By Tom Merritt
Gadgets of every description have flowed through the doors of CNET for 10 years. Picking a list of the 10 best is an exercise in healthy but vocal arguments. Everyone has a different idea of what is meant by best. You can make great arguments for the Diamond Multimedia Rio 300, Mac OS X, the Sony PSP, and many more gadgets that aren't on our list. But the 10 we've included here had the most wide-ranging acceptance. Don't agree? Good. Tell us your top 10 in TalkBack.
No other product has had the incredible, loyal devotion that the iPod inspires. It's also one of only a handful of products to get a 9 rating from CNET. It revolutionized and popularized music players with its stylish design and is still considered the industry leader. Even if you devoutly believe other music players have better features now, you have to acknowledge that iPod is still the king.
It took a long time for people to even get the concept of what TiVo was. It has finally moved beyond "pausing live TV" to an entertainment-center essential that inspired a myriad of competitors, none of which even come close to having as good an interface. Plus, it has Linux inside, which gives it extraspecial geek points.
This was a late addition to the list because we almost overlooked it. Google has become so synonymous with search, you almost forget it has competitors. Google ended the need to use several search engines to get good results. The competition has slowly caught up, but Google is still the definitive search engine.
Here's a product that wouldn't make the list in its current form, but the original version came close to deserving the phrase "changed the world." Everyone who used it in 1999 and 2000 loved it and became addicted. The Internet was filled with the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth when the courts finally shut it down. There's no doubt it changed the music industry forever and jump-started a series of events that has yet to come to a conclusion six years later.
Sure, Mozilla has been around for many years, but Firefox 1.0 brought the open-source browser into the mainstream. Some never thought Mozilla could make it as anything more than a geek badge of pride. The light, secure, and efficient Firefox is legitimately challenging Internet Explorer's stranglehold on Web browsing.
Some say PDAs are dying. The reason for that accusation is that you can now find PDA functionality in almost every mobile device, such as phones and music players. When PalmPilots first came out in 1996, they changed the way everyone thought about personal organization. It seems natural to have an electronic calendar in the palm of your hand now, but that wasn't really true before 1996. No, we haven't forgotten the Newton, but that didn't really succeed, did it?
Motorola Startac (1996)
Motorola's cool flip phone helped cell phones finish the transition from big bricks to style statements. The Startac wasn't the first flip phone, but it was the first one everybody was willing to die for, it looked so small and cool. In its time, the Startac set mobile phone fans talking the way the Razr did this past year.
Apple iMac (1998)
The thought of an Apple computer being meaningful was laughable before the iMac. Apple had fallen on hard times, and some predicted its death. Now some of those same pundits say the iMac saved it. Whatever you think, the iMac set Apple on the road to dominating through style and functionality rather than sheer features and power.
Sony Digital Mavica MVC-HD5 (1997)
Think back to 1996, and you probably won't remember anyone who had a digital camera. Only true geeks, professionals, or the rich used anything without film. These days, it's hard to find a person with a film camera. The Sony Mavica helped usher in the digital camera era by making the devices affordable and easy to use.
The Sims (2000)
This may be the most controversial of the picks; so many games have changed the gaming world in the past 10 years. Doom, Ultima, Grand Theft Auto, and others deserve mention. But the Sims captured everyone's imagination--gamer or nongamer. It crossed boundaries that few other games have, and it's still one of the top-selling games of all time.