The 15 Biggest Tech Disappointments of 2007

#12. Just Another Oxymoron: Internet Security

Symantec's map shows where bot-herding servers are concentrated.
In 2007, the words "Internet security" joined the ever-growing list of self-canceling phrases, alongside "business intelligence," "Congressional ethics," and "Microsoft Works."  This year, bot herders proved they could harness enough zombie PCs to take down an entire country's infrastructure for a month. Estonia eventually recovered, but our notion of Net invulnerability hasn't.

According to McAfee's Virtual Criminology Report, some 120 governments are actively engaged in Web espionage and cyber assaults. Meanwhile, private criminals used the Storm worm to created a botnet for hire containing millions of zombies--enough to take down a major network. And while the FBI's Operation Bot Roast nailed a handful of domestic bot herders, that leaves several thousand more to go, most of them living beyond the Feds' reach. Three-quarters of cyber attacks in 2007 originated outside the U.S., according to Symantec's most recent Internet Security Threat Report.

As with global warming, there's plenty of blame to go around--for everybody from developers of insecure software to home users who blithely log on without inoculating their PCs. Let's hope they get more of a clue in 2008.

#11. Singing an Old Familiar Zune: Microsoft Zune

Microsoft's Zune
Microsoft got a chance to do things right with its "iPod Killer" in 2007. And Zune 2.0 was certainly an improvement--offering 80GB of storage instead of 30GB, wireless syncing, improved touch controls, and a choice of Nano-like 8GB players in a variety of bright colors  (Pepto-Bismol pink, anyone?). But Microsoft failed to lose the Zune's proprietary DRM scheme or remove all its restrictions on wireless music sharing (you can share songs with other nearby Zune users, but they can only listen to them three times before the songs go poof).

We're not the only ones disappointed in the Zune. According to the NPD Group, Microsoft still lags behind Sandisk and Creative Labs in market share for portable media players. And for every Zune Microsoft sells, Apple sells 30 iPods. Remember: You can't kill an iPod if you can't get close to it.

#10. Is Anyone Listening?: Wireless Carriers

Today's cell phone hardware is wildly innovative--and we don't mean just the Apple iPhone. Other companies--LG, Samsung, HTC, and Nokia--have all come out with handsets that are really more like hip pocket computers.

But innovative wireless service providers? Few and far between. Voice call quality still sucks, high-speed data networks are still scarce, and the companies still want too big a chunk of our wallets ($2.50 for a 20-second ring tone--exsqueeze me?). Worse, the inability to easily switch U.S. carriers but keep your phone is grating.

"The wireless industry has been a huge disappointment," says Brad Grimes, a former PC World executive editor, now editor in chief for Hanley Wood's Digital Home. "Innovation in devices has been exciting, but the fact that most of them are tied to certain service providers is absurd. Hopefully recent steps toward opening wireless platforms will gain traction. I'd be surprised if the day doesn't come soon when we can buy any mobile device to work with any carrier, and when we're not locked into contracts and ridiculous early termination charges."

Maybe Verizon's move to open up its network will pay off next year. But for now, all of them disappoint.

#9. Sorry, We Already Gave: Office 2007

Microsoft's Office Pro 2007
Many of us spent a decade learning how to use Microsoft Office. So now that we finally have it all down, Microsoft changes almost everything about the interface in 2007, and not for the better. Instead of simple-if-prosaic toolbars, Office 2007 serves up a jumble of confusing icons known as the 'Ribbon.'

Longtime PC World contributor Robert Luhn, now editor in chief of DrBicuspid.com, says the new version was a stumble backwards. "Scrambled interface, incompatibility with old macros, but hey, I do get in-context spell checking," he says. "Is that worth the $239 upgrade? Me thinks not."

Overall, we liked the added support for XML and online collaboration tools when we reviewed Office 2007 late last year. But Ribbon schmibbon. We'll take the classic menus, please--even if we have to spend $30 for an add-in program to get them back.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

Subscribe to the Power Tips Newsletter

Comments