WARNING: This blog contains random thoughts on technology, software engineering, and general all-round nerdery. Read at your own risk. Nerd is contagious.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

3 Things that made 2007 great for the tech industry

It's hard to believe that 2007 is almost over! We've had quite a year, from the increasing heated battle in HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray to Vista & Leopard being released to Adobe's Flex and AIR platform begin to take mindshare in the RIA landscape.

However these are 3 things which I think we will thank 2007 for:

iPhone
The iPhone was the kick-in-the-ass that the mobile industry needed for cell phone manufacturers to realize what can and should be expected of a mobile device. Begun, the clone wars has, but at least someone has set a high bar for usability.

More importantly though, the iPhone has showed to the world what happens when a wireless carrier gives complete control of a phone's feature-set to those who actually know something about usability. Typically wireless carriers make the decisions on what gets supported on a phone, and even what features get crippled (*ahem* Verizon).

Now, Verizon has even announced that in 2008 that they will "open" up their cell phone network to any compatible device. Basically, this means B.Y.O.Phone, but this is an important landmark that hopefully starts a trend in the mobile industry - that consumers should have the choice in their phone and not be told by their phone server which phone they can use. Yeah, there's the GSM/CDMA compatibility issue, but that's a technical limitation, not a policy.

Even AT&T is rumored to be adopting a similar policy on their network. This is huge, folks, this is huge...

DRM Death Tolls
Finally, Digital Rights Management has started to erode. What was once something we could never see happening, is happening. EMI, iTunes, Amazon, Walmart all now offer DRM-free music on their service. This means that you can get your music in typically MP3 and that file is free to be placed where you want to listen to it - in your car, in your iPod and on your computer.

Finally
, the music studios realized that DRM only hurts your honest customers and does little to actually stop the ones worth stopping. (I'm not saying they're going with win that battle, but at least music that is not crippled with DRM is now readily and easily available to the general public).

Microsoft learns a valuable lesson
2007 was the year that Vista painfully birthed itself in the world. It brought with it tons of complaints, software incompatibilities and a poorly executed User Account Control scheme. But is it all Microsoft's fault? Not really...

A large portion of complaints in Vista were software incompatibilities. Heck, my iTunes doesn't work right, which is worthy of another separate post. See the thing is, Microsoft's made their beta version available for years before Vista came out! It's not Microsoft's fault if all the software companies languished and didn't bother until after to release new drivers (nVidia) or new software updates (Apple, though could be on purpose).

Vista laptops were so horribly crippled by the deluge of 3rd party shareware crap that gets added on by the likes of Dell, HP, et. al., that it ruined the Vista experience for many people. Again, this is not Microsoft's fault, because they only sell Vista to the manufacturer, then the manufacturer puts crap like Free Trial Quicken! Real Player! on their machines.

Vista, installed clean, is actually quite nice to use, once you get User Account Control under control. That blame is squarely on MS for not doing it the right way (like in Linux or OS X). But, at the end of the day, Microsoft learned a valuable lesson: It may not be your fault that 3rd parties have tarnished your image, but they damn well better be doing something about it!

Hopefully in 2008 and beyond, Microsoft will try to maintain some control in the end-user experience of its software. Take a page out of Apple's book. Those guys control everything.

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