The first quarter of the year ended with an old-fashioned feel, with several high-profile product launches that recall the good old days of the 1990s.
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Leading the charge with the major launches in the software space has been Microsoft, which took the wraps off its Accounting software and more recently Server 2008. On the trade show front, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas threw up some interesting finds, as did CeBit, but the majority were on the consumer side of the industry.
The year started off with a hangover from Christmas in the gaming market, with stock problems on the Wii and various retailers struggling to get stock.
But the main announcement that emerged from CES was the apparent knock-out blow that had been landed on HD-DVD by Blu-Ray. Sure enough, the decision by another major film studio to support Blu-Ray meant that it was time for Toshiba, which had backed the alternative, to throw in the towel. The move had wider repercussions, with Microsoft having to concede that the Xbox would have to follow in Sony’s footsteps and change the optical drives in its consoles.
Other highlights of CES included indications that for those involved in the graphics card market that the future was looking reasonably strong.
Speaking to MicroScope at the time of the event, Tim Seaman, managing director at Man and Machine, predicted market share would start to ebb away from integrated graphics manufacturers: "This trend will continue as applications become more advanced and use more 3D graphics, creating more opportunities for resellers to upsell."
Other highlights of the month included AVM’s Fritz box offering DSL/WLAN. The reviewer commented on the ability to take the phone as well as the data connection, along with decent security levels to protect the traffic.
Apple showed that colouring products is not a gimmick and certainly its bigredbox is eye-catching. The workstation management device sits in the server rack and in the case of the 80 model we reviewed, can quite happily handle the demands of a company looking for a server without any hassle.
One of the biggest changes in technology in the past few years has been the arrival of the ‘free’ service. According to the latest music industry research, up to 95 per cent of young people are happy to download illegally. But there are also services that have established the legitimate idea of using something for free. Skype was a pioneer with its free telephone service, and innovation continues apace in this area.
The latest take on that approach came from Yeigo, which used the internet as a way of offering mobile users with the same application to speak to each other free of charge. The reviewer picked up on the ease of use and speculated on the possible ramifications for mobile phone operators.
The month ended with the arrival of one of Microsoft’s big launches for this year — Office Accounting Professional. Before the shrinkwrap had even been sealed around the boxes, tens of thousands had already trialled the software and the accountancy profession had been given a chance to get to grips with the software.
Our reviewer noted the user-friendly features that meant that the stress and strain of chasing invoices and promoting debtors was done automatically. The software enters a crowded market, but with the Microsoft badge on the front, it should stand a fairly decent chance of taking share.
The month usually throws up some interesting finds from the CeBit event, but to a large extent the product launches that grab the attention now are consumer-driven. The largest flat screen TV was on show along with a host of mobile phone technology, most of which was also designed to help people watch more TV on the move.
On the pages of Tech Trader the focus was on discussing why Blu-Ray won the format war. The majority of the reports in the technical press agreed that it was a result of relationships and decisions made by Hollywood studios rather than as a result of clear advantages one format had over the other.
Dipping into the consumer world again was a review of Gear4’s blackbox. Using Bluetooth to connect either a mobile phone or an iPod, the speaker system produced loud and clear results that would appeal to any reseller looking to add a digital music peripheral to their portfolio.
In the same vein, Microsoft showed just how far wireless mice had come, with a couple of devices that proved the nightmare of battery-sapping clunky products was now a thing of the past.
Looking ahead, this month has already seen the arrival of Microsoft Server 2008, while and the end of the month will be dominated by the launches of security products at Infosec.
One product area that looks set to dominate in the next few years is hosted services. At a briefing in London last week, Stephen Gill, vice president and managing director for the UK and Ireland at Hewlett-Packard, said "everything as a service" was going to be the next phase of the computing industry.