PC World has published its Best of 2004 issue, and Apple took two awards for its offerings. The magazine named Mac OS X 10.3, Panther, as the best operating system of 2004, and it named the Windows version of iTunes the "Software Newcomer of the Year." Notably absent from the list is the iPod. From PC World:
Operating System - Apple Mac OS X Panther 10.3
Pantheris sleek interface and reliable performance are impressive. Although we arenit suggesting that you ditch your hardware and buy a Mac, Apple deserves credit for raising the bar for OSes. And we hope Microsoft is paying attention as it works on the next Windows. $129
Software Newcomer of the Year - iTunes
Apple makes Windows apps about as often as Microsoft ships bug-free products, and if iTunes for Windows (free) is any indication, thatis a crying shame. The iTunes media player works on PCs the same way it does on Macs, right down to the handy feature that lets you share your music library with other PC or Mac iTunes users on your network. It looks great, itis easy to use, and it has a surprising number of useful features, like the abilities to generate rules-based Smart Playlists and to trim individual tracks.
Meanwhile, Appleis complementary iTunes Music Store (99 cents per track, album prices vary) started the party last year on subscription-free digital tunes, pioneering the 99-cents-per-track model that most online music stores now use. With easy navigation, an impressive exclusive track selection, and such innovative offerings as audiobooks and radio show archives, iTunes Music Store is going strong. Competitors like RealPlayer Music Store made this a tough choice, but itis hard to beat a store thatis built into the best media player software around. We do have one major complaint: iTunes tracks are incompatible with digital audio players other than Appleis own iPod. How selfish!
As noted in the intro, the iPod was not names in this yearis list. Instead, the Rio Karma was named as best "Digital Audio Player." From PC World:
Digital Audio Player - Rio Karma
Itis not as pretty as Appleis much-adored iPod (which finished a hotly debated second in our polling), but what the Rio Karma lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for in clever, usable features. It supports numerous audio formats (including Ogg Vorbis and FLAC), ships with a slick docking station that includes ethernet capabilities, and offers the pleasantly addictive Rio DJ, an on-board feature that generates playlists based upon your own listening habits. Add to that a long-lasting rechargeable battery and a reasonable price, and you have what Peter Rojas--editor of Engadget.com--calls the best player currently available for the power user. $300
Another Apple strong-point, digital video editing software, also went to a Windows product, Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5.
There are a ton of other products listed in the 10 page article -- including a variety of cross-platform products like hard drives, pen drives, GPS navigation devices, DV cameras, printers, etc. -- and we recommend it as an interesting read.