Cyberville forecast for high-tech in 2007


Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 31, 2006 at 12:48 a.m.
As today's Cyberville column falls on the first of the year, I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on what we're most likely to see develop in the high-tech and new media fields over the coming year.
  • Widespread use of portable GPS systems: The last two months of 2006 saw a major drop in the price of portable GPS systems, including those for use in automobiles. A GPS, or navigation system allows users to pinpoint their location nearly anywhere on the planet and navigate from that point to any other point.
    Navigation systems in automobiles have previously been an item costing as much as $2,000, but new portable units from a wide range of manufacturers are beginning to appear at prices under $300. Some units also offer extra features such as the ability to play MP3 files, or even MPEG movies, through a unit's headphone jack or built-in FM transmitter.
    Navigation systems have considerable potential usage for frequent travelers, drivers making deliveries, or persons traveling unfamiliar roads - especially at night or in bad weather. Cell phone companies are also beginning to offer GPS services at a monthly fee. Cyberville will delve more into GPS systems in the coming months.
  • Slow starts for Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007: New computers featuring Windows Vista will begin appearing on store shelves in early 2007. While there will be advantages for users who use a lot of multimedia, or a large amount of multi-tasking, most users will not see major appreciable benefits for some time. All-new software has to be written, and purchased, to fully take advantage of Vista's 64-bit operating system.
    PCs and software have now reached a level of development and maturity that the great leaps forward in technology common over the last decade are becoming fewer. The reality is that most newer PCs running Windows XP and one of the later versions of MS Office perform most common office, e-mail and Internet tasks more than adequately, with the biggest problems being viruses, adware and spyware which slow a system down, rather than any fundamental system weakness.
  • Continuing development of the cell phone for photography and media playback.: 2006 saw significant development in the areas of camera phones and media playback for cell phones, and 2007 can be expected to see even more.
    Cell phone companies have found a new revenue stream in delivering music to mobile phones, not unlike Apple's iTunes/iPod system for portable music devices. More and more cell phones are coming equipped with memory slots onto which music and movies can be added. New phones from Palm, LG, Motorola and other manufacturers are rapidly developing this market.
  • Windows 98 systems largely die off: In 2006 Microsoft discontinued support for Windows 98. Most Windows 98 systems are now more than five years old, and cannot handle much more than basic web surfing, e-mail and word processing.
    The cost of a new computer is such that it now rarely makes sense to upgrade an older system which has only a fraction of the performance of even today's least expensive systems. Remember that hard drives will eventually fail, and it's a good idea to backup your critical data to move to a new system. USB flash drives costing less than $30 can store a lifetime of e-mail or letters for most persons.
    Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears each Monday. He can be reached at webgator@bellsouth.net or www.tvccs.com.
    His columns also are available at www.gainesvillesun.com.
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