Another year comes to an end in the (not always) wonderful world of I.T.! Like last year, the lack of content prevents us from making a full column of PowHertz Awards. The operating systems released in 2004 have mostly been on the server side and of a little interest for the public at large (Solaris 10, NetBSD 2.0, OpenBSD 3.6), little innovation in utilities (Internet, archiving or others), Google still as dominating among search engines despite the launch of new comers like Acoona, etc. However, there would still be 3 categories for which it really worths giving a price. Here they are.

    Best Web browser
Firefox - The browser you can trust
Firefox 1.0

What an absolutely incredible year for the Mozilla team's light browser! This name is only circulating since February 2004 (the project, in its previous development stages, has been known as Firebird and Phoenix), and near the end of November some sources were already giving it 4% of the market alone, not including its buddies Mozilla and Camino! Many analysts are already seeing it as a threat against Microsoft Internet Explorer for the years to come. Firefox 1.0, released on November 9th, doesn't bring that much innovation compared to Mozilla or Opera (but still a lot compared to Internet Explorer), but it is like the best of all worlds: all the necessary functionalities (including tabbed browsing), small size, speed, simplicity, efficiency. The promotion team expects Firefox to officially reach 10% of the market by the end of 2005. Let's wish them that it will come true.


    Best PC game
Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2

All critics agree to proclaim Half-Life 2 best game of the year on the PC. How couldn't I?! Despite its retard, it lokos like it has worth the wait. Strong #2 for Doom 3, the game with the best graphics of the year and maybe even the best sound aspect of the year. Honorable mention also to World of Warcraft, which obtained a very good score on all PC game sites. Other much-awaited games have been less acclaimed but still appreciated; we're mainly thinking of The Sims 2 and EverQuest 2. The new comers Rome: Total War and Far Cry had much better critics than these two, though.


    Coup de coeur
      (software that particularly impressed Powhertz during the last year and couldn't fit in any other category)
The GIMP 2.0
The GIMP 2.0

It is nothing new, The GIMP has always been among the most impressive free software in the world. An image-manipulation software that is relatively comparable to an Adobe Photoshop, except that Photoshop costs about US$650 while GIMP costs absolutely nothing... if that is not impressive! With its version 2.0 released in March, GIMP finally opens to the Windows and Mac OS X market, on top of the already-supported Linux and UNIX platforms. Now everybody can benefit from this gift from God.


Except the software releases, many other events marked the year 2004 in I.T. First of all, The SCO Group continued to piss off the Linux world, going as far as suing two companies that were simply using Linux without even contributing to it. One of these two lawsuits have been dismissed by a judge. PowHertz assumes that the other one is still ongoing. Microsoft, always very often in the news, may have been a little calmer this year. However, it has been largely question of its lawsuit in Europe, where it was inflicted with severe penalties, including obligation of delivering a version of Windows that does not include Windows Media Player, version that we're still waiting at the time of writing these lines. Acquisitions have also been much in the news in 2004: let's mention the acquisition of eMachines by Gateway, MusicMatch by Yahoo!, Veritas by Symantec, IBM's PC division by Lenovo Group and most important of them all: PeopleSoft by Oracle that finally concluded on December 13th, after 18 months of hostile takeover attempts.

Except maybe the Firefox browser, the biggest phenomenon of the year has certainly been the dractic increase in storage capacity of the free Web mail services. On April 1st, Google was announcing a beta version of a brand new Web mail service offering 1 GB of storage for free, while the standard of the moment at its competitors was between 2 and 10 MB! With time, everybody understood that it wasn't an April's Fool joke, and its competitors have been forced to react if they didn't want to lose all of their users. Lycos has been the first to react, launching a 1 GB service at a very low cost (but not free). Yahoo! followed, increasing its free account from 5 MB to 100 MB. Hotmail, the most popular service of this kind with its 187 million members, took more time to ajust themselves, but has finally make its free service go from a tiny 2 MB to a big 250 MB in Spring. Directly or indirectly, Google's Gmail will have had an impact on the life of a huge number of Internet users.

Another major event of 2004: the much-mediatized start of Google at the Nasdaq. As soon as it went public in August, it was already ranking 9th for capitalization among information technologies companies, with an estimated value of US$23.1 billion. In just a few months, its shares that most people were already finding too high at their initial price of $85 have increased their value a lot and are ending the year 2004 at $192.79.

What 's ahead for 2005? We know that we're waiting the voice-powered (input and output) Opera 8.0 . Will we finally see the Duke Nukem Forever, AmigaOS 4.0 and WINE 1.0 that we've been waiting for that long? To be continued!...

Happy new year 2005,


minor revision 2005/01/15: added the Symantec-Veritas merger into the list of major acquisitions in 2004