2007: The year in tech


Well, here we are folks, the final issue of the year. So many ideas come to mind. Top 10 best tech products of the year? Top 10 worst tech products of the year? 2007 winners and losers? I suppose we could revisit the year using some sort of gimmicky list like that but I’m not sure that we need to–given that every tech publication under the sun is bursting with lists this time of year. That being the case, I thought I would just play it straight this time around: here’s a look back at the biggest stories of the past year, broken up into a few categories and companies.

Enterprise Technology

Microsoft: So, what better way to kick things off than a look back at the year in Microsoft, eh? Obviously, the biggest story this year was Vista, which as we all know, didn’t live up to either the enterprise’s or Microsoft’s expectations. Still, Vista is just one part of what Microsoft does in the enterprise and for everything that went wrong with Vista, there’s something else that Microsoft did right this year.

As far as I’m concerned, the biggest news this year is that Microsoft finally addressed one of the longest standing complaints from its customers–the fact that it has been less than timely with patches, fixes and service packs. While the company stayed the course with “Patch Tuesday” this year, they also accelerated development for two oft-delayed products: Windows XP SP3 and Windows Vista SP1, both of which are now on track for release in January. Additionally, the company released service packs for a number of smaller products like Exchange Server and *gasp!* they were on time, if not early.

On the mobile front, the company managed to get Windows Mobile 6 out the door and announced System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, the company’s biggest enterprise mobile product yet. Sure, we’ve all still got gripes with the Windows Mobile platform but the company has acknowledged that they’re actively working to make things more user-friendly.

Given the large number of high-profile enterprise products that Microsoft has in the pipeline for next year and the company’s new focus on enterprise mobility, I think it’s safe to say that the boys and girls in Redmond are gearing up for a big year in 2008. If they can sell a few more copies of Vista along the way, they’ll have a little icing to go with that cake.

Dell: Dell really started this year off on a bad foot–once the king of the PC vendor hill, 2007 saw Dell ceding its throne to HP amid revenue losses and brand issues. Still, the company managed to build up a lot of momentum during the second half of the year–launching a series of colorful laptops that were so popular that they couldn’t meet demand, getting an all-in-one PC out of the door to compete with HP and Apple and finally releasing the Latitude XT, a product that while expensive, is also quite possibly the most drool-worthy machine we’ve ever seen from Round Rock. Sure, Dell is still in a tight spot, no doubt about that–but it does look like they’ve learned some lessons and are well positioned to hit the ground running in 2008.

HP: When you hear HP, it might be ink jet printers that come to mind but this year, the company showed that it can dominate the PC space like no other. A lot of the company’s momentum in 2007 came from server products, a space in which HP has been aggressively working to take on more entrenched rivals like IBM and Sun. It probably didn’t hurt that the company’s sales of laptops and desktops were nothing to sneeze at and that the absorption of Compaq’s consumer products continued successfully. It would have been nice to see those iPaqs ship on time but that’s grasping at straws: in 2007, HP relished its position at the top of the PC vendor heap.

Intel: It’s hard for me to think of a company that enjoyed a better run in 2007 than chipmaking giant Intel. They continued their dominance of the PC CPU space, further marginalizing rival AMD; they flexed their R&D muscle, releasing 45nm CPUs ahead of schedule; they continued to push aggressively into emerging markets like mobile processors and UMPCs; and they successfully muscled their way into the Open Handset Alliance, WiMAX hardware development and pretty much any other forward-looking niche you can think of. If 2008 is as kind to Intel as 2007 was–and we’ve got every indication that it will be–it’s going to get harder and harder for the competition to catch up as the years go by.

AMD: Like I said, it’s hard for me to think of a company that enjoyed a better run in 2007 than Intel and subsequently, it’s hard for me to think of a company that had a worse year than AMD. AMD spent all year playing catch up with Intel, promising that high-tech products were on the horizon–though most of them failed to materialize in 2007. The company’s Quad FX product was a disappointment, it struggled to transition to a 65nm manufacturing process as Intel was moving on to 45nm and Barcelona, the company’s great white hope, was plagued by manufacturing problems. To its credit, AMD admitted to its mistakes and pledged to do better in 2008. Still, without seeing a roadmap for exactly how the company plans to right the ship, it’s a little difficult to maintain optimism after the fiasco that was this past year.

Consumer Technology

Apple: iPhone. Enough said.

Okay, as much as I’d like to leave it at that, Apple did too much in 2007 to simply boil the company down to its most sensational, headline-grabbing, profile-raising product. In 2007, the company finally released OS 10.5 Leopard, which proved to be a runaway success, continued to see unprecedented growth in its laptop division, released a whole new lineup of iPods and completely redesigned the popular iMac all-in-one. It wasn’t all roses in 2007 though: the Apple TV failed to meet expectations and the company gave its professional customers the cold shoulder, with no major upgrades to the MacPro or Xserve lineup. All-in-all, 2007 was yet another wildly successful year for Apple and if the company continues to grow at this pace, they’ll soon come to dominate the consumer space in terms of both design leadership and sales.

Asus: Asus’ little Eee PC seemed to come out of nowhere but make no mistake: the tiny machine had a huge impact on the consumer PC industry this year. By selling flash-based, ultraportable Linux laptops for $400 or less, Asus essentially invented a new product category–the disposable laptop. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only two signs of the Eee PC’s success that really matter: the fact that people are already modding the heck out of it and the fact that a number of other manufacturers are scrambling to play copycat. 2008 might bring an attack of the clones but as long as Asus continues to refine the already attractive Eee, they should have no problem dominating the space.

Mobile Technology

Verizon: Ah, last but not least, we arrive at mobile and what better place to start than with the industry’s 8000 lb. gorilla? Verizon, being Verizon, did essentially the same thing this year that they do every year: they made tons and tons of money. But that’s not to say that the company went without its fair share of struggles. Verizon did lose some subscribers following the advent of the iPhone and while the company spent most of this year searching for an “iPhone killer,” it never quite found one. Still, Verizon managed to finish off the year in a big way, countering years of negative PR by announcing that they will completely open up their network to outside devices. We’ll all have to wait for next year to see if they really follow through on that promise but if they do, we could all see Verizon in a very different light, come next year.

Sprint: Oh Sprint, I just want to love you but you have to make it so hard, don’t you? To be fair, the company faced major challenges this past year in terms of both finances and leadership. Still, Sprint managed to launch a number of really exciting handsets like the HTC Touch and the Palm Centro and its forthcoming XOHM WiMAX network sounds better and better with each passing day. If Sprint can somehow get XOHM off the ground, 2008 could be the year that it delivers  true mobile broadband and in a big way.

AT&T: There’s no denying that AT&T had a wildly successful year–the iPhone’s success was undeniable and a number of exciting business handsets like the Tilt helped the company maintain enterprise cred even as it courted the consumer market. Despite these successes, I can’t help but feel like AT&T missed a big opportunity to get out in front of one of the year’s most important issues: the idea of the open network. With T-Mobile and Sprint both members of the OHA and Verizon opening up its network on its own terms, AT&T could find itself the lone holdout in a sea of more open networks.

T-Mobile: 2007 was a good year for T-Mobile from an innovation perspective–the company launched its innovative HotSpot@Home service, joined the much-ballyhooed Open Handset Alliance and launched a number of new consumer-oriented devices like the Sidekick lineup. Still, the company failed to deliver on the technology side: HotSpot was plagued with issues late in the year and the company’s Sidekick Slide had to be pulled from shelves due to a defect. In 2008, T-Mobile needs to hammer out some of those issues while also launching a few new phones for folks to get excited about. Luckily, Android should help out with that latter issue, if everything goes according to plan.

HTC: HTC started the year as an unknown quantity to many–a contract manufacturer, most of HTC’s best devices were white-labeled under someone else’s name. Yet at the close of 2007, you’d be hard-pressed to find a technophile who isn’t aware of HTC’s accomplishments. They’ve definitely got this Windows Mobile smartphone thing down to an art, churning out devices like the Touch, Tilt and Shift like there’s no tomorrow. With Android on the horizon, 2008 could be the year that HTC finally finds a mobile platform that’s as elegant and functional as the devices that they manufacture.

Palm: Palm definitely took its fair share of lumps this past year, especially as far as finances are concerned but things are looking up for the Sunnyvale company in 2008. Sure, they canceled their much-derided Foleo product but in doing so, proved that they’re listening to their customers and taking criticism to heart. The company also launched their first non-touchscreen phone (the Treo 500v) and their first non-business phone (the well-loved, $100 Centro), demonstrating that they’re willing to think outside of the Treo box as they move forward. Sure, the company still has quite a way to go but under the guidance of new executive chairman and former Apple exec Jon Rubinstein, Palm shows a great deal promise for the new year.

Well, there you have it folks, the year in review. Of course, I’ve probably missed a few of the year’s big stories, trends and products–no list is totally definitive, after all–so feel free to chime in in the comments with your thoughts. DailyTechRag won’t be publishing next week, on account of the holidays but we’ll be back in your inbox on January 2nd with a list of predictions for the new year. Until then, here’s hoping that everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. –Mehan 

More stories about Windows Vista   Sun Microsystems   Microsoft   Windows XP   Patches   Microsoft Exchange  


I can’t believe how this rags on and on about Microsoft and what they did or didn’t do. Who cares? Forget Microsoft and just use Ubuntu, for God’s sake.

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