Think of the gear you can't live without: The smartphone you constantly check. The camera that goes with you on every vacation. The TV that serves as a portal to binge-watching and -gaming. Each owes its influence to one model that changed the course of technology for good. Some of these, like Sony's Walkman, were the first of their kind. Others, such as the iPod, propelled an existing idea into the mainstream. Some were unsuccessful commercially, but influential nonetheless. And a few represent exciting but unproven new concepts (looking at you Oculus Rift). Rather than rank technologies--writing, electricity, and so on--we chose to rank gadgets, the devices by with consumers let the future creep into their present. The list--which is ordered by influence--was assembled and deliberated on at (extreme) length by TIME's technology and business editors, writers and reporters.
In many ways, the world in 2016 was defined by its mistakes. Companies let products languish, and when they did release updates, they often made questionable design choices. And of course, one of Samsung's most important phones literally went up in smoke. This year was a different story though. Some previous offenders learned their lesson while others set themselves up for success down the road. Not that everything was rosy. There were plenty of errors along the way, including glitchy products and misguided strategies. With that in mind, let's look at the hits and misses of 2017 -- and more importantly, consider how they'll affect what happens in 2018.
You'd think having dominated search and email, created Chrome and YouTube, plus a self-driving car project, a handful of save-the-world enterprises, and the greatest advertising business in the history of the universe would be enough to keep Google busy. You certainly wouldn't think the folks in Mountain View would suddenly feel the urge to get into the smartphone game, a remarkably mature market where nobody but Samsung and Apple makes any money, and where Google's already ubiquitous thanks to Android. And yet, tomorrow, Google will reportedly launch the next generation of its smartphone with the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. At the same time, the company will reportedly introduce a new Chrome OS-based laptop called the Pixelbook, a small smart speaker called the Google Home Mini, and new hardware for the Daydream VR platform. The announcements come on the heels of Google's $1.1 billion acqui-hire of 2,000 HTC engineers, who will help Google make more hardware, more quickly.
My how things have changed. Steve Jobs' pitch for the original iPhone in 2007 as a phone, music player and internet communicator was a landmark moment in the tech world. It crystalized the iPhone's almost mythic reputation from the start -- remember the nickname, the Jesus phone? But looking back, those three capabilities barely scratched the surface of what we can do with the modern smartphone. What can you do with one now?
A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Google finally ceased operations in April after eight years of efforts to boost interest in the struggling social network. The long-anticipated shutdown represents just the latest major Google product to fail to live up to its promise. Google has gained notoriety for scuttling dozens of projects, but just like success, failure is part of doing business. Entrepreneurs and large companies often take on big risks, hoping for success but not always finding it. These failures can take many different forms. Often, a product simply does not connect with consumers and does not sell. In other cases, it may not come close to meeting a company's expectations or plans, or it is recalled or discontinued for some flaws. These can all be marked as failures. While failures are expected, some can be so catastrophic they can lead to permanent damage to a company's reputation, layoffs, and even complete financial ruin. The real cost of cutting the cord: What streaming companies don't want you to know Sometimes, it can take years or even decades for a product flop to disappear from the market. This was the case with Betamax, a video format that Sony introduced with the expectation it would replace VHS. Despite being technologically superior to VHS, Betamax lost market share until it eventually vanished. Some of the products on this list were among the most highly anticipated products of the year, and when released, they were the biggest product launches of the year – that is, before failing.