ANALYST: Peter Coffee MOST IMPRESSIVE: Having pulled off one miracle by migrating Mac users to a completely new processor architecture, Apple has made it look even easier to replace the entire system software layer with the Unix-derived Mac OS X. Software developers who had abandoned the Mac are coming back, significant Mac adoptions are on the rise and Apples excellence in hardware design continues to make this a computing platform worthy of enterprise consideration.MOST USEFUL: Web-based e-mail access, letting me do pretty much anything from pretty much anywhere, was on my list in this position last year and has yet to be displaced. Joining Web-based e-mail on my top tier, though, is the DSL connection that I finally installedplus a Symantec firewall before I went home that night. SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: One reason for the bargain price of FireWire hard disks is their displacement on the store shelves by USB 2.0 deviceseven though USB 2.0, despite its higher gross data rate, performs worse than FireWire on high-volume data transfer tasks. Heres hoping that continued support from video equipment makers, not to mention Apple, will combine to preserve a FireWire hardware market. YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: Three to five years from now, well look back and say without hesitation that Microsoft took its cue from its easy escape in the courts this year to embark on aggressive expansion into entertainment and e-commerce technologies. Whats yet to be seen is whether IT buyers, not to mention consumers, will resign themselves to one-party rule. WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: The quality and capability of nonproprietary software are finally catching up to that of more costly traditional choices. This could be a year in which everything from the desktop and server operating system to the ubiquitous office productivity suite become newly competitive markets, with even handhelds using Linuxand with anything else in server roles requiring cost justification. LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: I said last year that PCs as weve known themlegacy ports and allwould become less important as other devices and other ways of delivering application function took center stage. I didnt mean that people should stop buying PCs entirely, but it looks as if thats what people thought I was telling them to do. Sorry, everybody, its my fault. But HP, fortunately, refused to believe my warnings that its Compaq merger would bog down: Congratulations may be due next year, if not quite yet.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Intels Lagrande and Microsofts Palladium attack the essence of the PCa universal machine, capable of doing anything that one can write software to describe or build an interface to controland threaten to turn the PC into a harem eunuch for an oligopoly of pay-per-use content vendors and channels. Legislators have likewise been too quick to accommodate the demands of deep-pocketed content creators.