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The Year Ahead: Tech Predictions For 2007

What's ahead in the world of technology in 2007? No one can say for sure, but that doesn't make the tradition of making predictions any less enjoyable. More than many other areas, technology is all about transition. And the year ahead promises transitions in tech that are nothing short of dramatic.

-- Windows Vista uptake slow

Microsoft's much-ballyhooed Windows Vista operating system will be available to everyone early in 2007, but don't expect the earth to move when it's released.

People are tired of upgrading - especially when the benefits of doing so are difficult to articulate or uninspiring. That's the problem with Microsoft's Vista operating system in a nutshell.

When you hear talk of Vista, the focus is on a pretty new interface. Is that enough to tempt the masses to disrupt their current setup and face the inevitable incompatibilities and loss of productivity that switching to Vista will entail? It's a tough sell - except to those who enjoy technology for technology's sake. For the rest of the population, though - those who actually use computer to accomplish tasks - Vista is a yawner.

--- Spyware and malware

Forget computer viruses. The real threat to your productivity in 2007 and beyond will be spyware and malware, which will come at you from every corner of the Internet and threaten to slow your work to a halt - not to mention steal your identity and financial account information.

The antivirus software makers, focused as they are on traditional computer viruses, have been slow to respond - and when they have, their solutions have fallen short. So currently users are forced to rely on a smattering of programs like the free Ad-Aware that root out these Internet-borne threats. Expect the spyware problem to get worse before good tools come along to fix the mess.

--- Spam under control

Spam won't be going away in 2007 - far from it. One recent report indicated that spam now accounts for over 90 per cent of all e-mail messages that e-mail users receive.

But because spam catching technologies are becoming close to fool- proof, you'll probably see less spam if you take reasonable measures to circumvent it. And even if you don't, the amount of spam that reaches your inbox should decline in 2007. That's because e-mail authentication technologies used by Internet service providers have changed for the better how spam is identified. And once spammers are identified, the strict policies in place at most service providers can be used to clamp down on spamming activities.

--- User-based content is king

Traditional news media are already reeling, trying to cope with the loss of readership and ad revenue as the sources of news and information proliferate on the Internet. Google's YouTube and the myriad blogging sites around the Internet have put individuals in control of "creating" news and information of interest to the public. You can expect such sites to continue to gain popularity in 2007, further intensifying the competition for readers' time.

--- Wi-fi gets serious

The dream of "Internet everywhere" is going to come a good deal closer to reality in 2007, as the global rollout of wi-fi hotspots picks up steam. Offering wireless Internet connectivity is good for everyone - for municipalities whose citizens benefit from it, for businesses that attract customers and good-will by offering it, and certainly for the roaming masses that use it.

On the home front, wi-fi products that conform to the new, speedy 802.11n wireless transmission standard will hit the market, offering wireless speeds that truly rival today's wired networks.

--- It's all about the Web

As Internet connectivity becomes ubiquitous, the Internet itself will be host to more of the applications we use on a daily basis. 2007 will see the clear emergence of that trend. Web-based word processors, spreadsheets, collaboration tools, wikis, blogs, and user-generated applications will begin to blur the distinction between what's on our PCs and what's on the Web. Already Google has trotted out a host of Web-based office applications. Expect to see other companies follow suit.

--- No clear winner in HD-DVD and Blu-Ray wars

Right now in the world of video and television, it's all about high definition. But whose version? That's the question. Right now when it comes to high-def DVDs, there are two competing standards: HD-DVD, championed by Toshiba and others, and Blu-Ray, championed by Sony and others. Only foolhardy consumers with lots of money are choosing sides at this point - since DVD players that use either standard are expensive and, of course, not compatible with the other standard.

In 2007, expect no clear winner to emerge out of this battle of standards. The reason: the highly available and reasonably-priced "upconverting" DVD players, which take today's DVDs and upsample them for the high-def televisions, are plenty good enough for most people. That leaves the high-def DVD standard bearers fighting it out for a public that is increasingly apathetic about who emerges victorious.

If the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray goes on long enough, another solution or option altogether is likely to emerge to make the standards war meaningless.

By Jay Dougherty, Dpa

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