The IT Times has been publishing for the past seven years. And these past seven years have been a great time to be focused on computing. We have been able to report on great advancements in the computing world and been able to witness several important paradigm shifts leading to our current situation. Summing it all up would be one word - social. Computing has been growing and maturing and moving towards one great goal, which is to bring us closer together and connect us socially more than ever before. The backbone of this new social network is the Internet, which hosts free cloud services and is powered by advertising. This more effective advertising is the result of artificial intelligence guessing what we are interested in. The latest step in the social network is the smart phone, a way to bring all the power of the Internet and all the security of your social connections to your pocket. If the current trend continues, every person on the planet will be able to completely control their destiny from the palm of their hand in a few short years.
The Year of New Beginnings, 2004
But it wasn't always this way. Back in 2004 things were... different. Social networking was not yet the all-consuming behemoth that it later came to be. In fact, Facebook was only launched in February of this year. The now-archaic Friendster was two years old, MySpace was one year old, and CyWorld in Korea was 5 years old. Back in 2004 the big thing was blogging. Blogs were just beginning to gain recognition and hit the mainstream then. Political consultants and election candidates were starting to see them as another outlet for their grandstanding. News services were starting to comment on what they read in blogs, and treating them as legitimate sources of news.
Also, prior to 2004, most of the world was still using Internet Explorer, because its only competitor, Netscape Navigator, had fallen by the wayside some time before. However, Netscape Navigator's spiritual successor, Mozilla Firefox, was launched this year, starting the shift away from IE which would continue in the coming years.
Finally in the 2004 world of hardware, Infineon Technologies were convicted of DRAM price-fixing charges in the US and ordered to pay $160 million in fines. Things did not look good for their partners in crime, Hynix and Samsung, although nothing happened until the next year.
The Year of Artificial Life, 2005
The year 2005 saw the conviction and fines of Hynix and Samsung, bringing the whole scandal to the position of the third largest antitrust fine in US history. All told, executives from Hynix Semiconductor, Samsung, Elpida Meory, Micron Technology, and Infineon Technology pled guilty and were sent to prison.
But this was a small for the computing industry, because better things were about to happen in the area of artificial intelligence and artificial life. ASIMO, the humanoid robot, became able to walk as fast as a human this year. It demonstrated its abilities by delivering food trays to customers in a restaurant setting. Also on this year, the project Blue Brain was born, which was dedicated to simulating the human brain at the molecular level. The insights gained from this project could be essential for developing artificial intelligence.
In the area of personal computing, the first 64-bit PC chips were released within days of each other from Intel and AMD, a fundamental doubling of the most basic of computer resources. Personal computers could now use more than 4 gigabytes of memory and deal with much larger numbers faster than previously possible. The theoretical power of personal computing in the home doubled.
Finally, one small new web site was launched in 2005, youtube.com. It was flying under the radar at this point. Lovers of video online were still subjected to privately-hosted video with low resolution and a healthy bandwidth appetite.
The Year of the Social Cloud, 2006
Just three years after its foundation, MySpace becomes the most popular social networking site in the US. Everybody can find their old classmates and exes there, and have a great time until their parents join and send a friend request.
Also, the concept of cloud computing gets a huge boost in global mindshare when Google launches Google Docs. This totally free, online document editing suite is a great illustration for people about the advantages of the cloud. The usage of the cloud begins to grow.
In South Korea, CyWorld is flying high on revenue, with 80% of that coming from the sale of virtual goods to their users. They decide that now is the perfect time to go global, and open up two different sites in the US and European markets. Also, after a day-long brainstorming session, Twitter is launched as a sort of social experiment.
The Year of the Smart Phone, 2007
This year saw two different revolutions in personal computing which may not yet have been fully explored. The first was the smart phone. In June Apple released the first iPhone. The company gave one to every single one of their employees for free, and charged the rest of the world US$499 for them. People with money to burn lined up on sidewalks and in front of windowpanes throughout the United States, lusting after the touch-screen interface. This was officially the beginning of the smartphone revolution.
But another, more short-lived revolution was related. Asus released a tiny little almost hand-held laptop called the Eee PC. It looked like a child-sized computer, but had enough computing resources to be useful as a work machine. The netbook form factor revolution was launched as well. This was an excellent indication that the market wanted, and was ready for, smaller, cheaper, and more portable computing devices.
Contrary to this popular trend of smaller, cheaper, and more portable, Microsoft launched its resource-intensive new operating system Windows Vista. Critics decried its large hard drive footprint, its intensive memory usage, and the requirement of a 3D-accelerated graphics card just to drive the interface. But nevertheless, millions used it, because it was pre-loaded onto their new computers.
And finally in 2007 Google added a small new option to Google Maps called Street View. It allowed people to click on camera icon markers to see photos of the areas which they were looking at.
The Year of Facebook, 2008
This year was the year that cemented Facebook's ascendancy as the predominant social network in the world. Facebook's users surpassed that of MySpace in April, and MySpace began to decline steadily after it was reported. The critical tipping point was reached and it was all downhill for MySpace after that. Unfortunately, in the CyWorld world, the company shut down its European venture, unable to justify the expenses involved with the low usage. They cited heavy competition from StudiVZ and Skyrock as the main reasons for being unable to penetrate the European market.
Apple introduced the second iPhone in 2008 as well. It was much lower priced, at US$199, and came with 3G support. Apple also launched the App Store in concert with its new phone launch, greatly increasing the capabilities of its new iPhone 3Gs.
The same year, the Android OS was released by Google as an open source product that any company could use. The first Android-powered phone released was the HTC Dream.
The Year of Suspense, 2009
There were precious few events in the computing world in 2009, although it was a huge year for political and social change. Microsoft launched Windows Azure, their cloud computing offering, that year, which signified the growing importance of the platform.
The Year of Duplication, 2010
Last year saw a great expansion of the trends set up during previous years. For instance, Apple's App Store marked 3 billion application downloads in January. It also introduced the iPhone 4, which despite its lackluster performance upgrades compared to the iPhone 3G, still marked a trend. Google launched its own smart phone, the Nexus One, this year as well. It used the company's Android operating system, and was known for significantly faster response times than other phones of its type.
Altogether, total smart phone sales doubled in this year compared to last year, and came to represent 20% of total mobile phone sales. The year of the smart phone had proven to bear great fruit. If trends continue, the smart phone market will take over all other markets.
This year marked the year in which Cyworld also closed its US venture.
The Year of Unanswered Questions, 2011
This year is only half over, but there are already some significant developments. Apple's App Store hit 10 billion application downloads, an exponential rise from the previous year. Android OS is now the most popular smart phone OS at 35%. IBM's Watson artificial intelligence defeated Jeopardy players in February, illustrating new developments in the AI front. And Google has launched its own social network, Google+, which touts enhanced privacy settings to set it apart from earlier social networks like Facebook and MySpace. It is still too early to draw broad conclusions from these events, but we do know one thing for certain - the future is looking bright and it is getting exponentially more easy to reach it every year!