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The Year in Review : 2004
Contributed by: G3nu1n3, at 12/25/2004 07:07:00 PM.


As the year 2004 comes to an end, its time to look back at this year trends and to offer some predictions for 2005.

The Browser wars:

Back with a vengeance in 2004 were the browser wars - a phrase which has lay dormant during the past three or four years of unchallenged Internet Explorer dominance. Firefox attracted the most attention. It's unlikely it will ever get close to unseating IE but it's certainly done enough to breathe new life into the area and challenge all players to think about the ways they can push forward users' browsing experience. Looks like the people at mozilla.org will keep the pressure on Microsoft with the thunderbird and some of the other related projects. Well, a couple of big names have been seen sniffing around the browser. Nokia, for one, has thrown a few quid Mozilla's way to help with a Firefox for mobiles and, if rumors are to be believed, Google might be chumming up with the Foundation with a view to create a Google-branded browser. AOL has also got a browser under development based on Netscape architecture.

Phishing:

The big security story of the year was phishing and the incredible rise in the number and sophistication of emails designed to steal personal data from unsuspecting dupes. The crude 'We is Lloyds bank and we's want yours bank details' raw text emails were fast becoming a thing of the past and domain spoofing and mock branding were now rife. Emails were looking more and more official to the uninitiated. Typically these scams involve a spoofed email; often claiming to be from a bank or a payment services company such as PayPal. Often they will say you need to confirm your account details by visiting a cleverly spoofed version of the company's website. It looks official ; sometimes but via these dummy pages victims are often surrendering a lot of very sensitive and important data. According to MessageLabs, phishing has certainly reached plague proportions. In September 2003 the number of phishing emails encountered by MessageLabs was 279. By May this year - just eight months later - the company saw almost 250,000 of them.

Spyware:

Spyware, like phishing, represented an attempt to steal personal data and like phishing it saw a huge increase in the scale and severity of the problem during 2004. Applications were covertly loaded onto users' machines often without them knowing. Many of these applications were largely benign while others have the potential to log keystrokes and steal screen grabs. There are a vast number of applications available that will clean your system of spyware and adware. Users need to be careful of spyware applications distributed in disguise of anti-spyware software.

Windows XP Service Pack 2:

The long-awaited patch for Microsoft's XP operating system arrived in the summer - to make everybody's life easier. It was successful in some and failed in other aspects. For many the headaches of testing, installation and compatibility were almost worse than the problems of an unpatched system. The majority of improvements related to security and represented an effort by Microsoft not just to patch computers but also to make some running repairs to its reputation. SP2 is a key part of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative.

Voice over IP (VoIP):

The next big thing for consumer and business telecoms was identified as VoIP long before 2004, but this was certainly the year that message reached fever pitch. The option for cheaper calls and data convergence seems a no-brainer and examples like the launch of Skype from Kazaa provided the means. For the local market (Pakistan) deregulation initiatives meant more competition which means more affordable telecomm facilities for the year 2005.

The EC/Microsoft ruling:

The other Microsoft story this year was the EC ruling and resulting fine handed down by competition commissioner Mario Monti.

As well as a fine which Bill Gates could pay in cash the company was ordered to offer for sale versions of its operating system without Media Player. In reality a futile gesture that few will opt for, but a thorn in the side of the Seattle behemoth - so no bad thing it could be argued.

Handheld Devices:

For many it's the 'must have' item of 2004 especially for Japanese, US and Euro markets. The hype which surrounded the launch of the iPod mini eclipsed all other product launches. The year 2005 will see more marketing fights to capture the handheld devices arena. Not just the portable MP3 players but the handheld gaming devices will be the next hot consumer items.


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