But the truth is, the very best products in this industry are new versions of old products. 1.0 releases often take bold stabs at solving existing problems. But only after a few really smart tweaks do they become ultra compelling and, in some cases, indispensable.
The most obvious example of this phenomenon is the iPhone. Apple's original shot at smart phone greatness two years ago grabbed more attention than just about any product ever. Never mind that it lacked basic functionality nearly universal in the industry, such as copy and paste, a decent camera and third-party applications. This month's iPhone 3GS version was probably the least hyped iPhone. But it's orders of magnitude better and more useful than the original.
There seems to be some kind of inverse relationship between the hype a product gets and its quality. When people stop talking about something, you know it's truly great. That's why I'm writing this column. Some of the greatest software and services in the industry have shipped in the last few days, and others will become available in the coming weeks and months, and they're not getting the attention they deserve.
Of course, most products get better in subsequent versions. But some get so good that they can actually enhance your career, your relationships -- and your life. Here are the 6 old products perfected by brand-new improvements.
My favorite communications app of all time is Disgby. The free desktop software channels Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, MSN, AIM, ICQ and Google Talk messages into its IM-style pop-up-and-chat format.
A brand-new version of Digsby hit this week, which cuts the software's CPU usage by half. And now it supports Web search. Just hit Ctrl+F, and you get a search for buddies. But below the selected buddies are options for Google, iTunes, Wikipedia and a bunch of other sites you can search on.
Digsby actually solves the problem of having to visit a gazillion sites to check in on your peeps. Their messages come to you, and all in one place, which is nice.
Best of all, the brand-new version has been updated, optimized and tweaked to perfection.
2. Google Voice
One upon a time there was a startup called GrandCentral. The idea was a single phone number that you could print on your business cards and share with friends and family. But behind the scenes, on a Web-based app, you could change the phone actually reached via that number, either on a schedule, or on the fly. So during business hours, your single phone number called your office landline. Nights and weekends it called your cell phone. On vacation, it dialed your hotel room in Cabo.
In addition, the service promised Web-based voicemail management and transcription, SMS notification and even the ability to listen in as people left voice-mail messages with the option of jumping in and saying hi.
Well, Google bought GrandCentral two years ago, and stopped taking new customers. Behind the scenes, Google has been secretly improving and perfecting the service in anticipation of a public re-launch, which should happen any day now.
Once launched, Google Voice, as it will be called, will solve a long list of real problems. For example, you'll be able to block phone numbers, send and receive SMS online, switch phones during a call and a lot of other useful things.
Google Voice will be a must-have service. But I'm guessing that the number of accounts will be limited, so get on the invite list now.
3. Windows 7
Windows Vista was a train wreck, but the now-finished version of Vista, called Windows 7, will be the best Windows ever when it ships in October.
Vista was a pig. But Windows 7 has been streamlined and performance-optimized. Rather than requiring more hardware power than its predecessor, it needs less. Windows 7 boots faster; is much more stable; is more customizable; has a powerful, multi-purpose search box on the Start menu; and it has a host of features that make everything faster.
Security, networking and other common chores are all much easier in Windows 7.
Best of all, surprisingly well-designed user interface enhancements will make it fun to use. These include a new Taskbar; something called Aero Snap for easily optimizing window layouts; and a whole new way for icons to appear, function and provide user feedback.
Windows 7 will be the most boring, the least talked about, and by far the best version of Windows ever. Don't even think about not upgrading.