Eddy Awards: Where’s Apple?

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As a glance at the list of winners for our annual Editors’ Choice Awards would indicate, the Mac market had a great 2008. Reliable hardware suppliers like NEC, Epson, Canon, and Logitech, as well as a crowded field of Mac developers large and small, gave us a huge assortment of new products to sort through when it came time to bestow our annual awards for the top Mac products of the past year.

The field was so strong, in fact, that Apple wound up with only one trophy—an Eddy for the iPhone 2.1 software update, which, in the editorial staff’s opinion, delivered on the promise of the iPhone and iPod touch platforms.

It’s unusual for Apple to have such a light Eddy haul. For the 2007 awards, as an example, Apple captured half-a-dozen trophies for everything from the original iPhone to Mac OS X 10.5.

So what gives with the lack of Eddys for Apple? After all, it’s not like the company kicked back in 2008. It introduced (and updated) the MacBook Air, overhauled both the MacBook and MacBook Pro models with a new design, updated its iMacs, introduced the next-generation iPhone, and refreshed the entire iPod line. And that doesn’t even address new products like Time Capsule backup device or the rebranded and relaunched MobileMe online service.

And while most of these products got favorable reviews, both from our publication and elsewhere, when it came time to choose Eddy winners, we decided that most of those new Apple products were really only improvements—albeit very nice improvements—on products we’d already honored in previous years. It’s hard to give awards to upgrades when you liked the originals so much.

The new Apple products that we thought were the strongest contenders for Eddys were the much ballyhooed iPhone 3G and the new iPod touch. But the more we discussed those two products, the more we realized that what we really liked about both was the software they had in common—the aforementioned updated to the iPhone OS. That mobile operating (along with the third-party apps it enabled) made Apple’s smart phone and the iPod touch more truly useful than they’d ever been before. So that OS was the one Apple product we thought was worthy of an Eddy Award this year. We liked the new phones and iPods; we loved their new software.

Apple certainly made a splash back in January when it unveiled the MacBook Air. And while we appreciate the ultra-thin laptop’s portability, we couldn’t ignore that the redesigned MacBook is just a pound-and-a-half heavier while also offering better performance at a lower price. As for the new MacBooks, they stirred some passionate debate around the Macworld offices, but in the end we found ourselves divided over the notable improvements in the remodeled laptops versus the trade-offs like the lack of a FireWire port and the lower battery life.

In short, we found plenty to like about Apple’s products in 2008. But we also found hardware and software that seemed like better choices for our annual awards for delivering quality, innovation, and value to Mac users. As noted in our introduction to this year’s Eddy Awards, that speaks volumes about the overall strength of the Mac market and the hardware and software makers that serve it. And hopefully, it might also inspire Apple to push us to even greater heights in 2009.

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