Every year I look back at all of the Products of the Week I’ve selected during the year and pick the one that made the most significant impression on me to crown the Product of the Year.
This year the election and pandemic kept our lives pretty messed up, and to keep working we relied heavily on our laptops, cloud services, networking gear, and our collaboration apps.
We also needed entertainment to stay sane, and whether it was HBO Max, Netflix, or Amazon Prime, we found our release in online entertainment.
Let’s look at my top 13 contenders, and then I’ll rank the top four products as we work toward the 2020 Product of the Year.
So here we go, in no particular order.
Cisco Webex Desk Hub
I started in tech working for IBM’s telecommunications division, and for a time, I was the Competitive Analyst over desktop phones. This effort was back in the 1980s. We had created phones that went beyond voice to include critical information on who was calling, both text and voice messaging, and the merger of electronic text and voice messaging.
Since then, I’ve wanted many of these features, yet office phones were outstripped by smartphones in terms of functions and languished. That was until this year when Cisco rethought the desk phone with its Webex Desk Hub animesprout.
This new desk phone concept weds your smartphone with your desk phone, providing wireless charging, a place to store your work headphones, and the most significant desktop phone function jump I’ve seen since the 1980s. It has become my dream phone — granted, 30 years later than I hoped — but better late than never!
Montblanc Summit 2+ 4G Smartwatch
There has been the Apple Watch and little else, other than exercise focused products like the Fitbit, that could provide similar functionality for some time. The smartwatch was the first Qualcomm-based Android platform watch to give the Apple Watch a run for its money.
ration, and it has a full set of fitness apps. A decent alternative for those of us that don’t want to get locked into Apple’s ecosystem.
4th Generation Echo
The Amazon Echo still is the product to beat when it comes to a home digital assistant, and during this pandemic, for way too many of us, the Echo was our only home companion. This 4th Generation Echo improved sound quality, particularly at the low end, became a lot less expensive, and it’s a vast improvement over the 3rd generation offering.
The Orb shape looks far more advanced than the old cylindrical design, and the blue halo on the bottom almost makes the device look like it is hovering. While the Alexa AI still often gets my questions wrong, it does so with more style and elegance with this latest offering. Since most of us use these for listening to music, the vast improvement in sound quality made this a contender for 2020.
Jacoti Smart Earbuds
The Jacoti Smart Earbuds set a new standard for sound quality and performance. What makes these different is they have biometric sensors in them, and your ears are a better place to pull this data from than your wrists.
These earbuds are contextually aware and will switch modes as needed automatically. They can adjust for hearing deficiencies and be tuned to best match your unique hearing capabilities. This offering is one of a handful of products evolving to give us superpowers effectively, and they are the first headphones to tune themselves uniquely for you when you first put them on. This trend of using technology to make us more capable will significantly increase this decade — and the Jacoti Smart Earbuds which boost natural hearing are blazing that trail earlier than most.
HP Omnicept VR Headset
The future is VR, but it isn’t the present yet. One of the problems has been that affordable headsets suck. HP decided to see if it could use its unique skills to create a far better experience, and it did with the Omnicept Headset.
HP hWrapped with a rich set of features, this headset and solution are the most complete in the market. It not only provides excellent performance, but the richest set of features currently available in the market. As we devolve into a world of perpetual virtual travel and the need to get away from a troubling reality for just a few minutes or collaborate on a physical project with someone who needs to remain socially distant, it’s this kind of offering that will keep us working and help keep us sane.
Microsoft Surface Duo
Microsoft reentered the smartphone market with the Surface Duo, arguably the opposite of the iPhone. Twin screens ideal for reading or doing email is what makes this phone special. Since September, I’ve been carrying mine, and always having something with me that is a fantastic eBook reader has been a godsend.
This pandemic has us living in lines, and the Surface Duo has been a way for me to kill time without getting aggravated or angry. It’s ideal for my peace of mind because it is such a good read. Though I’ve found it works a ton better with a smartwatch that has a built-in microphone and speaker, or with earbuds. The only real complaints are that it needs a better camera, it is hard to answer a call quickly without earbuds, and having glass on both sides makes it a tad slippery. Otherwise, this has become my go-to phone.
Ooler Smart Watercooled Mattress Pad
The is a massive improvement over the earlier ChiliPAD. It is better looking, appears to move more water, and uses a smartphone app rather than dedicated controllers.