5 Top Tech Gadgets of 2010

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NEW YORK, (TheStreet) -- It's been a monumental year in gadgets for some of the biggest names in tech.

Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) invented a new category and ran with it. Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) killed an entire product line -- the Kin -- and introduced something completely new.

Facing the first major challenge to its dominance in e-readers (the iPad), Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) responded with force. And Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) joined Apple in a whimsical, treacherous quest to build a bridge between the Internet and TV.

Even networking giant Cisco (Stock Quote: CSCO) brought out a new lineup to play in the consumer electronics game.

Read on for the top five gadgets of 2010 (with pictures!).

Flipcam

No. 5: Cisco's Flip UltraHD

Price: $179

This point-and-shoot video camera sits atop Amazon's list of best-selling cameras. That's a big category for a little video shooter.

Cisco acquired Flip for $590 million in stock last year, a move considered to be part of a greater plan to seed the video market and subsequently feed the need for more Cisco networking gear.

Flip was Cisco's first dip into personal consumer devices. In September, the company unveiled a complete revamp of its Mino and Ultra lineup. The biggest changes were image stabilization and a shift to 60 frames-a-second from 30 frames to improve video quality.

The fact that smartphones shoot decent video and many point-and-shoot cameras also capture video seems to limit the Flip's opportunity. But Cisco is still selling loads of them -- 5 million so far, says the company.

google tv

No. 4: Google TV

Price: $300 and up

Internet on the TV -- a dicey affair until this year -- happened in a big way with the help of some huge players. It's still dicey, but leaps and bounds better thanks to Google, Apple, Sony (Stock Quote: SNE) and Logitech (Stock Quote: LOGI).

Using Logitech's set-top Revue box and keyboard remote, Google has brought its Chrome browser to TV. As a milestone, this is big. As a user experience, it's not bad, although pulling actual shows in from the Net is troublesome. Hulu blocked the service; Netflix (Stock Quote: NFLX) videos couldn't be made to happen.

Still, it puts the Internet on the biggest screen in your house. What you do with it is a whole other thing. Google hasn't finalized its video rental business, but Amazon offers streaming videos.

Sony has integrated the Google TV box into a few TVs. A 46-inch Sony Google TV is offered for $1,400 at Best Buy (Stock Quote: BBY). And Apple's little puck of a set-top box is available for $99. This will be known as the year the Net met TV, but the bigger question is whether this is the year that consumers will care?

amazon kindle

No. 3: Amazon Kindle

Price: $139 - $189

Amazon has been calling the Kindle its best-selling product for three years now, and the latest version, introduced in July, isn't showing any signs of a slowdown.

Apple's iPad, which debuted in April, was expected to chip away at the e-reader leader this year. But Amazon pulled the price lever and sent sales soaring. In a defensive move, Amazon slashed the price of the new Kindle to $139 for the WiFi model and $189 for the 3G version.

The move proved fruitful for Amazon. Caris and Co. analyst Sandeep Aggarwal estimates that Amazon will sell 4.8 million Kindles in 2010, helping the company pull in $2.8 billion in revenue.

windows phone

No. 2: Microsoft Windows Phone 7

Price: $200 with vendor contracts

With the smallest of baby steps, Microsoft toddled back into the mobile phone market Monday, marking an end to a three-year decline in the business and possibly the beginning of a revival.

Windows 7 is the operating system that replaces Windows Mobile and it is the software running a handful of new phones this year. AT&T (Stock Quote: T) and T-Mobile (Stock Quote: DT) launched sales of Windows 7 phones Monday to a somewhat dispiriting show of consumer demand. The first-day tally was a miniscule 40,000 phones.

Considering how desperately Microsoft needs Windows 7 to succeed in mobile, not to mention the $100 million the company is shoving into advertising to prime the sales pump, the slow start is a little concerning. But the phone-buying season isn't yet in full swing, so there is hope for Microsoft yet.

Reviewers and consumers have not found the phones and the software to be complete disasters. And by clearing that bar, perhaps Windows Phone 7 is capable enough to get Microsoft up and running again in the mobile market.

ipad

No. 1: Apple iPad

Price: $499 and up

Apple launched the iPad in April and within two months, sold 2 million of them. By the third month, 3 million had been sold. And as of Apple's last report, the company sold 7.5 million of the touch-screen devices.

At this pace, Apple will easily exceed the analysts' target of 10 million iPads sold, which was set earlier in the year. In fact, some observers expect Apple to end the year in big fashion as iPads make it on a lot of gift lists this holiday season. A ChangeWave survey last month of 3,108 people who intended to buy tablets showed that about 80% of that group planned to buy iPads.

Apple's uncanny ability to carry the touch-screen momentum from the iPhone to a new category of devices certainly defied the skeptics. And with iPads priced at $500 to $830, Apple will probably go ahead and defy competitors who had big plans to sell a lot of netbooks this Christmas.

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