Apple launched its second zeitgeist-defining product of the 21st century, Dell and Intel battled to regain their former dominance, Google rallied industry heavyweights around a common mobile device platform, and major vendors scrambled to embrace social networking. These, not necessarily in order of importance, are PC Advisor' picks for the top 10 stories of the year:

The iPhone: gadget of the year

Some companies reinvent themselves. Apple, under the guidance of the mercurial Steve Jobs, reinvents markets. After redefining IT in the 1970s with the Apple II and then pushing the envelope in personal computing with the Mac in the 1980s, Apple stalled when its business model ended up giving the company a loyal - but tiny - user base. The company started to ride high in 2001 after launching the iPod, and in 2006 breathed new life into the Mac by moving to Intel-architecture chips. Before the iPhone, there were many multifunction phones. But amid a June launch that had people lined up at stores from Tokyo to San Francisco, Apple proved its design mojo still works. The iPhone combination of cool design, phone functions, internet connectivity and multimedia features has raised the bar for any manufacturer of connected handheld devices. Apple's revenue and share price have never looked better.

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The Rise of the botnets

What do US presidential candidate Ron Paul, the 'Storm Worm', e-card invitations and the country of Estonia have in common? They've all been associated with botnets - groups of compromised computers, often numbering thousands or tens of thousands, that are remotely controlled by criminals. The scammers use the so-called 'zombie machines' to pitch hot stocks or male-enhancement products, or simply to do damage, as when Estonian government websites were crippled in April. Botnets are now getting so sophisticated that they're being offered as software as a service products to scammers. That's what happened in November, when nearly 200 million spam messages supporting Paul for president were sent without permission from the campaign.

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How to battle the botnets

Official opens up on Estonian DoS attacks

Will World War 3 hit the web?

OLPC and the era of cheap laptops

The grand - some might say grandiose - plan of former MIT Media Lab chief Nick Negroponte to sell as many as 150 million $100 laptops by 2009, getting them to poor children around the world, this year looked more like a pipe dream. Production of the laptops, under the aegis of the One Laptop Per Child project, was delayed, promised government deals fell through, and the price of the XO 'hundred-dollar laptops' turned out to be closer to $200.

Current plans call for production of only about 300,000 laptops this year. But Negroponte's dream may not be permanently deferred, just co-opted by commercial vendors, which simultaneously face a slowdown in growth in mature markets and increasing pressure to cut prices and power consumption. For example, Intel has sold $200 Classmate laptops in Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan and Libya, and in November, Everex announced it would sell Linux-based PCs with x86 processors for less than $300.

See also:

How OLPC built the $100 laptop

$100 laptop: How to beat the hackers

Asus Eee PC review