Software that's ready for takeoff in 2008

Keep your eye on these apps as 2008 ticks by. Either stuck in development or newly released, this bushel of newbies is poised to make this year their year, and just might get business done.

Rising star software of '08

It's hard to predict the next Twitter or Facebook, and that's what makes massive overnight, now-we're-worth-fifteen-billion-dollars success (or not) so gosh darn breathtaking. I mean, did Facebook know it was going to be Facebook?!

So my point is, we go on what we've got when predicting which software is going to turn heads. This list has been compiled partly by educated guesswork and partly by whimsy. Chances are, the software that ends up meaning something to people, we've never seen coming. It's probably not even a glimmer in its developer's eye.

If I turn out to be wildly off-base in my predictions, even better. Groaning at gross miscalculations from tech's crystal ball is part of what makes making them so much fun. Without further ado, here's the lineup.

Trillian Astra

Trillian Astra--The much longed-for next-generation of the cult classic multinetwork chat client has been clinging to its private alpha testing for over a year, but it can't stay there forever. No, at some point in 2008, Trillian Astra will crawl out of its underground development lair to make its Web debut in a cool blue blaze of glory befitting its steely desktop and Web stature. You hear that, Cerulean Studios?! Then all the girls and boys will get to play with social widgets, RSS feeds, expanded plugins, and all-new skins, not just Josh Lowensohn.

Yahoo Messenger for Vista

Yahoo Messenger for Vista--Not to let Trillian corner the IM marketplace when Astra finally blinks at the daylight, Yahoo has already publicly released a preview download for its new Yahoo Messenger for Vista. Introducing an interface seamlessly knitted with Vista's Aero Glass aesthetic and penchant for widget integration, the Vistafied version of Yahoo's chat client promises desktop chat widgets, tabbed chatting, enhanced emoticons, and reflective skins galore. What else it'll be able to do could somewhat depend on user demand, hinted Yahoo's tight-lipped PR reps, but I suspect much more will depend on senior product manager Josh Jacobson. From the looks of it so far, Yahoo Messenger for Vista will make some noise in 2008, at least for its stiletto-slim base of Vista converts.

Flock

Flock--The social networking and blogging browser grabbed CNET's notice this year. From a glowing review to a dedicated Newbie's Guide, Flock is poised to be, at the very least, the editorial team's enduring sweetheart. We're suckers for well-integrated functionality and simplified workflow for blogging, sharing images, and scooting textual information from one platform to another. If Flock can only get in front of the throngs of bloggers and MySpace ilk, it's got a real chance to shine.

Zumobi

Zumobi--I admit I wasn't overly impressed in my initial review. Expectations of the promising mobile widgets app did deflate some on the beta release, yet Zumobi may be on to something with its chessboard of ad-sponsored widgets and competent-looking navigational "flower." In the constant search for quick ways to access targeted online information from minuscule mobile screens, Zumobi's attempt offers a beautiful interface, an open SDK, opportunities for customization, and advertisers--ingredients common to successful products. Thanks to the iPhone and its groupie-imitators, users may be ready for simple apps that launch from a tiled screen. The rest is up to Zumobi fixing the app's usability drawbacks and delivering on its promised functionality.

Google Android

Android apps--Ok, ok, so I realize this may be cheating, since I'm not so much naming one application as I am a constellation of larval apps and apps-to-be. Besides, Google's mobile apps development platform is bound to do well, especially as Google has done such a fine job herding famously proprietary carriers into a loose camaraderie, and attracting any futile Google-resisting developers it didn't already employ with promises of big cash prizes for the best Android-made app. Odds are therefore above-average that the Android SDK (for Windows or Mac) will yield a twinkling gem that transforms cell phones into DVR remotes, or a hot spot seeker that will find local hotspots, lead you there with quiet Bluetooth dictation, and then securely log you on.

GestureTek bowling

Gesticulating mobile games--In fact, gesture-driven mobile games already exist in Japan and are on their way to the US (story | video), where along with Bluetooth headsets, they can trigger erratic, antisocial behavior in their owners. I mean the hands-free muttering of passersby on the street and the wild Wii-like flinging we can soon expect from people bowling with their phones. We can therefore also expect elasticized bungee leashes for those who, in their excitement, lose their handle on the hardware. An extended warranty wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Got your own predictions for software bound to boom in 2008? Lay 'em on us, leave a comment.

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