This year turned out to be the year of not just of promise but of a fair amount of delivery too -- surprisingly enough for an industry that's big on promises.
Vista v Linux
Perhaps the biggest was the launch of Vista, which finally hit the streets at the start of 2007. And what a damp squib that turned out to be, with IT managers and enterprises generally refusing to have much to do with it -- or at the very least, hardly jumping up and down for joy.
Part of the reaction was prompted by the fact that Vista's hardware requirements are pretty stringent, and desktops generally seem to be fairly old, as they're not being upgraded as frequently as they used to be before Y2K. And your average desktop is plenty fast enough for most people, with the advent of cheap SATA drives and the trusted computing chip being arguably among the few major reasons for upgrading. The other reason is that, despite the new interface and the re-arranged furniture, Vista has prompted many to argue that it brings little new to the party. Why bother, is the oft-heard refrain.
And of course that's a disruption in the market, which should mean an open door for Linux. Yet despite a shiny new GPL -- we're at v3 now, do stay awake at the back -- desktop Linux has yet to arrive en masse, unless you live in Germany. But that didn't stop Dell and others launching Linux-based PCs. The success or otherwise of that move has yet to be determined but I'd wager that fewer than one percent of its machines don't pay the Microsoft tax.
No, Linux on the desktop isn't there yet. Instead what's happening is that organisations are staying put and primping up what they've got. XP is pretty robust and, with the right set of policies and third party software, it's pretty secure too. It's Vista's biggest rival out there, as Microsoft was forced to acknowledge in October when it lengthened the venerable OS's lifespan.
Blades: IBM v HP
Another deliverable this year was the blade server chassis for SMBs. Blades constitute the fastest-growing chunk of the server market -- and it's owned almost exclusively by IBM and HP. They spent the year taking potshots at each other: 'our blades are cooler than yours' was the gist of the shouting match. It's a pity that IBM, which was first to start shouting about its box, has yet to deliver one, while HP quietly got on with marketing, selling and shipping its analogous product, cutely called 'Shorty'. Actually it wasn't so quiet, as an IBM video posted on YouTube showed, since HP's model-aircraft-inspired fans do make one hell of a racket.
VMware v everyone else
Blades are all to do with packing servers into ever-smaller spaces while ensuring that they don't go into meltdown. A key complementary technology is of course virtualisation, with VMware retaining the market leader's crown in December which sat firmly on its head in January.
But VMware hasn't had it all its own way. While its technology is generally acknowledged by IT managers and analysts to be the most flexible and robust out there -- and it certainly appears to have garnered the biggest swathe of third party vendors in support of its products -- others have come and taken tiny bites of its market share.
Virtual Iron and Xen seem in particular to have made the most noise, along with Parallels, which started the year as SWsoft but renamed itself in December. By then, Xen had disappeared, swallowed up by Citrix in what most observers saw as a canny move for a company whose core technology has seemed somewhat stuck in the mud over recent years. That'll liven the desktop virtualisation business.