The Year in Tech: Top 2007 News and Trends

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Google's Growth Spurts

Google continued its rapid expansion in 2007. Besides rolling out the open Android mobile phone development platform, it spent much of the year readying a bid for the upcoming 700-MHz wireless spectrum auction, which is likely to be hotly contested. At the auction, the FCC will sell off licenses to frequencies that will become available when analog TV stations go off the air, making way for the new digital TV system.

Not content with turning the wireless market on its head, Google also announced a host of services in well-established product categories. For example, the company launched the OpenSocial application platform for social network services, and Knol, a competitor to Wikipedia. What's next, a Google automobile?

My personal favorite Google newcomer of 2007 was Google Street View. Some people, however, insist that this roving videocam viewer violates their privacy.

Tech Industry Goes Green

In a year when Al Gore and the U.N. Panel on Climate Change won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work to raise awareness about global warming, tech firms decided that green was the new black when it came to being good corporate citizens.

Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Lenovo, and even an MP3 maker called NHC went green in 2007. Google set out to decrease dependency on coal with its "RE-C" initiative, which pledges to invest "tens of millions" of research and development dollars in successful efforts to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy more cheaply than can be done using coal.

Meanwhile, Intel and 40 other organizations created the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, whose mandate is to increase the energy efficiency of computer and server equipment.

Hackers Enjoy Success in 2007

Let's hope that 2007 marked the high tide for hackers and that 2008 will produce a downturn in their fortunes. Yeah, just call me Pollyanna.

Data thieves and botnet czars dispensed plenty of misery in 2007. Among other things, the year witnessed one of the largest digital data thefts ever: Hackers stole the names and credit card information of an estimated 45.6 to 94 million customers of department store owner TJX. The hackers gained access to TJX's computer systems by eavesdropping on the department stores' poorly protected Wi-Fi networks. The breach prompted numerous calls for stronger data-protection laws.

Also in 2007, things went from bad to worse for victims of so-called bot networks. In January, the Storm Worm emerged; it went on to become 2007's biggest PC security threat. The name "Storm Worm" is a bit of a misnomer because the malware is actually bot software that corrals infected computers into a botnet--a network that executes commands issued by a central criminal controller.

Law enforcement agencies broke up many botnets this year. But security experts warn that for every individual arrested for running a botnet, a dozen more likely remain at large.

Looking Ahead to 2008

If 2007 is any indicator of what the tech world has in store for us in 2008, here are a few words of advice: Keep your virus definitions up-to-date, start saving for cool new gear (some of which we expect to see at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January), and consider waiting until Vista SP2 (or until you buy a new PC) before upgrading from XP.

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