What to expect from computer technology this year? The words of
Heraclitus of Ephesus come to mind: "Nothing endures but change." In
other words, things will be different this year, but how much so?
Some predictions, which I may wish to forget 12 months hence:
It seems the greatest change is likely to come in terms of handheld
devices: smartphones and the like. Apple's IPhone, mentioned here last
week as a category-changing product, will inspire other makers to
revise and update their products. Microsoft, reportedly, is going to
incorporate IPhone-like features in its Windows Mobile operating
system, for example.
Another emphasis is likely to be in the area of personal computer
security. We've had too many problems to think otherwise, and firms
such as Symantec and others will work to make things better in this
vital area. I would expect more in the way of online protections, too,
since phishing is on the rise.
I'll confess that I finally "get" the whose social networking concept,
and will predict more growth and less rockiness for services such as
Facebook. It's too much to hope, however, that MySpace users
will refrain from their tendency to produce some of the most garish
and eye-abusing Web pages in the brief history of the Internet. There
are other sites worth investigating, such as www.spock.com, which
takes social connections in a different direction, and still more will
likely emerge in the next year or two.
The major operating systems in use by the majority of computer users
won't change all that much. We had, in 2007, the arrival of
Microsoft's Windows Vista and Apple's Mac OS X Leopard. There will be,
as noted last week, slight revisions to both of these, but not much
more. Unless the people behind Linux come up with something, it'll be
a rather complacent year OS-wise.
At the same time, there could be a big "change," in that more and more
people will end up using both Vista and Leopard on a daily basis this
new year. They'll have to, given that more and more computers will be
sold with one of these systems. Windows users might still be able to
buy computers with Windows XP, but users of new Macs have only Leopard
as an option. My sense is that once the "service pack" for Vista is
released, and should no major flaws appear, users will flock to Vista.
The major applications will remain stable this new year, with the
exception of Microsoft's Office for Mac, which will appear in a new
version two weeks from today. Adobe Systems, Inc., revised its apps
last year, although a new consumer product or two will likely bow in
2008. Quicken's home and small-business applications will undergo
their annual new releases in the fall. But that's about it, given that
Microsoft's Office 2007 was the much-anticipated arrival of the past
There are niche markets where there may well be spectacular advances
in software during 2008, but I'd be surprised if any of the major
categories show much. The only possible exception is the
"Software-as-a-Service," or "SaaS" , category that puts
applications on the Web and on mobile devices. A lot seems to be
happening here, with companies such as Google and Microsoft each
promoting their online offerings.
In terms of hardware, I wonder if 2008 will not be the year of the
Tablet PC, at least in some circles. Tablets that are thin, light and
powerful are now in vogue, and their capabilities and price-points are
reasonable enough for many to consider.
One thing is certain: the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections will see
all sorts of technology being used to get out, cast and count the
votes. I don't know if our next President will be a digital whiz as
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is, but it'll be interesting to