It's fun to watch the Intel/AMD arms race, but nobody needs a 2.0GHz computer to run Word and Excel -- and blaming slow tech sales on the "new economy" crash or 9/11 only postpones the development of either a compelling new use for CPU cycles or a radical redesign of the 20-year-old PC. (And no, I don't mean the clipboard "tablet PC" that's existed for years and shows no signs of breaking out of its vertical market niche, even if it is a bee in Bill Gates's bonnet.)
Segway-level hype for a $399 MP3 player: Lovely to look at, adored by obsessive fans, attracts breathless headlines with every move, pretty insignificant in terms of real-world results -- I'd hoped in April that the attractive, not-overpriced iBook signaled a new attitude, but it seems Apple is content to be the Anna Kournikova of the computer industry.
Product of the year runner-up: AMD Athlon XP. Hate the model numbers; wish it ran a little cooler and would move to 0.13 micron a little quicker; wish AMD wasn't tarred with the brush of third parties' rough-around-the-edges chipsets; but gotta love the price/performance.
Product of the year: The trend in 2001 was for formerly unattainable productivity at value prices, and the best example is the Intel 845 chipset -- partly its original SDRAM version, and especially this week's faster DDR upgrade.
Am I crazy, or begging for flame mail from AMD fanboys? Neither -- I'm honoring a solution that sparked one of the few sales booms in a PC bust, and that brought the Pentium 4 down from its artifically overpriced aerie to the mass market, meshing with Intel's rapid ramp-up of the CPU's clock speed to create a platform both businesses and consumers (except maybe 98th-percentile performance gamers) could appreciate.
You think Pentium 4 desktops cost too much? So did I, when they were only available with RDRAM. You complain that the P4's architecture does less work per clock cycle than the P-III's? So did I, when the chip debuted at 1.3GHz. You jeer the i845D because it uses PC2100 memory (DDR333 support comes next summer) and Sys Mark 2001 benchmarks prove it to be 3.2% slower than the expensive i850? Fine; go sulk while consumers enjoy great PC bargains.
Worst TV commercials of the year: Intel went from the Blue Men to animated space aliens. Can't these people buy a decent ad?
Eric Grevstad is Hardware Central's managing editor. A former editor in chief of Home Office Computing and editor of Computer Shopper, he's been covering PCs and peripherals since leaving the liberal arts for TRS-80 and Apple II magazines in the early '80s.