Top 10 objectively biggest tech stories of 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009 4:53PM ET
by Megan McCarthy     Permalink

Ignore all the other lists! As we did last year, Techmeme has distilled its very own Top 10 story list, utilizing headline ranking data archived throughout the year. While we employ a terrific team of news editors to guide our story selection, this list draws on many factors outside our direct influence, making it a … nearly objective sampling of what was important in 2009.

The list is dominated by milestones and turning points at Apple and Google, who have an outsized impact on the rest of the industry. A few truths discovered over the past 12 months: The boundary between a partner and an awkward competitor is awfully thin. Steve Jobs is always a hot topic. And nothing, I mean nothing, gets keyboards clicking like the tantalizing promise of tomorrow's technology.

The Official Google Blog: Google's announcement that it was creating a cloud-based operating system raised eyebrows and confirmed that Silicon Valley's once-scrappy do-gooder had shifted focus from web search to total device domination. Chrome was an arrow aimed directly at Microsoft's heart -- its Windows operating system -- and a flag-planting arrival of Google onto the desktop. Now if only it were actually released…
Michael Arrington / TechCrunch: TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington decided last year to put his pundit opinions to good use and try his hand at creating a dirt-cheap web tablet. His November admittance of defeat, and the soap-opera backstory between TechCrunch and gadget maker Fusion Garage made great fodder for the Cassandras of tech journalism.
No device category intrigued the Techmeme audience more than one that doesn't yet exist. Tablet computers -- rather, the idealized thought of them -- dominated discussions in 2009. We've combined two more high ranking tablet-related posts to form the second most important story of the year.
The Paperboy / Gizmodo: The September leak of Microsoft's "late prototype" tablet, er, "booklet" computer made a splash that has had surprisingly few ripples since. The device, named "Courier" (perhaps after the font you used to pad your college term papers?), has yet to be announced.
Max Wang / DigiTimes: Apple's mystery tablet was rumored to be announced at MacWorld, at WWDC, at September's music announcement, and any other time an Apple executive was giving a public presentation. (The latest rumor has it, now rumored to be called the iSlate, being announced January 26th.) This November headline from laconic Taiwan-based publication Digitimes no doubt broke geek hearts when it predicted that the never-official tablet's never-announced launch date would be delayed.
Apple: When not speculating on possible products, the tech press speculated on the possible problems of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. His early January admission that he was suffering from a "hormonal imbalance" struck some as less-than-forthright. The skeptics were later validated when a dead-of-night June Wall Street Journal article revealed his liver transplant.
Apple: Google CEO Eric Schmidt started 2009 as a member of Apple's Board of Directors, but the Mountain View company's creeping incursion onto Apple territory made his departure inevitable.
Michael Arrington / TechCrunch: TechCrunch's seemingly speculative post on Google's move to create its own gadget was dismissed by a few naysayers. When Google handed out shiny new Nexus One's to employees, the secret got out. Unboxings and TwitVid sneak peeks followed.
Apple: When people complained that VoIP service Google Voice wasn't available as an app on the iPhone, Apple initially pointed the fingers at hapless carrier AT&T. When the FCC came calling, though, they changed their tune.
New York Times: Online auction house eBay finally unraveled their disastrous deal with Skype, selling it to a group including new VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Peter Kafka / MediaMemo: Apple successfully destabilized the music industry, so it seems like the broadcast market is the next worthy target. This tasty November rumor is just that - for now - but one we'd be delighted to see.
Michael Arrington / TechCrunch: Google used a splashy October presentation to announce partnerships with LaLa and iLike, allowing you to use the power of their search engine to find that tune you have stuck in your head.
Bret Taylor / FriendFeed Blog: Friendfeed, the little startup that could, decided in August that they, well, couldn't, and went from being Facebook's unofficial R&D office to a little more formal agreement.

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