Users can expect Sun Microsystems to make a big splash with its new processor partner AMD. Sun chief executive Scott McNealy said Sun would be rolling out new x86-based servers and workstations based on AMD's Opteron processor, which would drive down the cost of computing. "They will also give customers a great way to move 32-bit applications to a 64-bit environment when they are ready to do that," he said.
In the first half of 2004, Microsoft is planning to introduce the Service Pack 2 release of Windows XP, an important upgrade to the Windows desktop operating system.
Stuart Okin, chief security officer at Microsoft, said, "The main function for SP2 is to focus on security. We will be providing automatic software updates and we are reworking the Internet Firewall [tool] to provide more user control of IP ports."
According to Microsoft, SP2 will eliminate remote anonymous access to RPC interfaces on the system, with some exceptions, to avoid the RPC DCom security holes that afflicted Windows users last year.
However, users will need to approach SP2 with caution. Last month Microsoft released a 73-page document outlining how SP2 would affect users and how modifications to SP2 could potentially cause problems with applications.
Over the coming months, users should start to see how IBM has revamped its products to focus on vertical sectors. Although it was announced to much fanfare in September at the OracleWorld conference in San Francisco, Oracle 10g has not begun shipping yet and is also due out in the next few months. UK Oracle User Group chairman Ronan Miles believes it is an ideal time for users to migrate from 8i to the final release of the Oracle 9i database.
"This is the most cost-effective way to run an operational system, as it is the release Oracle will formally support and provide bug fixes for once 10g starts shipping," he said.
SAP is looking to streamline its software development through a project codenamed Vienna, which is likely to result in an overhaul of its products and lower implementation costs for users.
For desktop PC users, the much-anticipated Prescott version of Pentium 4 will be available in the first half of 2004. Intel said this would be the first mass market desktop processor to use 90nm fabrication, which it said was able to boost the performance of the new chip. Intel expects PCs equipped with Prescott to operate at speeds of between 4GHz and 5GHz.
Important products reaching the end of their lifespan include Microsoft Office 97, Windows 98 and Windows Millennium, for which support is now no longer available. Microsoft has, however, decided to provide free extended support for Exchange 5.5 during 2004.
Lars Ahlgren, server marketing manager at Microsoft, said, "Feedback from our enterprise customers has suggested that the migration window to upgrade to Exchange 2003 was too small."
From the start of 2005, users will have to pay for extended support on Exchange 5.5.
Robin Bloor's technology forecast >>