InfoWorld's 2010 Technology of the Year Awards

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While Google's Android may yet prove to be a serious alternative to the iPhone, it will do so by following the model established by the iPhone and the App Store. The latest version of Apple's most portable operating system didn't radically remake the user experience in 2009, but the richness of that user experience and the store that supports it left little opportunity for alternatives. That's enough to land the pair on the Technology of the Year list.

-- Curtis Franklin, Jr.

WebKit It started as a simple open source project to build a Web browser for Linux, then Apple adopted it, renamed it "WebKit," and unleashed a tool for creating cross-platform smartphone development. If you want to build an app that runs on multiple smartphones, there's no need to learn Java, Objective-C, and regular C to target the major platforms. A bit of JavaScript and CSS encapsulated in a Web site will run on the iPhone, the Palm Pre, and any Android phone because the WebKit engine renders everything. BlackBerry users can grab Bolt, a third-party browser built around WebKit.

While WebKit-targeted AJAX may not be slick enough for the most sophisticated games, it can do quite well with the casual games and practically everything else. JavaScript, CSS, and HTML can do more than simply display tables. A cascading style sheet mixed with some JavaScript can produce Web applications that look and feel like a native iPhone application. The lists look just like the lists of results built with native code. A touch starts a JavaScript-driven transition that will slide a new div into place.

jQTouch, a project started by David Kaneda, offers flexible themes, swipe detection, and many of the common widgets necessary to build something that looks like a native iPhone application. You don't write an application as much as just put together some HTML. The project isn't alone. Joe Hewitt, the Facebook developer, started iUi, another project that offers many similar features.

Using toolkits like these to create Web applications is dramatically simpler than creating native applications. Changes can be made in a few seconds because you, not Apple, control the server and the connection with the customer. There's no need to wait for the crack iPhone application analysis team to get around to approving your app or your bug fixes.

If your application absolutely must be built into a native application so that it can be sold through the iPhone store, there are other solutions that enclose HTML with a native wrapper. The iPhone API includes an object called UIWebView that uses WebKit to render HTML on the screen. Several nice open source projects like PhoneGap and Three20 offer simple frameworks that open up your JavaScript and CSS code in an UIWebView while also passing along some other information from the hardware, like the accelerometer.

The WebKit solution is a godsend for programmers who can't remember how to use malloc and the other grungy pointery methods in Objective-C. If you're proficient with JavaScript, a very common language these days, then you can whip something together quickly.

-- Peter Wayner

Google Chrome 3.0 When Chrome debuted in September 2008, it was easy to be skeptical. Between Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, there just didn't seem to be much need for yet another Web browser. But over the last year, Google has proven the worth of its dark horse browser and then some.

Google delivered not one, but two major Chrome releases in 2009, and a third is well on its way. If you hadn't heard about them, you're forgiven; Chrome doesn't make much fuss about upgrades. Its update manager runs silently in the background, downloading and installing the latest patches automatically.

And that's not the only thing that sets Chrome apart. Its multiprocess design and innovative security model have yet to be matched (though Chrome's security isn't all it could be). Plus, it's one of the fastest browsers around, as a visit to SunSpider, Google's V8 Benchmark Suite, and other online JavaScript benchmarks will attest. According to Google reps, the V8 JavaScript engine in Chrome 3.0 executes code a whopping 39 times faster than Internet Explorer 8. And when it comes to page rendering and Web standards compliance, Chrome ranks among the best.

In fact, that may be Chrome's greatest value: By challenging the status quo, Google has forced other browser vendors to redouble their efforts to improve their own products. Even Microsoft has promised to address JavaScript performance in IE9.

But it better not stop there, because as much progress as Chrome made in 2009, 2010 could be the year it really takes off. Google unveiled Mac and Linux betas and support for extensions this month, and before long we'll see the first devices running Chrome OS. At this rate, in 12 months' time we could be back to wondering whether there's really much need for yet another Web browser -- besides Chrome, that is.

-- Neil McAllister

Telligent Enterprise 2.0 Bring up the topic of social media in a business meeting, and the discussion will likely center around Twitter, Yammer, or Facebook. That's because employees are using these services, like it or not. As alternatives, we looked at hosted and on-premise solutions that give IT and communications staff the necessary security and governance control that public services lack -- plus community-building capabilities.

Although our test scores showed Telligent and Socialtext in a tie, we feel of the two, Telligent is a slightly better choice. The reason: Telligent best melds collaboration features, such as Twitter-like activity streams, with community sites (which can be internal or external).

Moreover, Telligent has better capabilities to integrate with Microsoft's SharePoint and enterprise search applications. And since our review, Telligent has released its social analytics tools, which we found to be the best among the products we tested for discovering what your employees and customers are thinking.

Still, 2010 is likely to bring major changes in this space. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, with many built-in social features, including communities, could potentially send a lot of vendors scrambling. Those that continue to add value, while tightly integrating with SharePoint, stand the best chance of success. In addition to Telligent, watch for NewsGator Social Sites for SharePoint 2010.

-- Mike Heck

LifeSize Express 220 Pressure to cut travel expenses, yet improve collaboration among remote workers, would seem like a perfect opportunity for telepresense vendors. While the six-figure, fully outfitted video meeting rooms from Cisco and HP still draw the interest of large enterprises, the economy is driving midrange and mainstream systems.

In the latter category, our review of tabletop systems from Polycom and LifeSize found that they were closely matched, with Polycom's QDX 6000 better in low-bandwidth situations, while the LifeSize Express 200 produced better high-definition video. Since our testing, LifeSize was acquired by Logitech and introduced the improved Express 220 model, giving LifeSize the edge in this category. Ideal for small groups, Express 220 maintains the earlier model's 1080p-resolution (30 frames a second) video capability; alternately, you can now configure the systems for two simultaneous 720p (60 frames per second) video streams: one for sharing crisp video of people and the other to transmit clear screens from a PC presentation or other video source.

But the clincher is that LifeSize Express now accommodates one 720p video stream even at the lowest possible bandwidth (768Kbps). Express 220 also adds connections for two HD monitors, plus HDMI and USB inputs. The new model still forgoes the analog video inputs available on the Polycom. But we don't feel that's a handicap because most current video sources and cameras are digital.

For an all-in-one system, we see the Cisco Telepresence 500 playing a role, especially in enterprises with Cisco managed networks and larger Cisco telepresence rooms. But these far more expensive systems, we feel, are going to have a tough time against the midrange LifeSize configurations.

-- Mike Heck

Sophos Endpoint Security and Control Sophos Endpoint Security and Control is more than a bunch of security applications cobbled together into a "security suite." It is a complete system that works together to protect from viruses and malware, allows admins to define a network access control policy, provides for application whitelisting, and can lock down local devices to help prevent data leakage via USB drives and the like. And it does all of this on the widest range of platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, NetWare, and OpenVMS, including both 32- and 64-bit flavors.

The heart of the system is the anti-virus and anti-spyware detection engine, and Sophos uses a single detection engine for both types of threats. The solution also uses the same signature database for both anti-virus and anti-spyware, meaning only one definition update instead of two (or more). MD5 hashing for scanning files reduces unnecessary rescanning and helps keep resource usage to a minimum.

Enterprise Console, the administrative UI, is well laid out and easy to navigate. It doesn't offer too much flash, but keeps useful and vital information close at hand. The graphical dashboard allows admins to quickly see the overall health of the system and the quick links make it easy to access policy items. Being able to click on an item, such as a detected threat, and drill down to get to more specific information about the threat is important for admins.

In McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, and Check Point, Sophos has heavyweight competitors with good endpoint security solutions. But Sophos' combination of broad client support, strong security services, ease of administration, and well-rounded reporting set it apart.

-- Keith Schultz

Bit9 Parity Suite 5.0 Now that each year produces more unique malicious programs than legitimate ones, whitelisting-based application control programs have finally come of age. Bit9's Parity Suite has long been a leader in this space, but its capability of linking application control to a reportable risk metric puts it in a class by itself.

Parity meets or exceeds all of the requirements of a whitelisting solution. For example, known-good computers can be scanned to create baselines, and individual files and folders can be whitelisted or blacklisted. Bit9 takes whitelisting to a new level by ranking identified files as to their trust and risk; these rankings can be based upon hash identification, digital signature (if included), software category (if known), and location of the computer. All reported client hashes are compared against known malware and legitimate vendor files. Bit9 Parity is linked to a cloud service with more than 7.5 billion legitimate and malicious files predefined and hashed.

Parity can report a risk metric for each file it discovers on a system, rolling up the cumulative results into a risk rating for the whole computer. Then Parity goes one better and allows the entire enterprise's collection of managed computers to receive an overall risk ranking. That's a pretty significant advancement in the world of computer security. The details can be used by technicians to respond to individual incidents, while the aggregate figures can be reported to management to show overall improvement (or not) over time.  It's hard to beat software that can do that.

This feature not only raises Bit9 Parity Suite 5.0 above competing whitelisting products, but above most computer security products in general.

-- Roger A. Grimes

Autonomic ANSA Platinum SuiteLike most centralized PC power management solutions, Autonomic Software's ANSA Platinum Suite is a general purpose PC management platform that can control power settings under the Windows client and server operating systems. As a rule, centralized PC power managers offer considerably more flexibility than trying to use Group Policy in Active Directory. The ANSA suite stands apart from competitors with a very easy deployment and with the easiest and most granular power policy management we've seen. Best of all, the suite effectively costs nothing -- Autonomic will take either the rebate from the power company or 25 percent of the power savings to pay for the software.

The ANSA suite uses an agent on each system, which allows more control than agentless solutions. Deployment of the agents can be automated, and the entire process of creating and implementing power management policies is very straightforward and easy to do. It is also extremely flexible, with policies based on groups and the ability to set different policies for different kinds of systems. In short, admins should find all the options they need to turn PCs off and on according to users' schedules and system maintenance needs, thus saving the maximum amounts of power possible without inconveniencing users or requiring difficult scripting or compromises in security.

-- Logan G. Harbaugh

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