Microsoft Security Essentials 2
PROS: Free, effective, lightweight
CONS: No central management or support for businesses; should be part of Windows
RATING: Four out of five stars
RECOMMENDATION: While Microsoft is edging ever-closer to simply bundling antivirus and anti-malware capabilities with Windows (as it should), the company's not there yet. But the next best thing is providing users with an absolutely free AV/anti-malware solution, which is what Microsoft is doing with the newly released Security Essentials 2 product. It's available for consumers everywhere and also for small businesses with 10 or fewer desktops. It's small, light, and virtually invisible from the user's perspective, which is great, and despite some FUD from competing AV vendors, it scores well in real-world detection and removal tests. My beefs are few but important: It should be given to all Windows users, including those at businesses, and it should be part of the base OS.
Google Chrome OS Preview
PROS: Lightweight, cloud-based system; familiar browser-based UI
CONS: No real local resources or storage; incomplete; perhaps a bit too different
RATING: Three out of five stars
RECOMMENDATION: After promising to deliver its browser-based Chrome OS by the end of 2010, Google instead delayed the release until sometime in 2011, offering up a beta version instead. It's actually pretty impressive looking, and (along with the iPad) points to a future computing model that is simpler and more pervasively connected than today's PCs. But Chrome OS could also face a bit of a backlash from users who expect rich local resources like copious amounts of storage, and digital media content. Will Chrome OS be a hit? It's hard to say, but I expect ideas from this OS, at least, to make their way into mainstream computing in 2011.