The Decade in Review

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The last ten years have been defined by a truly global explosion of technology, especially in networking, entertainment, energy, and communications. Products like the iPod, iPhone, TiVo, and the rise of social networking, have influenced our lives to such an extent that theyve become integral to the way we conduct business and interact collectively.

The Multimedia Player or MP3 Player began a steady climb in popularity in the beginning of the decade and has since cemented itself as a cultural and technological icon of the 2000s. This is most apparent in Apples iPod, which released in October 2001, came to define an entire generation of music fans in the oncoming years. Its innovative, easy to use design combined with what has become a social status marker for the current generation has led to market domination since October 2004. In tandem with this, the concept of the iTunes playlist has spread far from just music and entered the popular lexicon, while the cross-platform, web manager/store has literally shifted the music industry towards a purely digital format, leading to a huge decline in physical music formats. Together, the iPod and iTunes has become the successful model for the powerful interaction of hardware and software.

The mobile handset, which was put in general use as far back as the early 1980s, has developed into the most widespread technology on the planet, with mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide reaching approximately 4.6 billion by the end of 2009 according to the International Telecommunication Union. And while low end cell phones now effectively reach even some of the poorest consumers in the world, it is the idea of the Smartphone which has most shifted the ability for a handset to do more than make voice calls and sending text messages. This includes blurring the line between phone and laptop PC with a myriad of applications like GPS navigation, MP3 functions, video streaming, built-in cameras and camcorders, games, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, and Internet web browsing.

Other products that have redefined technology in the 2000s, such as Digital Video Recorders or DVR, have simply changed the way we enjoy and experience television programming. Beginning with TiVO in late 1999, DVRs allowed consumers the ability to record their favorite shows onto an internal hard drive to later be played back. This provided consumers the convenience of saving favorite programs for later, limit mature programming for children, the ability to rewind a program instantly mid-broadcast, and (much to the chagrin of television advertisers) provided the ability to skip through commercials in a recorded program.

Home console video game systems have existed in some form or another since the Magnavox Odyssey introduced in 1972. However, ever since its inception, the home console has been seen as merely a childrens toy, or at best, an entertainment computer. It took Japanese video game giant Nintendo, who single handedly resurrected the home video game market in the late 1980s with its genre defining Nintendo Entertainment System, to once again re-define the idea of the home video game.

Aside from new technologies, the 2000s were also defined by the public, government, and private sectors growing concern over dwindling fossil fuel resources and mankinds effect on climate change. No where was this seen more than in the realm of hybrid gas-electric automobiles. Although the technology has existed for a while, it was the Toyota Prius, which first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and was subsequently introduced worldwide in 2001, that became the worlds first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. In May 2008, global cumulative Prius sales reached the 1 million vehicle mark, and by August 2009 it had doubled to 2 million worldwide. Ultimately, as a result of the Prius popularity, the 2000s have shown that consumers are more aware, and more concerned, with the environmental impact their automobiles had on the planet.