Technology Trends to Watch in 2007

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By John Stokdyk and Gail Perry

A new Vista for Windows

It's been almost four years since we last saw a major Windows upgrade from Microsoft (if you discount the XP Service Pack 2 release). However, this year will see the arrival of Windows Vista - "the most significant product release in Microsoft history" - accompanied by the new Microsoft Office 2007. The most visible differences will be glitzy new interface designs for both products, which incidentally are likely to place extra demands on users' PCs. Over the next year, millions of business users will be considering whether the enhancements in Vista and Office 2007 merit extra investment and training costs. Microsoft has a tough job on its hands, but for Excel users there are some very impressive features in the new release that will allow you to link to information in SQL Server databases and publish the results in online spreadsheets. Visit our British sister site, and its ExcelZone for more background information.

XBRL - the Internet financial reporting language

We've been writing about it on AccountingWEB for years, with little response from members. But over the past year, the new Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox has been talking up XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) as the future of financial reporting. The AICPA reports that in its most basic format, XBRL focuses on the agreement to improve gathering, analyzing, and sharing business reporting data. For example, one can update a field in one application and have it automatically synchronize with other applications. This allows organizations to select and seamlessly integrate “best of breed” applications. The SEC announced last September its plan to implement XBRL as the required format for companies submitting reports, thus making it easier for companies to file information with the SEC and also improving search capabilities within its EDGAR database.

The software as a service debate - slight refrain

Back in the 1990s, technology gurus used to pontificate at great length whether or not a particular year was likely to be the one when "open systems" finally took off. The rise of Windows put a big dent in that argument and the Internet knocked it right out of the arena. The equivalent argument for the 21st century is whether this one will really be the year that software as a service (SaaS) takes off. The ratio of smoke - no doubt reflected by a few backstage mirrors - is still disproportionate to the fire of serious implementation, but we have moved from the novelty phase to a place where companies are beginning to seriously weigh up the advantages of local installations versus services hosted in the Internet "cloud". Market intelligence analyst IDC predicts that SaaS will make up 30% of the software market in 2007.

VoIP, Blogs, Wi-Fi, and other additions to the dictionary of the new millennium

This year we will see the continued emergence and convergence of wireless communication in the form of smaller but more utilitarian devices that enable us to communicate easily and constantly with our homes, offices, families, co-workers, and anyone else we choose. Employers will continue to consider the necessity of monitoring employee use of the Internet, business travel will continue to be replaced with web-based solutions for meetings and seminars, spam will continue to fill our mailboxes, and hackers will continue to produce new and divisive threats to the security of our data. Analysts predict that the expansion of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the ability to transmit voice conversations and faxes over the Internet, will continue to encourage people to switch from traditional land telephone lines to the new technology. The novelty of items like Dick Tracy's wristwatch and Captain Kirk's communicator has become today's reality. The continued growth of wireless networking (Wi-Fi) will keep us in cybertouch with the Internet world, and everyone with an opinion is going to be blogging.

What do you think will be the important technology trends of 2007 - enterprise search, voice over Internet or the paperless office? Help other members prepare for the year ahead by posting your predictions using the "Comment" button below.

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