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Jewish World Review
Jan. 6, 2006
/ 6 Teves, 5766
The year of little extraordinary and that's good
Back in the late 1980s, a standard joke among computer trade journalists
was that each of the just-ending, or soon-beginning, years was, indeed,
"the year of the LAN," which stood for local-area network. Some time,
finally, LANs became standard issue for offices and the joke is barely
Of all the things 2005 may well be remembered for - the year of the iPod,
perhaps? - I wonder if it shouldn't be remembered as, well, a year of
relatively little that was extraordinary. That's not a complaint, please,
but rather an observation. We had ups and downs with viruses and worms;
"spam" e-mail remains a bother despite the best efforts of many; and, yes,
Apple not only sent out several iPod models into the world, but a new
version of the Mac OS X, Tiger, as well.
Yet the year just ended wasn't a really revolutionary one as far as
computing in general was concerned. There were no stupendous advances in
personal computing technology, although some of the year's new products
were quite nice. Perhaps the industry needed a "breather" after 20 years
of hard-charging improvements at almost every turn.
For its part, Microsoft Corp. introduced no new versions of its operating
system, Windows, or its core productivity application, Office. Such may
arrive in 2006, although releases from the firm have been known to miss
promised ship dates. With the looming arrival of 64-bit processors for
PCs, it's highly likely that the 64-bit version of Windows that has been
in a public Beta test will solidify and come to market as well. The more
power a processor has, the more work it can do, so there should be a
speedup in Windows' operations and perhaps those of applications, if
64-bit versions are also released.
One of the most surprising, to many, announcements of 2005 was Apple
Computer's decision to forgo the IBM-produced PowerPC processor in
favor of Pentium chips from Intel Corp. As early as Jan. 10 (next
Tuesday), we may see substantial announcements from Apple regarding new
computers with the Pentium chips, and at much lower prices for previous,
equivalent models. Then again, it may take Apple just a little while
longer to get in the Pentium groove, but it will happen during 2006, the
company has previously said.
If Microsoft and Apple are, somewhat, biding their time on new arrivals,
what about the rest of the industry? Telephone service using broadband
lines, called Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP , is becoming
quite popular, even if New Jersey-based Vonage appears to be following the
old AOL method of blanketing humanity with advertising - commercials,
mostly, instead of CDs in the mail box. Despite the gaudiness, VoIP is a
technology that offers some true advantages, not the least being much
lower cost for service and greater flexibility in using advanced calling
features such as simultaneous ringing and call forwarding. In my own case,
the VoIP provider I use, Primus Telecommunications Group's Lingo, lets me
manage these features and more via a Web page.
Perhaps the greatest continuing development in 2006 will be the continued
convergence of handheld phones with just about everything else. There are
camera-phones out there claiming a 2 megapixel resolution on images, and
Palm's Treo will get a boost from Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating
system sometime this year as well. I like the ability to carry
"everything" in my pocket, a device that can handle e-mail, web browsing,
digital photography, GPS functions, and phone calls, but it can also seem
overwhelming at times.
And don't forget personal entertainment. As flat-screen digital TVs begin
to "take over," some computer manufacturer or software developer - perhaps
Apple or Microsoft - will come up with a computer that'll manage your
video needs, record new shows AND let you work, or at least Web surf, on a
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com