• Paul Fingleton

2015: Our year in Review

As we ring in the new year, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your visit. Almost 20,000 of you came by during 2015 to see what we had to say and to share your love of technology with us.

It seems fitting, then, at this time to put 2015 to bed with a review of some of the most popular topics we covered on our various outlets during the year.

Cortana for International Users

Windows 10 was one of the largest topics in the PC world last year, as Microsoft sought to reboot the venerable OS and ensure that it remains relevant in a world that is increasingly becoming mobile-centric.

Cortana, Microsoft's digital personal assistant, was first introduced in Windows Phone 8.1 and quickly grew in popularity around the world even though it was only officially available in the US.

When Cortana came to Windows 10, it was similarly restricted to only a few markets, despite working well elsewhere.

Our Tech Tip article on how to enable Cortana if you live in any of the many countries in the world not officially supported by Cortana has consistently rated among our most visited pages of the year.

Hopefully with increased international usage, in addition to the Android, iOS and CyanogenMod users who are now able to use Cortana, the results from Cortana and Bing will improve and Microsoft will finally enable Cortana for everyone.

Fitness and Wearables

Microsoft also had a surprise hit with their Band fitness device. As product launches go, this was strange to say the least. There was no fanfare and even less stock when it was announced, but it ticked many of the right boxes and indicated a wider shift from Microsoft to include more users in their ecosystem.

Make no mistake about it, this was Microsoft's first foray into the Smart Watch market but by targeting the fitness band / wearable market it side steps comparison to the Apple Watch or the plethora of Android Wear watches that are on the market. However, unlike these other devices that were tied to a specific ecosystem, the Microsoft Band played nicely with iOS and Android devices - it just played a little nicer with Windows devices.

Despite the first device being impractically shaped and rather inflexible, it packed more sensors than you could shake a stick at and sold extremely well and demand constantly outstripped supply for the first several months of release.

In October Microsoft announced and released a sequel, Microsoft Band 2, that fixed many of the comfort and design flaws of the initial Band. A larger, curved, Gorilla Glass screen housed a more powerful processor and Microsoft even found space to squeeze in another sensor.

Virtual: Reality or Insanity?

In 2015 a number of companies made a big push for bringing Virtual Reality to the mainstream … again.

Teaming up with front runners Oculus, Samsung looked to let users take advantage of their outsized smartphones by strapping them to their faces. The result was surprisingly effective and for only about €100 more than the price of the phone, users could have a passable Virtual Reality experience.

HTC and Sony have also thrown their hat into the ring, with the latter creating a headset that only supports the PlayStation 4 console.

Oculus, fresh from their multi-billion dollar acquisition by Facebook, have since finalised their design and begun taking orders for their first consumer model headset.

Smart TV OS Wars?

Smart TV's are getting smarter and are looking for various ways to save you from having to plug in a set-top box in order to get to your apps and content. In 2015 three main manufacturers went in different directions.

Sony chose Android TV for their Smart TV ranges, Samsung went with Tizen for their TVs and LG decided on WebOS.

Android TV gives Sony a small advantage because of the availability of existing Apps for their platform, but it also limits them in how much they can differentiate their user experience from the many other TVs using the same software platform.

What will CES 2016 bring? More 4K TVs, but will 3D ever make a comeback?

Xbox One Games

Microsoft were playing catch up this year and the big game for Microsoft this year was Halo 5. The single player story brought in the strike team format and more Spartans that you can shake a stick at. Our review showed that the added graphics and horsepower of the Xbox One made a prettier Halo game, but did it make a better one?

Our favourite game came out earlier in the year, though, Batman Arkham Knight.

Image Credit: Wikimedia