Thanks to a never-ending supply of sharp minds and energy in the information technology industry, innovation will keep on marching ahead in 2004 — good economy or bad. (But a good economy sure helps.) Editors from internetnews.com and across Jupitermedia have compiled a list of ideas/trends/innovations to watch in 2004.
BitTorrent – The Next Wave of P2P
The original file-swapping site Napster made peer-to-peer networking a star.
Later, swap sites Kazaa and Morpheus found ways to market it. Now comes
BitTorrent to push peer-to-peer
new heights in 2004. In the enterprise IT sector, where bandwidth wastage
hurts the bottom line, BitTorrent adds a new twist to the upload/download
Instead of just allowing file-sharers to grab content from each other’s
systems, BitTorrent targets the bandwidth nightmare by stripping digital
files into tiny shreds. When multiple users request and trigger a download,
the pieces of the files are then uploaded around the network and reassembled
locally by the recipient’s machine, much the same way the red-hot VoIP
Early adopters see BitTorrent as an excellent solution because it
provides very fast downloads while consuming a relatively small amount of
server resources. Instead of things slowing down as more and more people are
using the system, it actually speeds up. In 2004, we’ll see a major spike in
BitTorrent usage as software vendors, movie companies, and online gaming sites
embrace the new peer-to-peer concept to large file transfers.
The next wave of P2P technologies won’t stop with BitTorrent. Look for
open-source P2P streaming standards and technologies to evolve and cut the
costs for businesses.
Serial ATA – A Rising Star in Storage
Once considered obsolete, this data transfer technology is something of a
phoenix rising from the ashes. Serial ATA is quickly phasing out Parallel
ATA technology, which is slower, sensitive to interference and more likely
to produce messy wire tangles.
Serial ATA cables are much thinner and only use about seven wires per
device, instead of the 40 used by Parallel ATA. Fewer wires, means smaller
connectors, which in turn means more space on hard drives, paving the way
for smaller PCs and other small form factor machines. Serial ATA is also
speedier than Parallel ATA, operating at a bandwidth of 150MB/s, a 13
percent improvement over Parallel ATA.
Bottom Line: there will be an industry-wide move to new hard drives,
controllers, and connectors based on Serial ATA, squeezing SCSI
will debut in 2004 offering 300MB/s of bandwidth. Serial ATA III will double
that bandwidth throughput by 2007. Also, look for a consumer-focused
storage device on retail shelves in coming months.
Telcos Embrace VoIP
What a difference a few short years make. Just the other day, the VoIP
of Web phone start-ups disappeared and those that remained have rejiggered
their business models to stay viable. Fast forward to 2003 where broadband
penetration in the U.S. has created a brand new market for high-quality VoIP
and, needless to say, the old school telcos want a slice of the pie.
Qwest, AT&T are already pursuing large scale VoIP rollouts while start-up
Vonage continues to score deals with ISPs for its consumer and small
business-focused offering. Net2Phone
, a VoIP pioneer
has just raised funds to bankroll a franchise program for cable companies to
offer phone service on existing cable lines. With Verizon and SBC waiting
in the wings with VoIP tests of their own, 2004 is shaping up as the year
when VoIP goes truly mainstream.
DRM-Protected Online Music:
Finally, after years of stumbling around in search of a business model for
online music, the record labels and technology partners appear to have
struck gold. Apple’s
Napster 2.0, RealNetworks’
Rhapsody and a host of
smaller players have discovered a gold mine in hawking DRM-protected
downloads or fee-based subscription services.
In 2004, look for increased activity in digital music with Loudeye’s
new off-the-shelf technology creating virtual music
stores on just about every high-traffic Internet destination. Think of
Loudeye’s move as the music equivalent of the popular matchmaking business
where companies like Spring Street Networks have put online personals
services on hundreds of third-party sites.
The increased buzz around online music (and digital content) will lead to
new hardware/software offerings to take advantage of consumers’ acceptance
concessions to sweeten the pot for retailers. But some problems with DRM
compatibility, particularly in the networked home, will hurt the sector.
Micropayments – Is This The Year?
The micropayments sector has been in a state of flux since the late
1990s. Business models have been chopped and changed more times than an NFL
roster and the dot-com bust has seen its share of micropayment victims.
Yet, through it all, the likes of eBay-owned PayPal
smaller electronic payments providers BitPass and Peppercoin have carved a
niche as legitimate players in the
micropayments space. The skeptics continue to pour cold water on the
micropayments concept but the concept keeps proving itself, in smaller ways,
that are adding up, year after year.
With the success of online music and the gradual trend to push Web
content behind the premium curtain, the micropayment market is opening up at
a dramatic pace. With some minor tweaks, micropayments technology providers
could flourish in 2004, or at least see some revenues start to add up.
Blogging on Steroids
If you were caught off guard by the wild popularity of blogs
in 2003, wait till you see what 2004 has in store. The next wave could be
dubbed blogging-on-steroids — as blogging technology is merged with wikis
(blogging “best-practices” sites)
world) to create a truly-connected world of online journals, Web
collaboration and personals networking.
Researchers at Microsoft
networking tool called Wallop to explore how people share media and
build conversations in the context of social networks. The word around the
industry is that Google will hook its Blogger software to a Friendster-type
(via an acquisition?) to tap into the ever-more-connected,
open-standard-driven computing world.
In 2004, the evolution of the weblog/wiki/personal network will make a
huge impact in the way information is shared on the Internet. Doubters need
just look at the way the heavyweight politicians have embraced blogging to
take advantage of the conversational nature of the technology.
RSS Hits the Enterprise
The rise of the blog in 2003 spawned a major market for RSS
the XML syndication format that allows publishers to shuttle content to news
aggregators. RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication), first
developed by Netscape in the 1990s, is used primarily to syndicate news
content but in the new year, enterprises will embrace the technology to
update events listings, project updates and corporate announcements. Now
that Atom, a competing syndication standard, has been released, it’s a safe
bet news feeds and syndication will not be limited to text or images. In
2004, as spam continues to clog e-mail servers, look for RSS
readers/aggregators to extend beyond the desktop — and on
to cell phones and PDAs.
Wi-Fi Gets (More) Mobile
Now that the hype has faded somewhat and strong business models are emerging
in the Wi-Fi
phones to integrate the wireless standard in 2004. The dramatic growth in
Wi-Fi will come in the first quarter when mobile phones with embedded Wi-Fi
capabilities hit the market. On the enterprise side, a single device
integrating a telephone, Web and e-mail access, contacts and meetings — all
connected by Wi-Fi will be a godsend. Look for Research in Motion
HandSpring to make the most
noise when Wi-Fi goes mobile.
On the consumer side, 2004 will see a gradual decline of the fee-based
high-speed ISPs and telcos like Verizon, EarthLink, T-Mobile will move
towards freeing up Wi-Fi access as a customer service/retention tool.
Is There Room for ‘Gi-Fi’?
In November 2003, technology researchers at NewLans Inc. presented a
tutorial to the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee Plenary Meeting
outlining a new standard to cover the potential use of millimeter wave
frequencies for use in enterprise WLANs
gigabits-per-second capacities. NewLans, headed by serial entrepreneur Dev
Gupta, plans to use a frequency range recently opened up by the FCC on the
56GHz band to offer 2 Gbps on a wireless LAN.
If Gupta succeeds, the ‘Gi-Fi’ protocol could make big news in 2004 as
enterprises come to grips with the reality of what 2 Gbps can offer in
comparison to the Gig-E wired LANs deployed today. Think of the wireless
possibilities: file transfers, video-on-demand, high-resolution video
conferencing, data mining, and on and on.
Search Goes Offline
When Google makes a move, any move, pay close attention — even if it’s
offline. The search technology giant
is heading offline with a Google Print experiment that indexes excerpts of
popular books and funneling printed material into regular online searches.
The move is a clear response to e-commerce superstore Amazon.com’s creation of
A9 to invest and develop e-commerce search technologies.
The early indications are that offline catalogs, books, periodicals,
magazines and all printed material could eventually be available via a
regular Web search. This could be the year we see it all come together,
especially with powerhouses like Google and Amazon.com
Time For Good Viruses?
In the summer of 2003, when the Blaster and Sobig worms wreaked havoc on
corporate networks, it was clear that malicious virus-writers had moved
beyond e-mail attachments to exploit security vulnerabilities without a
user-triggered activity. The threat of cyber attacks was made worse
because users (mostly consumers) never applied security patches that were
available for months. So, is it time to fight-fire-with-fire? Is it time
for the industry to launch benevolent viruses to thwart attacks and even
forcibly apply patches to vulnerable systems?
There is a growing school of thought in the industry that says good worms to deal with Internet security are inevitable. In 2004, look for the debate to heat
up with privacy advocates opposing any such move. However, proponents of
good worms will argue that users who neglect to protect systems from
vulnerabilities are putting others at risk since compromised machines are
being used in malicious attacks.
Privacy’s Privations Extended in 2004?
Look for data security and privacy to become more important to consumers and corporations in 2004, as new privacy laws take effect (California), and consumers start to weigh what is more important to them: the convenience of digital devices that help ease their passage through society’s tollbooths and beyond, or the privacy-privation of having one’s every move tracked by some digital eye *somewhere.*
The Firewall War
Computer/Internet security issues will remain on the front burner in 2004 as
Microsoft puts the finishing touches to the security-centric Windows XP
Service Pack 2, due out in the second quarter. Included in that service pack
is a major overhaul to the embedded Internet Connection Firewall (ICF)
which, for the first time, will be turned on by default on new PCs.
The ICF makeover effectively makes it a robust firewall on all new PCs
and could be a blow to companies like Symantec
McAfee that depend on subscription-based firewall services.
Once the Windows XP SP 2 is launched, look for rumblings from security
software vendors that a bundled (and robust) firewall on new computers would
put a major strain on business.
IM: Get Thee Behind a Firewall
Look for instant messaging to increase its footprint in the workplace during 2004, with businesses budgeting for enterprise-grade management and security solutions. Over the past year, the darling of the teenage set has become a hit among Wall Street traders — causing headaches for network admins, since consumer IM operates through most corporate firewalls and without IT’s knowledge.
A Big Release Year for Microsoft
Every year is a big release year for the world’s largest software company, that’s true. But 2004 could prove to be a pivotal year, and not just because its Windows operating system monopoly worldwide is under assault on a variety of fronts.
But that alone is plenty to keep it busier than ever in 2004. While it works to settle European Commission anti-trust charges over how its digital media player is integrated in the Windows operating system, Microsoft also has to find a way to entice enterprise customers to spend more money and migrate to its latest Windows XP platform.
The same is true for its Office 2003 productivity software suite that it released in October, along with new server software that customers would need in order to experience the full range of Microsoft’s collaboration tools in the latest release. This, while OpenOffice.org and other open source software such as the Linux operating system find new fans, especially among governments and municipalities looking to upgrade their creaky networks while holding down costs.
Plus, Microsoft is slated to release during the first half of 2004 the beta of its next-generation development platform, Visual Studio .NET, now code-named “Whidbey.” Running on a similar schedule is its database application, SQL Server, code named “Yukon,” both of which will be radically changed as a prelude to its next-generation Windows (code named “Longhorn”), now widely expected in 2006. Those are just a few items on its to-do list, but enough to signal that Windows’ next version — and its timetable for release — is riding on what Microsoft can accomplish in 2004.
Linux Continues to Gain
This could be the year that Linux finally gains the mainstream
credibility that it has sought for so many years. Once the tech recession hit in 2000, the hype over open source appeared to fade away, making room for small but steady advances in the enterprise. As 2004 dawns, the corporate sector is seeing Linux and open source for what it is: a legitimate, cost-saving platform with its own set of strengths, and weaknesses.
While Linux on the desktop will remain elusive for the immediate future
at least, look for the open source operation system to enjoy heady gains in the server and embedded markets in 2004. Linux’s popularity will continue to alarm Microsoft and the software giant will batten the hatches for a good old fight for the hearts and minds of enterprise customers.
The Year To Sort Our CAN-SPAM
Had we not gone to war, spam might have been the issue of 2003 and beyond. The CAN-SPAM act, effective Jan. 1, is far from a final answer to the
problem. Yet the fact some ground rules finally exist is a relief to the
online industry, particularly legitimate marketers and publishers. The Act
remains very much in a formative state. Recommendations and determinations
will be made throughout 2004 and next regarding a Do-Not-Spam registry;
labeling requirements; wireless spam; even defining a commercial e-mail’s
purpose. Expect the issue to stay front-and-center. Web professionals will
lobby, while pols will leverage this popular issue to remain in the
limelight — and in office.