The year 2007 was good for technology fans. Whether you were largely desktop bound or constantly on the go, this year's technology products went some way towards making your life easier, more fun or more productive.
But a few stood out - not necessarily because they broke new ground but because it was clear that their influence would be felt well into the future. Whether you own one of these products or not, it's likely that their presence will have an impact on how you work or play in the year to come.
Whether you love it, hate it or are still undecided, Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system was without question one of the most influential product releases of 2007 - and a must-have tech product for most people going forward. Most of the computing world, in short, revolves around Windows, thanks to its commanding share of the business and consumer operating system market. The vast majority of hardware and software makers alike depend upon the Windows upgrade to drive sales.
Although competitors such as Apple's Macintosh and even the freely distributed Linux claim a growing amount of attention from disaffected Windows users, the overall numbers of those not using Windows remains small. Apple's Macintosh, for instance, is expected to gain a market share over Windows in 2008, according to analysts at the US-based research firm Piper Jaffray, but the increase is expected only to push the Macintosh up from 3 to 4 per cent of the worldwide operating system market. Linux remains a niche product attractive mostly to hard-core techies.
That leaves Vista for the rest of us. And in spite of reports of sluggish sales of Vista compared to XP in its early days, Vista's interface changes, beefed up security, and enhanced search have wowed a lot of folks. Given that Vista is now shipped standard on most new PCs and that Microsoft will eventually drop support for XP altogether, Vista is a must-have product.
Few other products have been greeted with so much media and consumer fanfare as Apple's iPhone. The iPhone itself started as a rumour and materialised into a spectacle. Not since the release of Window 95 has the world seen people queue up outside stores, waiting to grab the first units to hit the shelves.
But thanks to Apple's marketing expertise, that's exactly what happened with the iPhone. The expectation was built upon the public's justifiable expectation of engineering panache from Apple, which has been nothing but impressive with innovations such as the iPod, video iPod, and iMac.
The iPhone is essentially a logical next step for Apple. With the iPhone, the company enters the hot cell phone market with a product that combines telephony, MP3 playing, Web surfing, and video watching - and raises the bar for other companies in the areas of ease of use and style. The challenge for Apple will be to bring the price of the product down to a range that's affordable for more mobile phone users.
Most tech gadgets have you sitting at your desk or on the couch, punching a keypad or keyboard. Not the Nintendo Wii. The Wii is the first gaming console that effectively brings virtual reality to the living room, allowing players to get up and become involved in the action.
Wii hooks up to the television, but the magic of the device lies in its controllers, which are hand-held joystick-like devices that allow players to simulate swinging a tennis racket, racing a car, shooting pool, boxing an opponent or lots of other activities. The movement of the controller is synchronised by Wii with the actions of characters or avatars on the screen. In a game of tennis, for instance, if you simulate a backhand swing in tennis, your player on-screen performs that the same swing in real-time.
Players can pit themselves against the Wii console or have fun getting two or more people together, each equipped with a Wii controller, to play together. Wii may very well be the future of gaming to come, and the good news is that it's here, now.
Microsoft currently dominates the office application market, but if the future of computer applications is on the web, then Google's launch of the Google Apps suite in 2007 leads the way. Offering everything that most Office users need - including a word processor, spreadsheet, e-mail, calendar and chat program - Google Apps runs entirely from the internet. Once the suite is set up, users can log in, type a document, and collaborate effortlessly with dozens of other users across the world. The entire suite runs from Google's servers - meaning there's no hardware or software for users to install, and Google performs any application updates or maintenance for you.
Compared to other veteran office suites, the individual applications in Google Apps are rudimentary, but clearly this is still an early-stage project. Still, the features provided by the suite are more than enough to satisfy many users, and the price is certainly right: Google Apps is free to individuals and students and only 50 dollars per year for organisations - a pittance compared to what Microsoft charges for Office.