- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

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. Finally, LANs became standard issue for offices and the joke is barely remembered.

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 a year of relatively little extraordinary.

That’s not a complaint, 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 also a new version of the Mac OS X, Tiger, as well.

Yet the year just ended wasn’t a particularly revolutionary one for computing. 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.

For its part, Microsoft Corp. introduced no new versions of its operating system, Windows, or its core productivity application, Office. Such may arrive this year, although releases from the company have been known to miss promised shipping dates.

With the looming arrival of 64-bit processors for PCs, it is likely that the 64-bit version of Windows that has been undergoing a public 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.

One of the most surprising 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, 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 a little longer to get in the Pentium groove, but it will happen this yearr, the company has said.

If Microsoft and Apple are 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.

VoIP is a technology that offers some true advantages, not the least of which are much lower cost for service and greater flexibility in using advanced calling features such as simultaneous ringing and call forwarding.

Perhaps the greatest continuing development this year will be the continued convergence of hand-held 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, Global Positioning System functions, and phone calls, but it can seem overwhelming.

And don’t forget personal entertainment. As flat-screen digital TVs begin to “take over,” some computer manufacturer or software develope will come up with a computer that will manage your video needs, record new shows and let you work, or at least Web surf, on a 36-inch screen.

• E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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