posted by on 31st December 2007, at 3:23pm

Yes, that’s 2008 in binary.

By the time you read this article, it will be 2008. I think a new year warrants some predictions, so it’s time for my predictions of 2008 in tech. Will Apple finally overtake Microsoft? Will this be the hailed ‘Year of Linux’? We shall find out over the next twelve months. But here’s what I think will happen.

1. Microsoft will continue to suck

That was somewhat of a harsh way to start, I know. But over the last year, Microsoft have not been met with the most brilliant of cheers. Windows Vista was, to be honest, an epic failure. Windows still remains to be the counter-intuitive, illogical operating system it always has been, and to add to that, there’s the DRM, there’s the fact so many things have moved around since XP, and there’s the fact that it’s a power-hungry resource-hog. The only thing that could possibly have redeemed Vista was the reception from gamers, and this reception has been somewhat non-existent. Sure, DX10 is better than DX9. But while the rest of the operating system saps system resources by the bucketload, you may as well not have that next version of DirectX in there. There’s also the fact that there are only 13 games currently available which support DirectX 10. Thirteen. That’s puny.

And Windows Vista SP1 doesn’t look like it will make much difference whatsoever. They may finally be removing the Windows Genuine ‘Advantage’ crap, because there was such a violent response to it, and they may be adding support for EFI and ‘improving stability’ and various other things, but this change will still not be enough to turn people over to Vista. Microsoft have already had to extend the lifetime of Windows XP, and they’re probably going to have to do it again, because various huge vendors like Dell, as well as others, are offering downgrades to Windows XP. This is the first time this has happened in Microsoft’s history – manufacturers offering downgrades.

Of course, there is one good thing that will come out of Microsoft this year, on January 15th, and that is Microsoft Office for Mac 2008. I will certainly be getting myself a copy of that.

2. Apple will continue to be awesome, and the Mac will gain market share

2007 has already been, arguably, Apple’s best year ever. Market share has soared beyond all expectations. Millions of new Macs have been sold, a lot of them to ‘switchers’ moving from Windows to Macintosh (including me, and Shane, incidentally). This has also been helped along by the fact that Windows Vista was so terrible, with various professionals who had worked with Windows for years saying they would switch to Mac because of Vista.

And of course, the iPhone, iPods, and Mac OS X Leopard have all been met with such a fantastic reception this year. The iPhone and iPods, as well as Mac OS X Leopard, have all been immensely impressive products. The iPhone, while initially thought to be ridiculously expensive, has sold more than a million units worldwide in just a few months of its release. In fact, of devices browsing the internet, the iPhone is more popular than Windows Mobile (compare iPhone and Windows CE).

And in 2008 Apple will also continue to innovate and grow in popularity. A 3G-enabled iPhone is going to be released next year, and there are rumours of a sub-notebook Mac laptop as well. We can expect many more great things from Apple in 2008.

As well as Apple innovating, there will also be more consideration into the Mac platform from software developers. A six or seven percent share is a fair chunk of of Microsoft’s dominance, and there are going to be many new and old developers, including games creators, who will make Mac OS X versions of their software. This includes Blizzard, who are going to be releasing Starcraft 2 on Windows and OS X concurrently.

3. It could be the year of Linux

But it’s unlikely. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of devices running some form of Linux in 2007, including the ASUS EeePC and many new mobile phones. Various governments have also been switching to Linux, and the hailed $100 laptop (which actually ended up costing closer to $200) runs a version of Linux. KDE4 is due to be released in two weeks time, the next version of the K Desktop Environment for Unix and Linux-based systems, which boasts improved graphics and to be more intuitive than the previous version. This will remain to be seen, but the beta versions are certainly promising.

This is not, however, the only reason Linux could make it big. With Windows Vista, computers need to be far more powerful than they have previously had to be. Lower-end machines cannot easily run Vista, and Apple aren’t really in the business of selling low-end computers either, which leaves a gaping hole at that end of the market that Linux-based machines could easily fill. And the EeePC and gPC already are starting to fill it.

As well as computers, however, Linux will grow in popularity on smaller devices as well. There are alarm clocks that run Linux, mobile phones that run Linux, a lot of routers now run Linux, and in 2008 more and more devices will probably be based on the open-source brainchild of Linus Torvalds.

4. Computers will get more powerful

Of course we knew this already. By the end of the year, almost all Windows and Mac computers will be equipped with 2GB of RAM. Lower-end Linux machines may stay with smaller amounts of RAM, but even those computers will have an increased amount of RAM, storage space and processor speed as time goes by. This year we can also expect the rise of multi-core processors more, with quad-core CPUs going into laptops and desktops on a more regular basis.

And in 2008 we could see two or five terabytes all within a single hard drive. 2007 saw 1TB hard drives from Western Digital, Hitachi and other companies. Computer storage will keep increasing further.

5. It could be a strange year for PC gaming

Why? Because Microsoft sucks.

DirectX 10, the newest version of DirectX, is Vista-only. There are supposedly some technical reasons for this, but this fact alone makes some very large problems. Vista currently has a rather small market share, comparable more to Mac OS X than to Windows XP. Making a DX10-only game is thus not financially viable for any developer, whatsoever. Of course, they can add some DX10 enhancements, but it has to be mostly developed for Windows XP’s DX9. Because of this, developers can’t really make any extreme leaps in graphics improvement, since doing so would mean those still on XP would not be able to play the game. Basically: Microsoft are stifling innovation (so what’s new?).

Because of this problem with graphics frameworks, the whole PC gaming industry could change. There could be a mass shift over to OpenGL, the graphics framework originally for professionals that is available on Linux, Mac OS X, Windows XP and Windows Vista. Or it is possible that game developers push their innovation in other areas of the game, such as gameplay, NPC intelligence, and so on. If this were to happen, it could prove to be one of the greatest years for computer gaming ever, since people are really concentrating on improving something other than just the graphics. We’ll have to wait and see.

Of course, with the increasing power of computers, games will be able to become significantly more complex in terms of NPCs, storylines, AI, physics and so on, but the graphics will be reaching their limit – there is only a certain amount DX9 can do. While the game itself will be more complex, what the user sees may not be.

6. The RIAA and MPAA will stay sue-happy. But it could be the end of DRM.

Fact 1: People have, up until now, been able to buy DRM-free music. Fact 2: People hate DRM. Fact 3: There has been a 20% drop in sales of music.

Yes, that’s right. Twenty percent drop in sales. Perhaps the record labels will finally start to see that the old and outdated model of selling music which was CDs and nothing else is possibly starting to go stale. And a lot of people are starting to stay away from digital downloads loaded in DRM. In 2007, EMI and various other smaller labels dropped DRM from the iTunes store, marking what could be a new era in music. DRM – technologies designed to restrict the use of media – have proven to be very unpopular.

I’m sure you wouldn’t be happy buying a CD that was in a locked box, would you. You can only play this music by putting the whole locked box inside an ‘authorized’ player, which opens the locked box and plays it for you; but when you want to get the music out again, it remains in that locked box. It’s technology that throttles your own rights over your own property. It’s a technology that has a campaign against it. DRM is one of the reasons Vista was met with such a harsh reception, because Microsoft bowed to the Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America (RIAA and MPAA) and because of the DRM loaded into Vista, you can’t watch HD films in full definition. Because they don’t trust you. This is an inherently unfair technology against everyone.

And so, it could be the end of DRM. Will music sales increase, though? I don’t know. The music industry have been generally slow to adapt to the new digital age of music, and really need to get moving if they want to stay alive. How they’re going to do it, if they will, remains to be seen.

Of course, we will have to see what 2008 brings. But this is what I think I expect.

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