Every year I look back at my Product of the Week choices and pick what I think made the most significant impact on my life as the Product of the Year. There were a lot of contenders this year, which I will cover, but I want to lead with why I’m calling out BlackBerry.
If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of companies doing the right thing. For instance:
- Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program shined at the beginning of the pandemic as incredibly useful for getting governments and schools to function while we all were locked in our homes;
- IBM’s focus on AI ethics could end up saving us from the creation of hostile AIs;
- Nvidia’s work to create world-scale simulations to address global warming;
- HP’s leadership in capturing and reusing ocean-borne plastics; and
- Dell’s aggressive examples in eliminating misogyny have all caught my interest in the past.
But this year I really struggled with what was happening in Ukraine and felt we weren’t doing enough to address the horrid conditions in that country. BlackBerry showed up to commit massive resources to Ukraine’s war effort and was able to, in effect, battle-train its security (Cylance) and employee safety applications (AtHoc) that are now far more capable of keeping us safer.
Since much of 2022 has been about fear and vulnerability, choosing a product or company that did the most to alleviate that fear at a country-wide scale seemed to be the best course of action to convince others to step up and help.
While I typically point to Cisco as the gold standard in helping at that state security level, for 2022, BlackBerry’s extreme effort to help Ukraine stood out to me, so it’s my choice for Product of the Year.
More on BlackBerry later. First, let’s look at the other contenders.
Three laptops excelled for me this year:
- The Alienware m17 R5, which is the best gaming notebook I’ve ever used;
- Lenovo’s Intel-based ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 with a huge screen and a second screen next to the keyboard; and
- The HP EliteBook Folio with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon.
Alienware m17 R5 Gaming Laptop
If I were more of a gamer than I am, then the Alienware m17 R5 would have been the easy choice to lead the category, particularly once I got the proper drivers loaded and the battery life up to something reasonable. When I first fired it up, I got two hours, but after the driver fix, it jumped to six. The notebook is good-looking, and if I were into first-person shooters, where the performance really shines, this would have ranked higher.
Alienware m17 R5 Gaming Laptop | Image Credit: Dell
ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 Laptop
The second was the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3. Again, battery life wasn’t great, but using the dual screens and just the wow factor of this notebook makes it more than ideal for those of us primarily working at home but not wanting to be locked up in the same room with a desktop computer all day.
ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 17-inch laptop | Image Credit: Lenovo
The dual screens on this ThinkBook also allow users to do two very different things at the same time, like attend a Zoom meeting while being power-leveled or watching a video — not that I’d ever do that myself.
HP Elite Folio 2-in-1 Notebook PC
The HP EliteBook Folio came out in 2021, but it’s still my favorite laptop. HP came out with a Dragonfly version this year that was Intel- and not Qualcomm-based, but that dropped the battery life by about half. HP took the leather off the bottom, making the product less comfortable to carry. So, while I’d still rank the Folio first for 2022, the fact I think the 2021 version is still better for how I work should be noted because, sometimes, companies make changes that aren’t ideal for the product.
HP EliteBook Folio | Image Credit: HP
The Snapdragon version of the product doesn’t perform as well as the Intel version, but for how I work — mostly writing, browsing the web, and watching videos while traveling — battery life, weight, and comfort are king. I’ve gone up to three days on a trip without needing the power supply for this notebook, which is unusual in a good way. So, last year’s HP EliteBook Folio was the best laptop I used in 2022.
I’ve used ChiliSleep products since they came out with the first ChiliPad. If there is one solution that continues to ensure I get a good night’s sleep, it is the ChiliSleep Dock Pro by Sleepme. This product uses water to heat and cool your bed, much like race car drivers and astronauts use it to cool their suits. Whether it’s a hot or cold night, I’m like Goldilocks in the last bed: just right.
ChiliSleep Dock Pro Control Unit | Image Credit: Sleepme
This year Sleepme released a sleep tracker that I haven’t checked out yet that comes with a subscription so that the heat of the bed will adjust appropriately to optimize things like REM sleep. The only recurring issue is that I can’t take the thing with me when I travel. Hotels seriously need something like this because I’m forever too hot or cold when sleeping in a hotel. Put this product in the “can’t live without it” category.
I haven’t included these in the competition before, but I drive a 2019 electric Jaguar I-Pace myself. Right before I started writing this column, I became aware of the most awesome electric car drag race. It was between a Lucid Air Sapphire, Tesla Plaid, and a Bugatti Chiron, which cost around $4 million. Oh, they also ran the Lucid against a hot-rodded Ducati (due to their typically far higher power-to-weight ratio, motorcycles generally dust cars in races like this).
Until now, when it comes to straight-line drag races, the Tesla is the champ against almost anything but that Bugatti. Here is a Plaid beating a track-only dragster:
The Bugatti isn’t that much faster, at least not to the quarter mile (top speed is a very different story, but none of us are driving 250 mph unless we want our $4 million car impounded for life). Long story short, in the race, the Lucid gaps the Bugatti, which beat the Tesla, gaps it, I mean by a car length — even though the Bugatti has a lot more power.
The reason is that electrics can generate a ton more traction because traction control works better with electric than gas cars — and if you can’t put the power down, it doesn’t matter how much you have. Thus, the Lucid Air Sapphire would be my pick for the best electric car in 2022. Plus, the thought of dusting a Bugatti at the light with a family car brings a huge grin to my face.
The most powerful CPU remains the AMD Threadripper, and the most powerful GPU is Nvidia’s 4090 RTX card. Put them both in the same system and you’ll likely cause your friends to drool and your power meter to spin like a top.
AMD took the lead in top-end workstations thanks to the Threadripper, and I’ve seen folks get pounded by their friends for using Intel processors for the first time this year, which is a huge win for AMD.
On graphics, Nvidia’s 4090 RTX is simply a beast which kind of begs the question: Why doesn’t AMD do a Threadripper-like GPU to match it? Maybe next year, but while Intel still holds as the standard CPU for business, AMD has passed Intel in performance.
I’ll be doing a head-to-head on AMD, Nvidia, and Intel GPUs over the holidays, but when it comes to ultimate performance, AMD on CPUs and Nvidia on GPUs led the pack in 2022.
So far, no one has come up with a phone I like better than the Microsoft Surface Duo 2. I know I’m an outlier on this, but when my wife and I go out, and we are both using our phones (she has a purple iPhone), more people walk up and ask about my phone than hers by a factor of around eight to one.
The thing is, I’m a reader, and I use my phone to read books when I’m waiting in line, when I’m stopped in traffic, and when I’m waiting at a light (not when the car is moving).
This phone has become the one thing I never leave behind because I get bored easily. But if I can open a book, the waiting time goes by in a flash, and I do enjoy the extra attention the phone brings me.
So, for how I use a phone, the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 phone ranks the highest. It just feels and works like a book better than all the others I’ve tried, including other foldable phones — and I must admit that having something more exclusive than your typical smartphone is important to me.
The reason I’m spotlighting BlackBerry the company rather than its individual products like Cylance and AtHoc is that it was the company that stepped in to help Ukraine battle Russia’s attack by deploying thousands of experts, partnering across multiple companies to make protecting the people of Ukraine its key mission.
The result is that Ukraine is safer but also that BlackBerry’s products are the only ones in their class that are truly battle-tested. Battle testing is crucial, as Germany recently found out. Its tanks that were supposed to be near invincible were anything but — something that would have been problematic had they needed them in a war.
BlackBerry Network Operations Center in Waterloo, Canada | Image Credit: BlackBerry
There are many hostile states and powerful organizations in the world that want to do us harm, and it is my view that only battle-tested security tools will be up to the task because only those tools will have truly been tested against the highest threat levels.
We all want to feel safe, but I don’t want a false sense of security, and I want to know my protections work. By helping Ukraine, BlackBerry has made sure its security and safety products will work under the most hostile conditions. By doing something incredibly good, BlackBerry has also helped itself and its customers by assuring its tools are up to the task.
I’d like other tech companies to learn from BlackBerry’s efforts because if there was ever a time when we needed battle-tested capabilities, it is now. Thus, BlackBerry is my Product/Company of the Year for 2022. Special credit goes to John Chen, BlackBerry’s CEO, who recognized this critical need for battle-tested security tools and, with his team, stepped up to provide them.
I hope you all stay safe and have a Happy New Year. We’ll be back next week with my predictions for 2023.