2004 in Review

Although the horrors of the asian tsunami are all too fresh in our minds, a lot of stuff happened this year on the tech front. Or rather, in several fronts.

Following up on my predictions recap, here is my humble attempt at capturing this year's interesting events:

Mobile Phones

  • 3G was officially launched across Europe, with Portugal as one of the first countries to do so in earnest - Vodafone got the ball rolling with a now widely cloned PCMCIA data card offering and decently-sized Z105 handsets, which the incumbent-lobbied media downplayed in favour of TMN's flaky initial handset offering. Nobody was fooled, though - TMN had no handsets for sale at all, while Vodafone sold out.
  • Launch and rollout PR reached a crescendo before Xmas, with Vodafone's European re-launch (timed to match the UK one) and several tens of thousands of handsets flying off the shelves in a concerted sales push from all three Portuguese operators. I expect unbiased sales figures to be widely available early next year.
  • The Euro 2004 galvanized pretty much anyone in Portugal but myself, allowing me to enjoy several periods of utter peace and quiet a week. Mobile traffic allowed all operators to rake in some tidy figures, too.
  • The Lisbon Rock In Rio concerts proved to be an excellent testing ground for 3G technology. The Sting concert was amazing, even via TV.
  • Bluetooth officially died several times this year (at least once a month, judging by a cursory search through my Archives). Oddly enough, every phone I pick up seems to have it.
  • The Blackberry plodded on relentlessly in its quest for world domination. It's not taking the European business world by storm (yet), but it never intended to. It has, however, shown that mobile e-mail is the thing to watch out for, with sales creeping up consistently across all markets, and over 2 million users out there. Plus, every user tends to become a convert.
  • Microsoft tried to push AirSync as a mobile e-mail solution across both its PDA and mobile phone platforms, but adoption is weak. Only diehard Microsoft fans stick to it after trying a Blackberry.
  • Nokia gave birth to a new Communicator line, woefully beneath everyone's expectations. I expect the 9300 to sell well, though - it's what everyone wanted in the first place.
  • Series 60 phones got their first proof-of-concept viruses, which - coupled with their increasingly bloated and buggy system software - pushed them firmly into the "too much of a hassle" category. Python for the Series 60 arrived nearly a year after we first heard of it, but isn't really usable yet.
  • Nokia pretty much dropped the ball on 3G - the 6630 looks more and more like some sort of stopgap to keep people entertained until the 6680 (or similar) comes out.
  • HSDPA appeared on the pundits' radar, even though very few of them understand what it will mean in infrastructure investment terms for operators.
  • On a related topic, other pundits persisted on thinking 3G data costs the same to provide as ADSL, and that it should be priced the same. "Analysts" failed to do their homework on real network costs throughout the whole year.


  • 802.11g becomes de rigueur on consumer equipment.
  • 802.11a is dead, but its proponents refuse to accept the fact.
  • WEP and WPA flaws were repeatedly exposed throughout the entire year. Still, full 802.1X and SIM-based authentication got nowhere.
  • WiMax persisted in not getting anywhere either, with a lot of fingers being pointed at Qualcomm's persistent lobbying (they own just about any WCDMA patent on the face of the Earth).
  • US WISPs finally started showing losses. Mergers began early in the year, and roaming agreements are the order of the day.


  • Palm did no better than the underwhelming T5, and further confused its already erratic OS strategy by announcing a move to Linux.
  • HP churned out a gazillion meaningless Pocket PCs with meaningless model numbers.
  • Pocket PC screen resolution is now firmly entrenched at VGA levels. Sadly, the UI is still crap, and the only thing that helps the platform is the Microsoft development juggernaut.
  • Sony killed off its PDA line for good (not that it wasn't dead already at those prices).
  • The Zaurus is still irrelevant.


  • Doom 3 came out. Sales of high-end graphics cards skyrocketed. One week later, souped-up PC sales skyrocket. Hundreds called in sick.
  • Half-Life 2 came out. Nobody needed to upgrade. Thousands called in sick for weeks at a time.
  • Halo 2 broke all sorts of sales records (although many people said that there were some imaginary numbers in there). Hollywood cringed. High schools became miniature ghost towns.
  • The PlayStation Portable came out. Hundreds of geek tourists stormed Japanese retail stores.
  • The EyeToy outsold the Xbox during Xmas. No hard figures there, but from what I saw over here, it was like shooting green fish in a barrel.

The Internet and IT

  • Gmail popped out of nowhere to everyone's astonishment.
  • Patent suits started flying. 2004 will most likely be remembered as the year the USPTO started being ridiculed publicly.
  • RSS and Atom hit the mainstream (again), even though they're still used exactly for the same purposes (i.e., nobody really cares about Atom's improvements).
  • VoIP crept up quite a few notches on regulators' and politicians' agendas. Nobody seems to know exactly what to do with it, though.
  • Skype became something to watch. No matter how many traditional operators deride it, the number of people using it seems to increase every time I login - and my buddy list on it is growing, too.
  • Social networking started showing definite signs of becoming a dud - nobody rants on about Friendster and Orkut anymore, except their marketing reps, who churn out meaningless "registered users" figures.
  • Jabber is still irrelevant - there was more money thrown at the OMA IM specs than in the whole of the so-called "Jabber marketplace". As a result, MSN has become the de facto IM standard (judging from press releases, that applies even if you're an AOL subscriber in the US).
  • Desktop search became a big thing. Weird, I was under the impression it was always there in the first place - if you knew how to set it up.
  • The Economist ran a number of articles on the chaos that IT has become at most organizations. Nobody paid it any attention - yet.

The Sprawling Chaos Of Linux and Open Source

  • SCO kept trying. IBM kept pushing back. I think that pretty much sums it up.
  • Mono became a reality (sadly, not on mobile phones).
  • KDE on the Mac persisted on being ignored. There were some noises regarding Windows ports. Oddly enough, reason appears to have prevailed.
  • The clueless Open Source groupies who spent 2003 maligning RedHat's Fedora without really understanding why spent a couple of evenings getting it off BitTorrent and installing it.
  • Firefox and Thunderbird reached 1.0, making them the most significant Open Source endeavors since Apache and mySQL (yes, I know Mozilla has been around for a while).
  • OpenOffice reached the brink of usability, but not on the Mac.
  • The GIMP persisted in being unusable even as it reached its second major version.
  • Debian became usable, but not thanks to its own efforts - Ubuntu gets all the credit for that, finally providing Fedora with a worthy competitor. Even if it did eat my hard disk.
  • Linux is still not ready for the desktop - and I'm not the only one saying so.
  • Nobody comes up with an elegant solution to run Linux on all those old Cobalt boxes.

Apple and the so-called Media Revolution

  • The Mac got its first live virus.
  • Growl and Quicksilver became the indispensable things to have on your Mac. Neither of them is cross-platform - yet.
  • Apple churned out the AirPort Express, a brand new iMac design and more iPods than you can shake a MuVo at. It also did not vigorously deny wild rumors of an iPhone.
  • Information appliances returned - under the guise of wireless routers, storage servers, and consoles turned into media centers. I expect this trend to continue well into 2006, which is when I expect toasters to finally get their own IP addresses.
  • The iTunes Music Store made some impressive figures, spawning a whole new Apple cloning trend (with MSN Music delivering a rather cheeky clone). All of a sudden, buying music online became a legal (and addictive) thing to do. RealNetworks is still whining.
  • Creative started aping Apple too, painting all its MP3 players white (we gave away a 1GB MuVo this Xmas, and it was eerie to watch it being unpacked - even the earbuds were white).
  • The average P2P file size is now near 300MB. And yes, I did say average. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
  • BitTorrent became an officially maligned protocol at the corporate level, thanks to rampant piracy. And it gets lots of press coverage, just like any other disruptive technology.
  • The full set of LOTR extended editions became available on DVD. Pizza and thai take-aways made a killing on the first weekend. P2P traffic rose markedly on the second.
  • Pixar wiped the floor with The Incredibles - easily the best all-round movie this year. The eMule generation rates it as being "worth seeing at the theater".

This Site

A small personal note: besides having done a number of design tweaks and reaching a high mark of roughly 2000 photos online (1% of which grace the site headers), this year I also broke through the 100K pageview mark and kept on climbing:

AdSense revenue, however, is only good for a couple of sodas a day. Not that I entertain any delusions of it ever becoming real money, but it's enough to go out and have a toast to all my visitors.

Thanks for dropping in, it's been a fun year.