Promising Tech Products for 2007

by Todd Ogasawara

As 2006 was drawing to a close, Microsoft's Bill Hilf assembled a list on the Port 25 site he called The 15 Most Useful Technologies for me in 2006. People who make assumptions about what a high-level Microsoft manager would choose for his list might be surprised. Sure, there are Microsoft products in the list. But, his list also included Apple's iWeb, Parallels Desktop for Mac, and Ruby on Rails. You should really take a look at this list if you want to find some other surprises.

Bill's list inspired me to create a list of my own. It's way too early to know what will be the hot technologies of 2007. But, based on some 2006 previews, here are some of my picks for techie products that are near-release that show much promise (IMHO) for 2007.

  1. Parallels Desktop for Mac - It is hard to think of any other software for Mac OS X introduced in 2006 that garnered as much attention as this: The first virtualization software for Intel based Macs. I was one of many who gave it a glowing review and even managed to generate an O'Reilly Shortcut book related to it (Windows for Intel Macs - shameless plug. At last I could run Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows (any version), and Linux (any version) on a single relatively inexpensive platform (a 2GHz MacBook in my case). Parallels has continued to enhance an already remarkable product since its introduction. Most recently, it introduced the ability to run a Windows applications in a single window (without Microsoft Windows surrounding it) in Mac OS X.
  2. Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 & Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 - Currently in Release Candidate and Beta stages, these products are nice upgrades. The main draw for me is support of AMD-V and Intel-VT hardware assisted virtualization. I'm saving my nickels and dimes now to buy a nice Core 2 Duo based PC to use with Virtual PC 2007.
  3. VMware Fusion (for Mac) - This entered the public beta stage about a month ago. And, quite frankly, it doesn't matter if it is as good as Parallels Desktop for Mac. Why? Two words: Virtual Appliances. VMware currently owns the mindset of those who want to provide a quick and safe way for others to try out their product. Build a virtual machine with a pre-built OS (usually Linux), install your pre-configured app, ship it, and watch people try it out in complete safety knowing their base OS configuration is safe from side effects during testing. Mac OS X users have been shut out of this unless they had an Intel Mac, ran Apple Boot Camp, installed Windows XP, and then installed the VMware player for XP.
  4. PowerShell - I talked about this in my previous blog entry here. I predict this will get quick uptake by Windows Server administrators, LAN workstation managers, power users, and dynamic language fans.
  5. Ruby - Ruby on Rails has gotten a lot of attention over the past two years. The first thing I did after learning about it was buy a Ruby on Rails book. The next thing I did was buy a Ruby book. It is a great language to write code in. And, you can still read it months later. One criticism of Ruby is that it has been stuck in the 1.8.x version for quite a while. Of course, that may also be a strength.
  6. Microsoft Office 2007 - I keep reading articles about people hating the Ribbon Interface. I'll go on record saying I like it. I've been beta-testing it since, hmm, 2005 and using it as my main suite since October 2006. I have a hard time using the old style menus now. But, forget that. Take a look at the new templates and automatic style previews. It reduces the usually fussing around we all do with formatting over various documents.
  7. Microsoft Windows Vista - If you had asked me what I thought of Vista last summer during its Beta-2 phase, I probably would have rolled my eyes upward and flipped open my MacBook. it was not pretty or fast or even compatible with the Office 2007 beta (you needed two PCs or virtual machines to test both back then). Then RC-1 rolled out. I sat up and looked more seriously at it. RC-2 really had me taking a hard look at it. Then, I was happily shocked by what I saw when I installed the production version of Vista Ultimate Edition on my relatively low-end cheap home PC. You can follow my ramblings about using Vista Ultimate Edition on a cheap PC on one of my personal blogs.
  8. Vista Sidebar Gadgets - I tried Konfabulator before it became Yahoo! Gadgets. I tried Dashboard on Apple Mac OS X Tiger. Neither took root in my computing habit. And, quite honestly, early beta versions of Sidebar were removed from my desktop configuration early in testing. But, something happened when the RC2 came out in Fall 2006. It actually worked pretty well, looked good, and was useful. And, I didn't have to switch modes as I did with Apple Dashboard.
  9. Apple Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard - From what I've been reading, I think Mr. Jobs didn't even show half of what Leopard will be able to do when he previewed it in Fall 2006. It is scheduled to become available a few months after Vista launches. So, we need to wait and see what this cat is really allow about. I'm planning to upgrade my MacBook as soon as I can buy a copy.
  10. Apple iPhone - Has any phone generated this much excitement so far from its release date? Not even the Motorola RAZR generated the kind of media frenzy we are seeing about the Apple iPhone. It doesn't matter which phone platform camp you are in. The Apple iPhone raises the awareness and feature bar for all the manufacturers. We will all benefit from its introduction because everyone else will have to figure out a way to go head-to-head with the Apple iPhone. A secondary benefit might come from something that is generating a lot of criticism: The apparent iPhone applications lockdown. The current statement is that you cannot install applications on it. However, it is supposed to have a full Safari web browser. If it supports AJAX applications and Flash, we may see a whole new rich body of mobile-focused web applications emerge later this year.

    For those of you who (like me) were wowed by the iPhone's multi-point gesture recognition and orientation detection capabilities, take a look at these two items. The first is a short video clip I took of NYU's Jeff Han demonstrating multipoint finger/hand gestures on a very large screen at the 2006 O'Reilly Emeging Technology Conference.

    NYU's Jeff Han demonstrates hand gesture control for Microsoft Windows on a large touch senstive display at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego (March 2006).

    A second interesting reference point are a series of products that gives Windows Mobile Pocket PCs and Smartphones orientation and motion detection abilities.

    pocketmotion TiltMouse for Pocket PC, TiltDisplay for Windows Mobile 2003 SE, TiltControl for Pocket PC or Smartphone

  11. Mobile Web Applications - I mentioned this above related to the iPhone. But, we have already seen a number of web applications for mobile devices introduced by Google, Microsoft, and others over the past year. There's no doubt we will continue to see mobile web apps introduced throughout 2007.