2011 will go down as an interesting year to say the least. Perhaps the biggest news of this year has been the lose of Steve Jobs. I do not care if you love or hate Apple, there is no way any sane person can say Steve Jobs did not have a major impact on computing as we know it today. His lose is a lose to all of us that love computing as a hobby.
When it comes to computer hardware we have arguably had one of the slowest years we have seen in a long time. The high point of the year was AMD finally getting their Fusion processor out in the wild. While it may not be the powerhouse of CPUs, it does bring the best integrated graphics we have yet seen and does it with a solid CPU backing it at a very economical price. This chip will not win any benchmarks are even tug at the strings of the hardcore computing crowd but the true enthusiast understands the importance of this chip and what it potentially represents to the future.
On the other end of the scale AMDs FX launch was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. After a long wait full of AMD hype we where treated to the first 8 core processor which happened to be slower in some cases than AMDs Phenom II 6 core. The FX is an entirely new design and while AMD might have been looking to the future they overlooked the present and the FX launch was far from anything exciting.
The video card market looked to be dry for the year until AMD pulled a last minute paper launch of their 7970 video card. While it has the muscle to propel it into the lead as the fastest single GPU card out it has the distinction of also being the most expensive single GPU card and by a margin that makes it much less attractive. The 7000 series design looks promising but until we see the performance and cost of the chip as it works into mainstream cards it is to early to call this new GPU design a hit. Now people are going to point out the 560 launches as well as the 6900 launches but these where in effect more of the same with existing designs.
Intel was not silent this year, gracing us with the release of their Extreme processors. The two chips introduced are essentially i7 processors with a new memory controller and 6 cores. The speed advantage they offer is minor compared the the existing i7 2600 or even the i5 2500 for 99% of users. But then again these are One Percenter chips targeted at the people that will pay $100 for the high end chip and $500 for the next tier chip. These chips look great in benchmarks but real world performance for most users the chips are not worth the cost.
We did see the SSD gain ground as a more mainstream solution, aided by a flood that cause spindle drive prices to spike. While the release of a new SATAIII controller might have been the tech advancement, the real gain for SSDs this year was watching their price fall. We are getting close to that $1 per gig price point that could open the SSD flood gates.
Software saw F2P gaming move fully into the mainstream with a number of triple A titles making to move to the F2P model. This move was something we have been saying to expect on this show for some time and the MMO world has really made the move to embrace it full tilt. Add in the depth of games now being added to social sites that use the F2P model as well we are seeing the true power of this pricing model come to light.
Gaming this year has seen some of the best releases in a long time. The RPG world had a number of titles worthy of anyone’s gaming money release, all led by Skyrim and Witcher 2. Batman and Assassin’s Creed both came back with strong sequels for the action gamer and proved that a sequel can be great. FPS game play saw the two heavy weights in the industry, Modern Warfare and Call of Duty square off in a death match for the best of the year.
Finally we will look back on 2011 as the year the entertainment industry made a real grab at political power. Using their heavy lobby and clout they where able to by pass due process and force ISPs to punish subscribers based on the word of the industry watchdogs alone, doing this with White House backing. As the year closes there is a bill up that the entertainment industry basically wrote that will take these tactics to a new level allowing them to use the power of not just ISPs, but the federal government to bypass the due process system and take punitive actions against anyone they want to claim is a pirate.
I have been around computing a long time and to be honest this has been one of the quieter years I can recall. However the high points have been great and the low points dismal. One can only begin to wonder what 2012 will bring.
Be sure to tune into our show this week as we discuss our thoughts on the best of 2011 as well as take our look at were we think things will go in 2012.
From all of us at Computer Ed Radio and our families we wish you and your families the best in this new year!