The Year in Tech: Top 2007 News and Trends

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007; 1:19 AM

The iPhone may have made the biggest tech splash in 2007, but a lot of other cannonballs hit the water as well: The year saw the hatching of Google's Android, a number of exploding laptops, and even a newtech-related ailment called "Acute Wiiitis."

What follows is a roundup of 2007's top tech news highlights, from Windows Vista to data breaches to a digital green movement that inspired a company called NHC to makean environmentally responsible MP3 playerthat Al Gore might jam out to.

For many people, 2007 kicked off with a disappointment--Microsoft's much-anticipated release of Windows Vista. The OS itself wasn't bad--in fact,we gave Vista a positive review--but upgrading from an XP environment proved nightmarish for a lot of users.

Starting in January,consumers could purchase Windows Vista. But anyone who bought a laptop or desktop PC in late 2006 was automatically enrolled in theExpress Upgrade to Windows Vista coupon program, entitling them to a free upgrade from XP to Vista.

Unfortunately, many Express customers discovered that there was nothing "express" about the upgrade. Consumers who tried to redeem their coupons ran into delays when thecompanies responsible for processing the Vista coupons were overwhelmedby demand and ill-equipped to deal with it. Many people had to wait months to get their Vista upgrade disc.

But consumers' Vista woes didn't stop there: Some people who upgraded from XP decided thatVista wasn't all that Microsoft made it out to be. By the summer, Vista was facingthe prospect of mounting consumer defections, as major computer vendors told customers that they would help themget rid of Vista and revert to XP.

Many laptop users who managed to steer clear of Vista problems ran into a completely different source of trouble:Laptop battery woes that surfaced in 2006developed into a horror show in 2007. Bad batteries dominated events in the laptop industry, and eventuallynearly 10 million notebook PCsfrom Acer, Apple, Dell, Lenova, and Sony were recalled.

Music Tracks Get Cheaper and Finally Go Free

By all accounts it was a good year for music fans--especially cheapskates. The year in digital music started off promisingly wheniTunes began dropping copy protectionfrom many of the songs in its catalog.

Also in 2007, iTunes drew some serious competition in the digital download arena, withAmazon.com,Sprint, and others selling digital downloads--sans the requirement by Apple to use its iTunes software.

Skinflints, who rejoiced wheniTunes' prices for DRM-free tracks droppedfrom $1.29 to $.99, got even better news when Radiohead and otherrock bands embraced a pay-what-you-want modelfor record albums and began selling music directly to fans though their own Web sites.

About the only music enthusiast who wasn't happy in 2007 was Jammie Thomas of Minnesota, who wasfound liable for damages amounting to $222,000for illegally sharing music files on Kazaa. In this civil suit, the Recording Industry Association of America had sued Thomas for copyright infringement in connection with downloads of 24 songs--and the jury found in the RIAA's favor.


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