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Ten things to beware of in 2008

They may never happen
Mon Jan 21 2008, 17:07

IT'S EARLY in a new year of IT warfare. It's time for new alliances to be forged and great battles to be fought. While scrutinising the murky waters of the IT future can be difficult at best, we have seen from the past years that what goes around, comes around and, where there's smoke, there's fire. So where do we head from here? Since we've just entered 2008, some more or less cautious assumptions are in order. Stakeholders shouldn't put their fortunes on this though.

1. Blu-ray's popularisation

Although not entirely surprising, Blu's almost assured victory in the world of HD content will be a thing of the past soon. The HD initials will still haunt us because the disc itself will still mostly be used for storing High Definition content, but that's about the only thing which will remain from the poor old HD-DVD acronym. As soon as the dust settles over this long and tiresome debate, we'll be invaded by plenty of burners and the corresponding media upon which to inscribe data. Prices will drop and it shouldn't be long until we'll all posses units which merrily burn zeros and ones with blue-violet lasers.

Still, there's one memory of a certain incident which happened a few years ago concerning one rather eminent member of the Blu-ray Disc Association. It's that old rootkit squabble which brought Sony under the crosshairs of both hardware and software analysts. A pity for the people at the Repression of Information Association of America (RIAA) that Sony failed to get away with that. Let's just hope they don't get any funny ideas on "expanding the capabilities" of the Blu-ray disc.

2. Intel's hibernation
After wiping the floor with AMD in the past 18 months, Intel has it easy these days, almost too easy. It's obvious to see what the absence of proper combat in the CPU arena brings: boredom. The lack of sparking innovations in this sector got most hardware websites reviewing budget CPUs and writing articles about o verclocking God-knows-what. AMD put a brave face and got back to the drawing board and we can expect them to recover nicely. But until then, Intel has the crown, whether we like it or not. And they know that. That's too bad, because whether it's because of design problems or simply because they don't have a serious competitor, they keep a rather relaxed timeline on new top products. Intel simply doesn't have any reason to hurry things up. And that's ok for now, since uber-CPUs are up for grabs at bargain prices.

AMD on the other hand will probably use 2008 to pick up the gauntlet and teach Intel some comeback lessons. Some claim the new Opteron isn't so bad, especially in the power consumption segment, while the Phenom proves to be an able contender in the value sector. But what will happen with AMD's financial situation? While Intel can afford three more market defeats, AMD can barely handle one. Let's all hope we'll have a serious competition out there at the end of this year, no matter who's the winner.

3. Less freedom
The past years have statistically proven that efforts are continuously mounting towards an all-out offensive against all sorts of online or real life liberties. While an Orwellian society is still out of the question, we should all expect the big names in DRM and such to push things even further against online information sharing. And, as some money hungry leaders get even more preoccupied with controlling the masses and everything which moves online or offline, expect less freedom everywhere.

4. XP's triumph over Vista
The number one question is... will we really be forced to switch to Windows hasta la Vista? Even though Microsoft is putting all efforts into that, apparently, the more money they invest, the greater the resistance to their born-handicapped child. Will really pulling the plug on XP this summer solve anything? First of all, there's still a good chance that Microsoft will change its plan. Secondly, millions of people across the world use XP without the need for live updates and such without the slightest problem. Even Windows 98 lingered on a while at good percentages after it got its ticket to heaven from the Vole. 2008 may very well see the good old XP holding the front against the lumbering sack of confirmation dialog boxes also known as Vista.

5. The rise of SSD
If 2007 represented the commercial introduction for end users of the Solid State Drives, 2008 may very well be the breakout year for these devices. Last year was dominated by the first attempts of various companies to produce and market SSD and things were rather chaotic, with very confusing price ranges, availability and performance. It is to be expected that this will all be sorted out until the last days of this year and, as the hardware manufacturers iron-out some of the imperfections of the technology, we will see a much broader offer in both spectrums of interest, price and capacity. In the future, we'll probably use SSD for our OS partitions and magnetic drives to store high volume data.

6. More physics mania
It should come as no surprise to anybody when all the following games, especially First Person Shooters, will all feature physically realistic environments where the gamer can indulge in the use of fancy weapons which manipulate objects. After games like Doom 3 and Half Life 2 popularized the stuff, in-game physics, fancy effects and real-world behaviour of objects has become the norm for any respectable game. So what of the companies which hope to squeeze a profit out of this?

Right now, Ageia is still in the game with Intel preparing some heavy assault now that they got Havok in their pocket. Envy-dia and DAAMIT would have hoped for some piece of the pie when Havok announced that they'll enable their SDK to work on the GPUs produced by the two companies. Too bad Intel decided to scrap that and now the reds and the greens are left scratching their heads in search of other competitive solutions to enter the gravity gun hungry gamers segment. Nevertheless, 2008 will definitely see the heat in this battle step up a notch. Today, physics is clearly <i>the</i> trend to follow, as it was in the past few years.

7. Video boredom
In a striking similarity with the CPU arena, the DAAMIT camp lies somewhere in the far corner, beaten and licking its wounds. Nobody contests that the new video cards based on the latest evolutions of the RV chipset are giving nVidia a run for their money in the value segment, but the number 1 spot is still firmly in the clutches of the GeForce 8 series... and the number 2 spot, and the number 3, and so on. This situation is likely to change somewhere in the summer if we don't get more delays from Canada, but even so, Envy-dia isn't too alert these days. They're too busy messing with the naming of their products. As if it wasn't enough that in the past years ATi named their products using the Chaos Theory.

8. MySQL to shine
Sun's acquisition of MySQL puts them in a very comfy position in the world of software developers. Java is still being used across the globe with a constant popularity, defying Microsoft's monopolistic efforts. The fact that MySQL now has such an illustrious master will probably be good for everybody. Sun became quite open saucy lately and this seems to be working out nicely for them. What's most important is that Microsoft's SQL Server might be facing some very heavy fire quite soon. MySQL was popular enough without Sun's involvement, but a good capital injection together with some know-how, strong business partners and vast opportunities might bring MySQL to heights not previously suspected.

9. Apple to fool more people
Never underestimate the power of fruity marketing. Apple, the company which spawned the telly computer and made a hard disk sing mp3s and then gave it a fancy name to sell millions will most likely be just fine in 2008. Even though the iFoam doesn't have the predicted success, the Fruit has plenty of momentum and there are a lot of people out there which didn't yet realize that the device which Apple is selling is a bunch of restrictions packed together under a shiny hood. Just a bit less annoying than Vista, the iPhone is trailing almost all the other PDA-Phone producers not only in features but also in price, since the gizmo costs a lot more than it offers. Alas, here's to the power of seemingly smart naming and powerful marketing strategies.

10. That incredible news
Haven't you heard it? It's unbelievable, fantastic, shocking, amazing and unexpected. You bet we're going to hear about it sometimes this year. It's impossible to guess what it is and will come out of the blue and strike us all senseless. Each year in the IT world holds at least one of these bombs. That's the beauty of the game, not knowing when it'll hit. µ


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