In some ways 2021 felt like a rerun of 2020. But in tech, it was a big year for innovation.
Just like last year, 2021 brought us new virus variants, lingering global supply-chain problems, and a painful mismatch between jobs and job-seekers.
But for tech providers, there was plenty that was new and exciting. Here’s our selection of the 5 coolest tech announcements of 2021.
It’s hard to argue with Windows, the operating system that runs an estimated 75% of all PCs worldwide. In October, Microsoft brought out the OS’s latest version, Windows 11.
Fortunately, many current Win10 PCs are already robust enough to upgrade. If you’re not sure, Microsoft offers a PC Health Check tool that will tell you whether a particular machine is eligible.
However, there’s no big rush. Microsoft said it will continue to support Windows 10 for another 4 years.
Users with older Win7 PCs — and there are still plenty of them — have another alternative: New PCs designed specifically for Windows 11. This year, Win11 PCs were introduced by most of the top vendors, including Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft.
12th gen Intel Core processors
A new generation of client processors from Intel is always big news. And the company’s 12th gen Intel Core desktop processor family certainly delivers.
They’re the first processor family built with the new Intel 7 process. The first to support both DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0 connectivity. The first to feature 2 micro-architectures. And the first to support a new cache architecture.
What’s more, promised performance gains over the previous generation are significant. They include up to 36% faster photo-editing, up to 37% faster 3D modeling, and — with the family’s i9-12900K gaming CPU — up to 30% faster gaming.
3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors
Sometimes, a CPU is more than just a CPU. That was the case in April, when the latest 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors were introduced. As Intel made clear at the time, these new CPUs are not just server components, but key parts of a newly imagined edge-to-cloud portfolio.
At the announcement, Intel execs pointed to 4 inflection points that they believe require a new kind of data-center CPU: hybrid cloud, AI, 5G and edge computing.
To handle them, the new Xeon SPs include built-in AI, cryptography and hardware-based security. They also support Intel’s Optane SSDs and Optane Persistent Memory.
Climate change is a serious issue, and tech companies are choosing to be part of the solution by offering “green” PC products. These promise to help the environment by replacing materials that later becomes e-waste with materials that are instead recycled and renewable.
One such vendor is Acer. Its Aspire Vero (pictured below), a Windows 11 notebook PC, has a chassis made from 30% post-consumer resin (PCR) and a keyboard that’s 50% PCR. The bag this PC ships in is made from 100% recycled plastic, and its box is made from 85% recycled cardboard.
HP is also going green with its Pavilion Aero 13, a consumer laptop made with both recycled and what’s known as “ocean-bound” plastics. These materials are recycled from bottles and other goods that would otherwise end up in the sea.
Microsoft’s Ocean Plastic Mouse is another new green product. It’s made from a resin that’s 20% recycled plastic recovered from the ocean. Also, the box the mouse ships in is made from renewable wood and sugarcane fibers.
CPUs for entry-level servers
Too many small and midsize businesses still use old PCs as stop-gap servers. While that approach is inexpensive and relatively simple, it’s also inefficient and — given the growing sophistication of cyber criminals — insecure and risky.
A far-better alternative was introduced this year by Intel: the Xeon E-2300 processors. They’re designed specifically for single-processor entry-level servers. While these CPUs are affordable, they also offer high levels of performance, reliability and availability. They’re secure, too, with built-in Intel Software Guard Extensions.
If you have SMB customers still using old PCs for servers, tell them to get smart. They can now replace those PCs with genuine entry-level servers based on Intel Xeon E-2300 CPUs. That could be a great way to start the new year.