by December 16, 2005 0 comments

I’ve been running this column for almost a year now, with
the objective of looking at various competing technologies across different
streams and determining the best one. I made various predictions throughout the
year, and to end the year let’s see how those technologies have fared! And
since, it wouldn’t make sense to give a verdict on the topics for the past
four months, we’ll only look at the technologies I talked about in the first
six months, ie, February to July.

Let’s start off with my first column on Blu-Ray vs
HD-DVD, the two technologies that are competing to be heirs to the DVD-drives
throne. At that time (February), I said that the ball was in the court of Blu-Ray,
given its strong industry backing, but there were strong chances that both would
co-exist. As things stand today, Blu-Ray is ahead with more members backing it.
Some companies have even shifted over from the other side. However, that
doesn’t mean that HD-DVD is dying. It’s got some pretty big names along as
well, such as Toshiba, Intel and Microsoft. With so many big names fighting it
out in both camps, it’s unlikely that either one will emerge victorious. So
chances are higher that they will co-exist, as drive manufacturers are
introducing products that can read both formats. The same thing happened with
DVD-Writers, so why not with this?

In March, I took up flash drives against hard drives, and
said that the former might replace the latter in the long run due to its high
speed, and quick access and retrieval of data. The jury is still out on that
one, because it’s too early to comment about this.

Up next was the battle between short-range wireless
communication and Bluetooth-and Wireless USB, and ZigBee were the contenders.
Here, I said that Bluetooth is being squeezed between ZigBee from the bottom and
Wireless USB from the top, in terms of throughput. Unless it did something, it
would end up in a tight spot two years from that time. It looks as if they heard
us, because in the very next month (May) of publishing my column, the Bluetooth
Special Interest Group displayed its intent to work with the developers of
UltraWide Band Technology, to take Bluetooth technology to the next level. The
UWB group also responded positively, and even some pilot demos have happened.
Wireless USB products based on UWB are yet to appear in the market. I also
predicted that Bluetooth technology would be safe in the near future, which is
true till date. Products based on Bluetooth have only proliferated ever since.

In May, I took up the debate over which graphics would
dominate the desktop. Would it be onboard or would it get taken over by a
separate graphics cards? The prediction was that onboard graphics would become
more powerful, but lose a significant market share to external graphics cards.
While we don’t have any market figures on that, the market suggests that
there’s a lot of action in the gaming cards market. In June itself, we saw
machines based on the nVIDIA’s SLI technology, which allows two graphics cards
to render graphics together on the same machine. ATi followed suite and launched
its CrossFire graphics cards, which provide the same functionality. So like we
said, onboard and external graphics will co-exist, this indeed seems to be

Next, I talked about the new security-appliances market,
and how it’s giving software-based firewalls a run for their money. Our
verdict was that appliances are definitely in, but won’t kill the
software-firewalls market. The prediction has been proving true so far. Not only
that the appliances have also become more feature rich to include VPNs,
anti-spam engines and much more than basic firewalls. More features and the ease
with which they can be deployed make them a lucrative option over their software
counterparts. This is challenging the software firewalls market and will
continue to do so.

Come to my July column-RFIDs vs smart cards. While this
does come as a surprise at first glance, it’s not entirely impossible. At the
end of the day, both are contact less cards that communicate using radio
frequency. It’s just that RFIDs have remained largely passive devices, ie they
have information stored, which can be retrieved with a reader. Smart cards, on
the other hand, have been active with a microcontroller, an OS and a RF antenna.
So they can perform computation of some logic if prompted. What’s missing in
RFIDs is the microcontroller, so they can’t really perform their own
computations. But if this were to happen, there wouldn’t really be much
difference between the two technologies.  But
as we said, they both have plenty of opportunities in their own markets, so this
doesn’t look likely.

Technology predictions are one area where many a stalwarts
have bitten the dust. I sure hope I am on the right track. If you have any
comments or suggestions, do post them at http:\\forums.pcquest. com under the
Tech & Trends thread.

Anil Chopra, Associate Editor

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