware product, with near-field communication support for swapping contacts with a tap and a battery-saving technology that knows when you are looking at the phone or not.
5. Screen resolution went through the roof.
You may have already seen the fourth-generation iPad with its retina display, or the Google Nexus 10 tablet. Both use a resolution with more than 2000 pixels (the Nexus screen is 2560 x 1600). That means every image, every line of text, and every website looks a bit more distinct. Computer monitors also look better now--the Samsung Series 9 runs at a super-clear 2560 x 1440. All of those extra pixels are easier on the eyes as well, causing less eye fatigue over extended work sessions.
6. BlackBerry descends into the abyss.
I had high hopes for the BlackBerry this year. I figured the new BB10 operating system could be a saving grace, and I've always liked the PlayBook tablet as a good 7-inch alternative to the iPad. Unfortunately, market share eroded even further, and using a BlackBerry became a sign of late adoption and fleeting corporate control. At a recent event, a business rep sheepishly showed me his BlackBerry Curve, dinged up and battered from constant use. He said his company was still making him use one.