2007: The Year in Tech

The older I get, the faster the years go by. No matter the speed, we seem to squeeze in the same number of interesting, crazy, and important events.

This year was no different. It would take another year to go through all the noteworthy moments, so I'll focus on key topics and tell you what's likely to happen in 2008.

Event: Vista Flounders

Microsoft shipped its one-year-old Windows Vista operating system in millions of PCs, but good luck finding anyone who thinks 2007 was a good year for Vista.

Is it a bad operating system? I don't think so, but tales of misguided folks choosing XP over Vista or trying to roll back to the older OS worry me.

They worry Microsoft even more. The company has been forced to extend XP support and do crazy things such as ending the practice of immediately disabling pirated versions of Vista in favor of annoying and, I assume, never-ending streams of pop-ups telling folks that their software is illegal and that they can buy the real thing by following a link.

Come on, Microsoft, don't go soft on me now.

Prognosis: Windows XP wasn't an instant, rip-roaring success from Day One, nor was Windows 98. Likewise, Vista will recover in 2008, and by the end of the year people will forget why they hated it so much.

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Event: iPod Touches

Apple further cemented its reputation as the king of interface and design, releasing not one but two blockbuster music players.

The iPhone tease made us wish we could have a music-only iPod with a touch screen and without the middling phone, and the stellar iPod Touch made that wish a reality. In a six-month period, Apple transformed two markets and issued a wake-up call to competitors: Get hip and show some innovation or eat our dust.

Prognosis: Look out, Apple. The competition has nimble feet.

HTC, LG, Microsoft, SanDisk and others have already rolled out intriguing competitors to the iPhone and — well, okay, no one competes with the iPod Touch, yet.

I expect that Microsoft will show us something special in next year's version of the Zune (the company is already moving in the right direction with the latest Zunes). SanDisk also knows a thing or two about building sexy players.

The phone industry is wide open, and products such as the LG VX10000 Voyager prove that Apple does not own the "cool" market. 2008 will be the year that Apple takes an Icarus-like fall back to earth.

Event: Google Expands

Google spent much of 2007 getting into everyone else's business. It's ready to bid for the 700-MHz wireless spectrum, and it rolled out the open Android mobile-phone development platform.

The company's also funding a renewable energy project and recently opened its rarely used Google Talk instant-messaging platform to other chat clients. In the video arena, Google is slowly putting its stamp on YouTube, which it purchased in 2006.

Prognosis: Google will win that wireless bid and, with partners, start rolling out Android-based phones, though none will be the dreamed-about Google Phone. Google will never produce a phone of its own. Expect more Google apps, innovations, and non-search-related activity.

The next big move for this company with cash to burn? Ownership of a major media company.

Event: Facebook Blows Up

The once college-kid-only social-networking site opened to the great, aging masses (including me) and blew up (in a good way). I get more Facebook updates and requests in a given day than I get for most others in a month. Microsoft ponied up millions for a piece of the suddenly $15 billion-company.

By offering users a structured interface and unlimited tools for connecting and learning more about one another, Facebook did what MySpace couldn't: It interested adults who couldn't figure out the mess that is any given MySpace page.

Prognosis: The "It" thing of the social-networking market will fade in 2008 — just as Second Life and Friendster did before it.

It's not that I don't like Frien — er — Facebook; it's just that social-networking tools thrive on the extreme heat of attention and wither when they're neglected.

All those Facebook notices will soon become a burden and then members will create mailbox rules that auto-direct them to a folder. Then they'll start ignoring that folder. Soon they'll stop visiting. My own Facebook visits have already begun to decline.

Event: Intel Trumps AMD

Intel and AMD seemed to really duke it out over the first half of this decade, but something changed in 2007.

Maybe Intel changed. It started in 2006, with Core Duo, followed by Core 2 Duo, Centrino Core 2 Duo, and Quad Core technologies in 2007.

AMD, on the other hand, seemed to be moving in slow motion. There are still AMD-based systems rolling onto store shelves and consumer desktops. AMD's allure had been great performance and excellent prices, but AMD CPUs are no longer that much cheaper than Intel's offerings.

People (like our own ExtremeTech Editor Loyd Case) are writing obituaries for AMD. Is that the future?

Prognosis: Rumors of AMD's demise are greatly exaggerated. The company has some intriguing technologies in the wings: Barcelona (for servers) and Phenom. We're testing Phenom now. These new chips need to deliver or 2008 could be a very bad year for AMD.

Event: Leopard Shows Its Spots

Apple released Tiger's successor, Leopard. Reviews were good, but, apparently, 2007 just isn't the year to show love for new operating systems. There have been reports of dissatisfaction. No, not on the same level as with Vista, but it does show that Apple's not perfect.

Prognosis: The rule with Apple operating systems has always been "Never adopt point-oh technologies." Leopard has already had a point upgrade, so soon all will be right with the world.

Event: Daylight Saving Goes Green, Makes Everyone Crazy

Going green isn't easy. A couple of years ago, the U.S. government took the proactive step of passing a law to change daylight saving time so that it begins earlier in the spring and ends later in the fall.

Why? So that Americans would have more daylight hours and burn less energy.

Great idea, except that everyone's technology was programmed to change on the original daylight-saving days. Microsoft sent out patches. Most worked, but some didn't.

Still, there were no patches for microwaves, alarm clocks, and countless other gadgets. People's Outlook calendars went kaplooey, and there was widespread grumpiness — twice (in March and November).

Prognosis: We should be used to the new schedule by next year, but older systems and countless gadgets will still not be with the program. Such is the price of going green.

Event: Viruses Keep Quiet and Phishes Get Smarter

Remember virus attacks? They were scary things that happened with alarming frequency.

"Love bug," "SoBig," "Melissa" — there were so many odd and scary names. So much work to protect our PCs.

Where have all the good viruses gone? Well, the whole game changed, not just in 2007, but a few years back.

It was in 2007, however, that the bold new economic strategy/motive for attacks was cemented.

It used to be that viruses simply harmed your PC (and others around it), causing random mayhem. Now Trojan horses and spyware take control of PCs for a greater, scarier purpose: They often work together with other bots in other infected machines.

Sometimes the only way you know you're infected is when your machine starts to slow down. Having an army of PCs doing your bidding is much more powerful and worrisome than one wonky, infected PC in the office.

Meanwhile, phishes, which don't even use code to do their dirty work, proliferated in 2007.

Fortunately, all major security suites got with the program and released updates that can actually prevent you from harming yourself.

Prognosis: Viruses will remain a threat, but a minor one compared with "crimeware," Trojans and, especially, phishes. Slowly but steadily, the computing public will continue to awaken to the ever-present danger of e-mails from their "banks," "auction sites" and "social networks."

Event: Wii Takes Over

In 2006, the Nintendo Wii shocked the gaming world by stealing virtually all of the spotlight from the new Sony PlayStation 3 and the one-year-old Xbox 360.

Nintendo, oddly, never recovered from the initial overwhelming demand for this highly interactive gaming system, and in 2007 supplies remained scarce. Even in this holiday season, consumers report difficulty finding the console.

Meanwhile, Microsoft revived the Xbox 360 platform with "Halo 3"'s perfectly timed release.

Prognosis: Sony's PS3 is starting to show signs of life this holiday season, and 2008 could prove a strong year for the much-maligned console. Xbox 360 will continue along nicely, and Nintendo will finally catch up on Wii production — just as demand subsides. The Wii will be the bargain game platform of the 2008 holiday buying season.

Event: Retail Rises from the Dead

Remember how we thought that eventually everyone would shop online and brick-and-mortar stores would crumble like neglected sand castles?

In 2007 Acer reaffirmed retail for itself and its newly acquired Gateway (and eMachines) brand, HP surged in in-store sales, and Dell moved into Best Buy.

Prognosis: Dell, Gateway, HP, and others will simplify the online shopping process and make hard connections to your nearest brick-and-mortar, so that you can configure online and buy local.

Event: The HD DVD vs. Blu-ray Battle Stalls

The seesaw battle between the Sony and Toshiba camps resulted in no true gains for either side. Both have committed partners and strong sales for certain titles, but nobody ran away with the HD crown.

Finally, the two sides settled into a prolonged state of inertia. They're moving forward, but no one knows how to end the war, and neither side is prepared to give an inch.

Prognosis: 2008 will mark the year we stop caring about Blu-ray or HD DVD. There will be a proliferation of dual-format players in PCs and set-tops. Consumers will buy whichever format they prefer (soon discerning that there's no appreciable difference), and the world will move on.

In 2009, the teams will merge and start selling dual-format discs. By 2010, there'll be one HD optical disc format with an entirely new name. I vote for "H-ray."

Copyright © 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited.