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On the operating system (OS) front, Windows continued to dominate the overall OS market with more than 90 percent of market share. Windows 7, which seemed to be Microsoft’s answer to all the criticism aimed at Vista, showed a steady rise from a mere five percent of the market share to a steady 18 percent with the graphs showing a steady upward trend. However, even though Windows dominated the overall market, 2010 saw a gradual decline in its year to year market share. This decline may be attributed to a rise in users’ inclination towards other operating systems, like the Mac OS, and open source operating systems like Ubuntu.

Speaking to Ubunto, this year saw two releases for the OS the Long Term Support (LTS) version Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) in April, and the normal version, Maverick Meerkat better known as Ubuntu 10.10 on October 10, 2010 (rescheduled from its planned release at the end of October to get “the perfect 10”). Most significantly, Maverick Meerkat included the Unity shell interface, which made its debut in the netbook edition of Ubuntu 10.10. On the other hand, LibreOffice, an open source, vendor independent office suite, with Open Document Format (ODF) support, made its debut in September 201. worth mentioning is that a number of leading open source distro makers, such as Canonical, Novell and Google, have expressed plans to include LibreOffice in future versions of their operating systems.

   
 

Things were pretty busy on the Mac front as well, as Mac OS X Lion (version 10.7) was unveiled at the Back to the Mac even in October. The most important aspect of Lion, which is scheduled to release in mid-2011, is its inclusion of features that were previously available only on the iOS. These features include the App Store, Launchpad, enhanced multitouch support and Mission Control. At the same event, iLife 11, a suite of multimedia software applications, was also announced, and is expected to release in 2011. One can expect the year 2011 to be a major one for Apple, when it could possibly garner an increased popularity and market share.

As we approach the end of the year, the elephant in the room is Google’s Chrome OS, which was supposed to be released in the final quarter of 2010. However, let’s hope that Google puts an end to its user’ misery and releases the OS in the next couple of weeks. Its prospects do not seem to be very bright, as many pundits think that not many users are completely ready for an all Cloud OS; and also, with Android slowly creeping into the netbooks’ market, it could mean the cannibalization of a market segment that the Chrome OS had hoped to penetrate.

   
 

The Chrome Web Store is yet another promised goodie from Google that was expected to be released this year let’s see whether Google will scurry to release it in the last days of 2010, or drag it on to the next year.

The Next Browser Battle

The battle for the best browser continued in 2010, with each industry giant releasing updates and versions in an attempt to attain the top spot. In September, Microsoft released the public beta version of its most ambitious browser to date, Internet Explorer 9, which had a new Jscript engine – called Chakra – Direct2D, and improved HTML5 support, among other features. However, there are strong rumours suggesting that Internet Explorer will not be compatible with Windows XP. How Microsoft will manage to regain its already slumping user base by overlooking this segment, is beyond many industry experts’ comprehension. While Microsoft attempted to get lucky the ninth time with Internet Explorer 9, Google pulled in more users with a stable release of Chrome 7, which not only included support for Windows, Mac and Linux, but also successfully fixed many of its previous bugs.

Opera, the browser known for introducing innovative features, but failing to catch mainstream attention, also released two versions – Opera 10.5 and 10.6. The most notable change among the new releases was the removal of dependency on the Qt framework, and the integration of the much hyped about KDE framework. An overall trend that was seen in all the five major Web browsers was the readiness to improve support for HTML5 (the latest version of HTML standards), which, among other enhancements, also decreases the dependency on Adobe Flash for video playback.

Wisdom of the Cloud

As predicted last year, Cloud computing continued to create waves in 2010. A major development in that regard was the launch of Microsoft Office 2010, which included a Web-based extension of the same, called Office Web Apps (reviewed in Spider’s September 2010 issue). Even though Office Web Apps had quite a few limitations, it was a good addition to Cloud-based productivity suites like Google Docs and Zoho. An area where Office Web Apps had an advantage over Google Docs was absolute document fidelity, that is, the ability to accurately retain data and formatting of Office documents. However, Google Docs remained the reigning king when it came to collaboration and sharing of documents on the Cloud. Overall in 2010, Cloud computing became less about innovative projects only on paper, and more about real world deployments and businesses; this was the year when consumers showed readiness to adopt Cloud based services and many Cloud based startups, like Aster Data Systems and RightScale, broke onto the technological landscape.

In Search of the Top Slot

Yahoo!’s acquisition by Microsoft (in July last year) finally materialized for consumers, with Bing completely taking over and powering Yahoo!’s search results from August 2010 onwards. With search engines adopting new technologies and improving upon existing algorithms, a drastic boom in their performances was witnessed. Two developments worth mentioning are Google Instant, a search enhancement that showed results while users typed in their queries, and Blekko, an engine launched in November 2010 that got a lot of attention due to its “open” nature and the goal to provide better search results than Google. How far Blekko manages to achieve this goal remains to be seen.

Other Developments

Microsoft was pretty busy with new releases and updates this year. Among other releases, 2010 also saw the launch of Visual Studio 2010, along with the final release of Net Framework 4 – and the trend of adopting simpler user interfaces was prevalent even in development environments. Additionally, in an attempt to lure users to Windows 7, as well as to encourage conversion from Windows XP, Microsoft ended XP compatibility on Windows Live Essentials 2011, which was released in Fall 2010.

Refining Existing Technologies

Like 2009, this year was also mainly about improving existing technologies and bringing better versions of existing software, rather than creating something from a scratch. The general approach undertaken was to provide smart usage of applications, rather than flashy UIs. While the trend of moving towards open source and Cloud-based services was very apparent, it is unlikely that proprietary software will completely vanish, or Cloud-based computing will completely take over in the year 2011.


 
 
 
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