Well 2005 was a funny old year in the IT world. It saw several events of the “it could never happen” type – the kind few people previously imagined would ever come to pass.
The first shock came right at the end of 2004, when IBM disclosed it was selling its PC business to Chinese firm Lenovo. Although analyst firm Gartner had said the division was ripe to be spun off, the news that the inventor of the PC platform was getting out of the market was still hard for many people to believe.
Later came news that Palm, the firm credited with defining the modern handheld computer, was working on a Treo smartphone running the Windows Mobile platform from arch-rival Microsoft. To Palm devotees, this must have seemed as unthinkable as the president of the US deciding to join the Communist Party.
This was followed in September by Steve Jobs’ revelation that Apple would switch to Intel chips for future Mac systems. This must have shocked Mac fans, many of whom seem to regard Intel-based PCs as the work of the devil.
Perhaps in the future, we will look back on 2005 as a pivotal year when paradigms really were shifted and old certainties finally had to give way to the harsh reality of the 21st century market.
What developments can we expect to see in 2006? An obvious prediction is that dual-core technology will become more commonplace, as Intel will introduce both a desktop and laptop platform featuring dual-core processors.
Both platforms will include Intel’s Virtualisation Technology (VT) to boost virtual machine operation. Virtualisation is a hot topic in servers, but how will firms use it in client systems? Gartner suggests virtualisation can isolate users from hardware changes, so migrations can be as easy as copying virtual Windows PCs from one hard disk to another. Will we all end up using virtual machines this way?
Another trend in 2005 was consolidation among firms providing mobility solutions: Seven bought mobile email company Smartner, Extended Systems was acquired by iAnywhere Solutions, and Nokia announced its intention to buy Intellisync. Meanwhile, a big question mark hangs over mobile email pioneer RIM and its BlackBerry systems.
And what of Microsoft? Windows Vista is due next year, and will supposedly be the most significant release in a decade. However, its feature set is still fluid, and parts of the new OS – such as the user interface – will be available as add-ons to Windows XP.
This means that Vista’s phase-in may be more gradual than other Windows releases. I predict most staff will still be running XP well into 2007, and possibly beyond.