Geek Vs Geek: Looking Back at the Tech of 2014

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Dave Johnson looks through a droneWhere does the time go? It seems like just yesterday that Dave and Rick were arguing about whether there was anything interesting at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January, and here it is, the last Geek Vs Geek post of 2014. It’s a time to reflect and discuss the tech highlights of the year.

Once a month, eHow Tech editor Dave Johnson faces off against Rick Broida, who writes about technology for CNET, PC World, and Wired. Follow along as they tackle this question from opposing corners. They also appear in weekly episodes of Geek Vs Geek on video.

Picture of Dave JohnsonDave: What a year! 2014 saw a lot of interesting technology, but I can’t help but feel like above and beyond everything else, 2014 was Apple’s year. We saw Apple’s significant update known as iOS 8. The new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple Pay for mobile digital transactions. And, if I can include something that hasn’t actually shipped yet, the sneak peek we’ve gotten at the Apple Watch. Apple is on fire right now, and these products are all nothing short of astonishing.

Picture of Rick BroidaRick: Wow, fanboy much? Apple mostly played catch-up this year, adding OS features that Android users have long been enjoying and finally cranking out bigger iPhones (more been-there-done-that news for the Android crowd). As for the Apple Watch, I’m intrigued, but it’s going to be expensive — and I’m really just not that interested in how many steps I’ve taken today. What excited me about 2014 was the arrival of powerful, affordable unlocked smartphones, like the OnePlus One and second-gen Moto G. Meanwhile, cell carriers had no choice but to finally lower their prices. Now you can operate a smartphone for $40-50 per month (or less) instead of $80-90. Consumer win!

watchDave: Wow, you are calling me an Apple fanboy? You know that these conversations we have are written down, right? Two months ago, you literally said: “[This] history will repeat itself next year with the introduction of the Apple Watch, a game-changer in every sense of the word. I can hear your lame, illogical howls of protest coming, but trust me when I say this is the one. Apple will make the smartwatch a household — a wristhold — item.” That’s the sound of you saying that sight unseen, Apple Watch is a winner, fanboy. Sheesh. Anyway, this really was Apple’s year. And while your Renaissance in Unlocked Phones is intriguing, albeit to a relatively small number of people, the bigger story is over at Microsoft. Windows 8 still isn’t a fan favorite, but they’ve generated a lot of excitement with their preview of Windows 10. And their new Office for iOS and Android means you can finally use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on pretty much any device you own. It can sound silly to talk about a company with billions of dollars in the bank as “in decline,” but a lot of people were willing to completely write off Microsoft this time last year. Now, they seem to be turning themselves around.

The desktop and Start menu on the Windows 10 Technical PreviewRick: If you love Apple and Microsoft so much, why don’t you marry them? (Guess it’s true what they say about the slippery slope.) Anyway, stop putting words in my mouth: I didn’t say the Apple Watch was a winner, I said it was a game-changer. There’s a difference. Meanwhile, Windows 10 is basically Microsoft’s apology for Windows 8, and unless the company decides to give it away free, apology not accepted! I agree the freebie editions of Office for Android and iOS are a huge step in the right direction; let’s see if Microsoft is savvy enough to do likewise with Windows 10 and the desktop versions of Office. But this stuff is boring; let’s talk about the really big development of 2014: drones!

Dave: Yeah, it’s amazing how pervasive drones became in 2014. Once just the domain of the military and the CIA, drones went mainstream this year. They’ve been used to make movies and music videos. They’ve become inexpensive and easy-to-fly indoor and outdoor toys. We’ve featured them on two different episodes of Geek Vs Geek, flying them in the studio in one episode and then catching one trying to kill me in another. And if you’re worried about the danger posed by the proliferation of drones, you’ll love the recent court ruling that gives the FAA broad powers to regulate drones of every shape and size — even $25 toys. It’s the year of the drone. And Apple. and Microsoft. It’s a year of lots of things.

Rick: As regular readers will recall, I do have concerns about the dangers — primarily the ones posed by clumsy pilots like yourself, who are likely to take my head off with poorly controlled ‘copters. Yay, government! They’ll safety-up the skies. Back here on the ground, I’m trying to figure out which dongle to stick in my TV: Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, or Roku Streaming Stick. All good, all priced $50 or less. There’s very little point in buying a so-called “smart” TV when you can add much smarter smarts for cheap. I’m partial to the Fire TV Stick for its speed and advanced feature set, though the lack of HBO Go is pretty much the only reason I’m sticking with Roku for now. You, you’re probably still relying on the pokey junk apps built into your TiVo.

Picture of Dave JohnsonDave: How did this get so adversarial? We agreed on a truce for the holidays, didn’t we? But as usual, you’re dead wrong. The Amazon Fire TV Stick costs about the same as the Roku Streaming Stick, yet it doesn’t offer as many channels. Hmm, I wonder which one I should buy? Well, I’ve already made my decision — I watch most of my television through a Roku. Literally every person who owns an HDTV should invest $50 in a streaming stick, whether or not you continue to get cable TV. It’s really worth it. Which reminds me: This is the year that streaming sticks killed smart TVs. Which means that 2014 was The Year of Drones and Apple and Microsoft and Streaming Sticks. It was, my friend, quite a year for technology.

Picture of Rick BroidaRick: Sorry, I forgot your feelings are made of balsa wood. I’ll try to take it easier on you, grumpy old Microsoft-loving Dave. The problem is, I just can’t agree it was the “Year of Apple” or “Year of Microsoft” merely because the two companies introduced long-overdue and make-good products, respectively. Meanwhile, you’ve forgotten (probably owing to your advanced age) what I pointed out earlier, which is that this is the Year of Awesome Unlocked Smartphones. And although my 2013 prediction that carriers would do away with the two-year contract didn’t quite come true, there’s a ton of movement in that direction. I wouldn’t lock myself to a carrier for two years if you paid me. Oh, and, um, love you, man! (Feel better?)

Who won? We’d love to hear from you. Weigh in with your opinion in the comments, or tweet @davejoh.

What other tech topics would you like to see Dave and Rick discuss? Send your ideas to Dave via Twitter @davejoh. And if you follow Dave, he promises to come to your home and explain something techy to your dad.

Photo credits: Demand Media, OK Go

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