...in I.T.

The ending year has brought a wind of change over the I.T. world. Although it remains a total stagnation in some markets such as operating systems, others managed to generate a lot of interest from the medias. The first that comes to mind is the Web-browser market which, in a wave  that was Firefoxalready started in 2004, has made the news all year long with the fulgurating rise of Firefox, the consequent drop of Microsoft Internet Explorer under the psychologic bar of 90% of the market, the 1,050,000 downloads of Opera 8 in the 4 days following its launch, the removal of the banner ads in Opera (with version 8.5 released in September), the release of Firefox 1.5 as well as a first test version of Internet Explorer 7, etc. It's been a long time that market hadn't generated such a craze...

At a lower scale, the market of office suites has also had its place in the medias, with the release of OpenOffice 2.0 and the standardization around the new OpenDocument (also known as OASIS) open document file format, which some think able to cause serious harm to Microsoft and its Office, in this world of interoperability. In the database market, MySQL has impressed a lot of critics and consumers with its version 5.0, the most major update in the history of this popular free database system. In this field, we should not forget the release of Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 either, which many had been waiting for years. As for the microprocessor market, it was not put aside this year with the very strong breakthrough of dual core systems, especially on AMD's side. We also talked about the fall of the "P2P" in profit of the paid online music services, not only because of the thousands of lawsuits by the RIAA or because of people's good faith, but a lot because of the court judgements in the U.S.A. and in Australia against Grokster, Kazaa and the peer-to-peer in general. iMesh has even turned itself in a paid service and Grokster is about to do the same shortly.

OracleWithout any surprise, acquisitions have been in the spotlight again in 2005 with those of Skype (by eBay), Macromedia (Adobe), StorageTek (Sun Microsystems), Siebel Systems (Oracle), Retek (Oracle), AT&T (SBC Communications), MCI (Verizon Comunications), Ask Jeeves (InterActive Corp), Conectiva (MandrakeSoft), TomorrowNow (SAP), etc... Even WinZip Computing has changed ownership, becoming a property of Vector Capital, although this acquisition has (inexplicably) not been as much mediatized as the others.

Most sensational news of 2005
Apple's announcement to migrate its Mac computers to Intel processors (like the PCs) has generated a major reaction. Many took it in a positive way in the name of compatibility (migrating the Macs to Intel processors necessarly meant an official version of Mac OS X running on Intel processors) and lower costs. Others took it negatively, the old processors (an alliance between IBM and Motorola) being known to be very efficient in proportion of their generally lower clock rate. One thing's for sure, that news hasn't let anybody indifferent.

Phenomenon of 2005
iPod 2005 was certainly the year of the iPod. Although it was already popular before, we can say that 2005 was the year that the iPod went from a "cool gadget" to an essential, especially among the teens. Everybody now knows what is an iPod, and all teens have one or want one. It's a fact, though, that Apple didn't rest on its laurels over the last 12 months. It launched several new models of iPod this year, including the iPod Nano and a video iPod.

2nd choice!

Although my choice for the phenomenon of the year goes to the iPod, the impressive rise of Firefox comes in a close second! Who would have predicted, no more than 2 years ago, that Microsoft's Internet Explorer would find itself threatened in several countries by a little open source browser by the end of 2005? It is nonetheless what happened in many European countries, in particular Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and Poland. Surprisingly, the usually-conservative North Americans have participated into this wave at a higher rythm than the world average too, as Firefox was claiming 14% of the market in the United States and 17% of the Canadian market at the end of October according to Onestat.com . Its worldwide share is a little bit faded, though, by the very weak success of this revolution in some other countries like United Kingdom, Japan and the African continent in general. At the end of November, it was between 9% and nearly 12%, depending on the sources. That remains very respectable nonetheless. As a matter of fact, almost all sources now put Firefox 1.x ahead of Internet Explorer 5.x, although still far behind Internet Explorer 6. Where this progression is going to stop? We may be close to know it, as Firefox' growth rate has slown down over the past few months and as Microsoft prepares to launch IE7 in 2006. However, Firefox could surprise us again in 2006...

The all-star of 2005
Not Microsoft, not Intel: GOOGLE. I do not believe it is really necessary to enumerate all the reasons, but Google has been the biggest star of year 2005 in the world of I.T. . In this era where everything seems to converge to the Web, many are even seeing it as a serious threat against Microsoft's longstanding domination...

And now, here are the Powhertz Awards 2005.

Powhertz Award 2005
Best Web browser
Netscape 8
Netscape 8

After so many years battling for a title, Netscape finally picks up its first Powhertz award! The version 8 has brought many innovations, on top of containing almost all functionalities from its rivals (Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Safari... well, from all of the popular Web browsers, only Internet Explorer does not compete for the functionalities!...). We think, among others, to the list of trusted Web sites and untrusted Web sites represented by two different icons on the tabs, but most of all we think about the union of Firefox' and Internet Explorer's rendering engines under the same roof. MSN's Web pages are curiously displaying better on Internet Explorer than Firefox? So what?! In just two clicks, you switch in IE mode and will remain into it the next time you visit this page. Now that the IE engine is integrated to Netscape (a gift that AOL received from Microsoft in the settlement for an antitrust lawsuit), there just no longer has any reason for an Internet Explorer user not to switch to a better browser. Despite a few minor details that irritated me a bit (for exemple the double-click on the title bar that only works on a part of the title bar in the Windows version), we could probably say that Netscape 8 has set itself ahead of competition like no Netscape navigator has ever did since versions 4.x of Netscape near the end of the '90s (if not more...). Still have to see if that will shake up its market share in consequence. For now, the answer would unfortunately be no...

Many of you will certainly be surprised not to see the name of Firefox or Opera as this prize's winner this year. In the case of Firefox, it has not improved significantly enough this year to really have a serious chance to win. In Opera's case, the version 8 has disapointed me and the famous version 8.5 with no banner ads did not even fix the situation. In fact, despite some very interesting innovations such as a mention in a yellow rectangle, in the address bar, of the name to which the SSL certificate is issued for a secured page (HTTPS), the version 8.0 has a major inconvenient over the 7.x series: when many pages are open simultaneously in different tabs, a site that does not respond will generally prevent all other sites to load. Even if it was almost impossible that Opera did not notice it, the author and administrator of Powhertz has personnally opened 2 tickets at Opera to report the problem. Those tickets remained unanswered and Opera has not even managed to fix the problem for its release 8.5... While other users may be able to live with this annoyance, some like Powhertz just couldn't. As a result, I went back to Opera 7.54 and increased my use of Mozilla (on Linux) and Netscape (on Windows)... There is therefore no real possibility for a Powhertz award to Opera this year...

Powhertz Award 2005
Best operating system
Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger)

By far the operating system that had the most people talk about it this year. The only others to have made a little place in the news (at a much lower scale) this year were Ubuntu Linux 5.0 and 5.1, as well as the long-awaited (finally!!) Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 . Although those are excellent choices of operating system, they did not bring any major technological advance and didn't have the shadow of Tiger's importance on the market. That's why Tiger deserves the title.

Among the other releases of 2005: Fedora Core 4, Zeta 1.1 (YellowTab's version of BeOS), FreeBSD 6.0, NetBSD 2.1 and 3.0, OpenBSD 3.8, etc.

Powhertz Award 2005
Best Internet utility
Skype 1.2 & 1.4

Honestly, that's no major technological progress. For those who would believe that Skype has invented Internet telephony, wake up! The author and administrator of Powhertz was using similar software that were 100% free (even for calls to regular phones!) many, many years ago! However, Skype has managed to become a symbol, a leader, and even a covetousness for many companies like eBay which purchased Skype in September, but also Microsoft and Google who both deceided in 2005 to do anything they could to compete with Skype. For all of this, Congratulations!

Powhertz Awards 2005
Best e-mail client

Powhertz would have needed the time to make a deep comparison of Eudora 7 and Thunderbird 1.0.7 in order to give this award. Let's give them a kind of half-title each!

Powhertz Award 2005
Best PC game
Civilization IV
You may know it, the author and administrator of Powhertz is not a great "gamer". Nonetheless, the category of best PC game has possibly been the easiest to settle this year! All gaming Web sites and all critics are unanimous: Civilization IV is the best game of the year on PC, maybe even the best of the 4 games in this legendary series! An absolutely great success, even though we have to admit that there were many games on consoles that could have made a strong competition, but that were not released for the PC.

Strong honorable mentions to Battlefield 2, F.E.A.R., Call of Duty 2 and Guild Wars.

Powhertz Award 2005
Coup de Coeur
OpenOffice 2.0

Although I feel the work is still not fully complete, the most popular free office suite OpenOffice can compete more proudly than ever with its commercial rivals Microsoft Office and WordPerfect Office. The user experience is much more pleasant with version 2.0 than it was with version 1.0, plus the addition of a new database module à la Access and the standardization around a file format (OpenDocument, or OASIS) that could not be more open and standard. Those who still don't own OpenOffice 2.0 (or now 2.0.1) should grab it as soon as possible! This recommendation concerns those who would still not have an office suite, those who would have a pirated office suite (and who are therefore, a little uselessly, in an illegal position that may cost them several hundreds of dollars in fine...), those who are using an old office suite (for example the very popular Microsoft Office 97) and who do not have the motivation to pay for an upgrade, the entreprises that are currently paying a license for a commercial office suite for every workstation they add to their network, well, just anybody who is using a computer (regardless of its operating system) and who has not just paid the big price for an MS Office or WordPerfect Office over the last few months / years. It's 100% free, you have nothing to lose...

The categories of "Best archiver" and "Best search engine" are taking a break this year, by lack of opinion from the author and administrator of Powhertz.

As we turn the page on one of the most interesting years of the decade so far in I.T., let's now turn over to 2006. This year promises to be the year of Microsoft which, after 2 or 3 years in the shadows (or at least, much less in evidence than usual), should bounce back with the release of Windows Vista (known as Longhorn until July), Internet Explorer 7, Office 12, the final version of its OneCare antivirus application, Dynamics CRM 3.0, and more. While 2005 has been the year of Apple and Firefox, 2006 is expected to be Microsoft's...


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