The most important 'tech moments' in 2006?

, posted: 27-Dec-2006 15:12

2006 was a busy year for the technology sector everywhere, and I thought I'd summarise some of what happened. This will be in no particular order of importance or even date, and as usual, it's completely subjective (hey, this is my blog after all). It's an incomplete list as well, so feel free to add stuff. My starting a blog on Geekzone doesn't count unfortunately, unless it should be filed under "what took him so bloody long?"

Telecom New Zealand cops a large dose of regulation
How far can you push several successive governments over the past decade and a half yet expect to retain your telecommunications monopoly? Very far indeed, as Telecom New Zealand discovered during the nineties and early part of the new millennium.

However, Telecom got too cocky and managed to push the government too far. In May this year, Minister of Communications David Cunliffe said enough's enough, and announced his new regulatory package. I'll freely admit that I never expected anything much to come out of Cunliffe's "industry stocktake" that was set in motion after Telecom missed its self imposed one-third target for all broadband connections to be delivered via wholesale - plus, Helen Clark going to South Korea and seeing just how far behind NZ is. Many years of official inaction made me think regulatory status quo was somehow more valuable than increased competition and improved broadband. I'm glad I was wrong there.

This year's been spent on working out the specifics for the new regulation, and the bill was passed by Parliament this month. Next year should be very interesting indeed. There's been plenty of "consolidation" in telco land, with for instance Vodafone buying iHuG and Woosh acquiring Quicksilver.

Vodafone if it gets its IhUg act together will be in a position to offer full service next year, nationwide. That is, landlines, fixed-line broadband, mobile calls and 3G data. Unlike the other players in the market, Vodafone hasn't been haemorrhaging money through the migration of profitable dial-up customers to loss-leading Telecom-supplied DSL.

Telecom meanwhile has clammed up and become more withdrawn. We were supposed to have ADSL2+ in June and where's the NGN? Is that for next year?

Trade Me sold for $700 million
I recall talking to an editor at one of the large dailies in New Zealand late 2005, about "tech". Apparently, said "tech" was a "hangover from the dot-com era" and there was too much coverage of it in the paper. Primary industries (yeah, farming) were much more important, and as a result, the paper got five staffers to cover that and one person to write about ICT.

Then the Trade Me/Fairfax deal came along in March, showing that the hangover patient was doing rather nicely, thank you. In one fell swoop, Fairfax bought itself the entire classified advertisements market in New Zealand.

While it's not apparent from the coverage in the general media, this year there was plenty of buzz in the tech biz. The year started off strongly with AfterMail where my mate Nic Wise works going to US company Quest for a cool US$45 million and it kind of rolled on from there.

Don't see things slowing down next year either, so I'll be busy.

Intel stops AMD kicking its butt and returns the favour
It took what? three years? before Intel saw the light and realised the Pentium 4 architecture was going nowhere in terms of performance and power-efficiency. Worse, Intel lost the top spot amongst the enthusiasts, or the people who create headlines useful for marketing purposes. If you wanted a fast system, you built it around an AMD processor.

The Conroe Core 2 Duo changed all that, followed by the four-core Kentsfield Core 2 Quad - Intel didn't manage to think of particularly good names for its new processors that wipe the floor with AMD's CPUs currently, however.

It'll be interesting to see how AMD counters Intel's current advantage next year. AMD bought ATI this year and should be able to use the graphics and chip set specialist's technical nous to build something better than the somewhat lame QuadFather 4x4...

3G becomes more broadband
Is mobile broadband important? Well, you could argue that with only 1GB (which can be stretched to 2GB occasionally), it's not. And, you'd be right because low data caps combined with high speeds doesn't a useful service make.

However, Vodafone's HSDPA and Telecom's EV-DO Rev A are cool technologies in their own rights but perhaps in the hands of organisations that don't quite know what customers want to use broadband for?

Vista actually ships (well, RTM at least)
OMG! Microsoft shipped Vista! I can promise you that was what everyone in IT media said in one form or the other, as Vista went to manufacturing in November.

Having used the RTM version of Vista for a while now, I wouldn't say it's quite ready yet though. It seems to need an SP1 and there's all the uncertainty around the heavy-handed DRM as well.

That said, the improved security in Vista is a Good Thing, and I like the new UI look. Even so, XPSP2 is presently good enough for most people, and it's hard to see what the compelling case to upgrade to Vista is. Microsoft reckons one thing that'll drive adoption is the improved power management in Vista for notebook users, but is that going to be enough?

Google buys YouTube
There were bigger tech-related deals in 2006 than Google buying Youtube, like the stonking huge US$11 billion Alcatel and Lucent merger, but none got quite as much attention I think.

This is probably because nobody could quite work out why Google spent so much money on Youtube, or what it would actually do with it. I'm not sure either, to be honest, but good on the lads who set up Youtube in the first place... just remember to invite me to your next project, mmkay?

What did I miss? Oh, I had a bit of a scoop just before Christmas when I was told about a rather extraordinary message that TelstraClear CEO Alan Freeth sent out to staff. I covered it for Communications Day in Australia, and the Sydney Morning Herald, the New Zealand Herald and the Dominion Post wrote about it too. Since the SMH published the email in full, here's a copy for Geekzoners to read.

Finally, a happy new year picture, with the help of Fah Lo Suee:

Lovely! Would do an animated version if I knew how.

Other related posts:
The TechEd 2013 bag review
Timelapse clip of Brisbane superstorm
IITP Newsline: Software patents special issue

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