WEB SERVICES AND APPLICATIONS
Skype, GTalk, Vonage and Co. made voice over the Internet calls from London to Ludhiana a casual affair; IM (instant messaging) finally shrugged off its teenie-bopper image and entered the workplace as a communication tool for critical deployment. All are Web services. As are AJAX sites, Web syndication, blogs, and wikis. Then there were new age Web-based IM services such as Meebo (www.meebo.com) that let you sign into AIM, Google’s GTalk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, and Yahoo Messenger. Google Docs (www.docs.google.com) and Zoho (www.zoho.com) showed the way to a Microsoft-free world, although software’s 800lb (400kg) gorilla itself eventually debuted with Office Live (http://officelive.microsoft.com), a remote storage solution that seamlessly keeps your Office files and shares them with other Live users. In many ways, 2007 was the year of Web services.
Video on the World Wide Web prevailed. Led by YouTube (it continued to be the number one video destination on the Internet through 2007), major US TV networks steadily adopted streaming media technology for webcasting as did the BBC with its iPlayer (www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer). And then there was the Slingbox, a TV streaming device with which you can watch cable/satellite TV remotely via an Internet-enabled computer in “another room or another hemisphere”.
2007 was the year of the smart phone. IPhone’s rise to fame was not on account of its features and functions, but because of its multi-touch interface, intuitiveness and sheer usability. However, Nokia remained the king of the overcrowded cellphone world with its all-things-to-all-people phone—the N95, with its 5-megapixel camera, GPS, media player, Wi-Fi, high-speed cellular networking and memory, among other things. The much anticipated Google Phone never happened, but an open platform for mobile phone apps called Android did.
PORTABLE MEDIA PLAYERS
The year saw a number of flash-based, hand-held video players becoming popular. The best among these were the Archos 605 Wi-Fi series, the Creative Zen Vision W and, of course, the Apple iPod Touch. Among MP3 players, the world continued to plug its ears largely into the iPod.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES (SNS)
Pundits called 2007 as the shake-out year for social networking sites. Circa December 2006, there were reportedly about 200 of these sites. Now there are more than 350 in existence, with the leaders of 2006 (MySpace, Orkut, Windows Live Spaces, Hi5, Friendster, Twitter and Facebook) still heading the hit parade. What have actually multiplied are the vertical, special interest SNS. There were always business networking sites such as LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and Ryze (www.ryze.com). But 2007 saw the emergence of kennels for dog and cat lovers such as Dogster (www.dogster.com). And mountain biking enthusiasts pedalled on to YourMTB (www.yourmtb.com). Book lovers browsed LibraryThing (www.librarything.com) and Shelfari (www.shelfari.com). And shutterbugs clicked into Flickr (www.flickr.com), Fotki (www.fotki.com) and Woophy (www.woophy.com).
HD DVD VS BLU-RAY
The hullabaloo over the HD DVD and Blu-ray battle in what may be the most important conflict regarding next-gen disc storage and high-definition (HD) movie formats continued to rage right through the year. While Blu-ray, aided by sales of Sony’s PS3 gaming console, has emerged stronger in the US, Europe continues to vacillate between the two formats. In 2007, the HD DVD camp sold more players but the Blu-ray one sold more discs. So rather than take sides, ingenious player manufacturer LG decided to hedge its bets and launch the LG BH-100, the world’s first Blu-ray/HD DVD hybrid player.
The story of information technology began 60 years ago in December 1947 with the invention of the transistor—the fundamental building block of circuitry in computers, cellular phones, and all other modern electronic devices. Now, virtually marking the 60th anniversary of the transistor, Intel is on the verge of launching the ‘Penryn’ processor, a 45nm Hafnium-based metal gate wafer that incorporates 410 million transistors on each dual-core chip—and 820 million on each quad-core chip!
The single biggest breakthrough of 2006 on the hardware front was multicore processing—Intel’s Core 2 Duo (with its 291 million transistors) and Sony/Toshiba/IBM’s Cell processor (with an eight-core design). Quite befittingly, 2007 saw the consolidation of the Core 2 Duo as it warmed the cockles of thousands, nay millions, of not just Windows PCs but also Apple Mac desktops and notebooks.
Windows Vista, Microsoft’s first new operating system in more than five years, failed to live up to its hype. While it was an improvement over Windows XP in terms of eye candy, streamlined features and functionality, improved stability and in-built support, it was not compelling or earth-shattering enough to make people want an upgrade on existing PCs. Apple launched an OS too—the Apple OS X 10.5, or Leopard, also launched in late 2007 with more than 300 features—the biggest system update in Mac history—including backup and navigation tweaks, and workspace customization.
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