- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

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 hand-held 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, as phishing is on the rise.

I’ll confess that I finally “get” the whole 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 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 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 applications last year, although a new consumer product or two will likely bow this year. 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 year.

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.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www3.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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