30 December 2007

2007: the year in tech

XO-1 laptop
Unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, the $100 laptop for children in developing countries went into full-scale production on 6 November this year. It uses flash memory instead of a hard drive and is equipped with a video camera, microphone, long-range Wi-Fi and a hybrid stylus/touch pad. All its software will be free and open source. You can donate one at One Laptop per Child.

Apple iPhone
If you can sell 270,000 products at $599 in the first 30 hours of release, you know every cent of your marketing budget was well spent. The most hyped product of the year was launched into an eager fanboy market and garnered lots of initial praise for its design innovations. A few weeks later, however, the dust settled and the reality emerged: tied to one carrier without 3G, crappy camera, the same battery trouble as iPods, overheating ... the list went on. The second-generation iPhone is on its way in 2008 – and, knowing Apple, the third, fourth and fifth as well.

It poked the world and the world loved it. Facebook has more than 58 million users and another 250,000 join every day. Microsoft bought a minority stake for $240m, putting its valuation at $15bn. Its 23-year-old founder, Mark Zuckerberg, sat next to Rupert Murdoch at Herbert Allen's Sun Valley conference. Simple to use and elegantly designed, users don't show signs of fighting its walled-garden approach. Yet.

When MIT unveiled its wireless electricity by lighting a 60W light bulb from two metres away – and through a wall – it signalled the death knell of rechargers. Expect commercial versions in three years. It turns out old Nikola Tesla had it right all along.

If you told me 10 years ago that a Nintendo system would be the best-selling game console I would have smacked you upside the head with an N64 cartridge. But the Wii turned out to have appeal beyond traditional gamers. It's the first time a product has been the Christmas must-have two years running, outselling the PS3 six to one. Amazon sold 17 every second in December and Nintendo admits it can't keep up with demand.

TV 2.0
Still in its infancy, the convergence of broadcast television and the internet will be huge news in 2008. Joost – from the people who brought you Skype – and video-on-demand services like the BBC's iPlayer are just the beginning.

The Google phone
Coming soon: not a piece of hardware but Google AdWords-supported software that will result in free mobile calls. Ads on your phone as a step forward? I'd rather pay.

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