2007 was another great year for software. Here are a few software releases that caught my eye and imagination. I might not use all of the software on this list, but I believe most of these will have a significant impact on the software industry in some way or another.
Microsoft has a strong showing in this list. Of course, I'm a bit biased. I'm a .Net developer and most of my time is spent developing with Microsoft technologies, but a lot of the stuff they've released this year has been fantastic. If you can think of any software released this year that should be on this list (Microsoft or not), feel free to leave a comment.
The links below go to the original announcement of the release where I could find it. The reason a lot of the dates are towards the end of the year is because many software products release multiple versions per year and I tended to grab the announcement for the latest major release where possible.
iPhone (January 9th)
Strictly speaking, the iPhone is not software, but the innovations in this product, such as the multi-touch screen, have had a significant influence on software, especially for handheld devices.
Surface Computing (May 29th)
Again, this isn't really software per se, but like the iPhone it has (or may have anyway) a significant impact on how software is written. The primary innovation is multi-touch which isn't really new, but has historically been too expensive for consumers. Microsoft's surface computer isn't being sold to consumers yet, but who knows what the next few years will bring.
Silverlight 1.0 (September 4th)
Silverlight has the potential to replace HTML as the predominant means to delivering content over the Internet. Silverlight can present data in a pleasing graphical format with improved capabilities, better performance, and less effort than HTML not to mention the ability to be highly interactive.
I'm sure Silverlight won't take over the world overnight (it still needs to address multi-platform issues as well as overcome the inertia of HTML), but in years to come people will expect a more interactive experience that HTML just can't provide (AJAX is a stepping stone, but it isn't the final solution).
IIS 7 RC0 (September 27th)
IIS 7 introduces a ton of new features. Of particular interest is the ability to extend just about any part of IIS (including the core HTTP processing engine) using managed code as well as simplified deployment and configuration. If you want a good overview, check out the article Explore The Web Server For Windows Vista And Beyond at MSDN Magazine.
Ubuntu 7.10 (October 10th)
After years of putting off installing Linux, I finally did it. Installing Ubuntu was an entirely painless process. I was amazed how easy it was. The best part of Ubuntu was that I could run it from a DVD to make sure it will work on my system before I committed to installing it. To install it, I simply double-clicked an icon on the desktop and it was able to create a partition of my hard drive and install to it without breaking my install of Windows XP.
I would love to see Linux seriously challenge Microsoft, unfortunately if you have ever seen the distro tree you would probably understand why Linux has not had any significant impact on the consumer market (how's somebody like my uncle going to know which version to pick?). Hopefully the world of Linux will embrace a single distro as the consumer version of Linux and I believe that Ubuntu has a serious shot at being that distro.
Windows Home Server (November 5th)
Although most households today don't need their own server, many do (I'm pretty sure I need one anyway :)). It is also fun to dream about a future where all new homes are built with gigabit networks and home server closets just like all homes have plumbing and wiring and spaces for common household appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.
Windows Live Writer 2008 (November 6th)
After many months of no communication or releases, Microsoft finally released Windows Live Writer. This is the tool I use to write all my blog posts. It's simple to use and integrates with a ton of different blogging services out there. This is the tool that will be setting the standards for any protocols dealing with publishing to a blog. Live Writer support was one of the requirements I had when I recently picked new blog software.
Visual Studio 2008 and .Net 3.5 (November 19th)
This was the software release that I looked forward to the most this year. I use Visual Studio practically everyday and was glad to hear that they were putting in a lot of effort to improve the performance. I haven't used LINQ yet, but am eager to try it out once I've got something to use it for.
Parallel Extensions to the .Net Framework CTP (November 29th)
With the emergence of multi-core processors, developers need to step up to the plate and provide software that can utilize this additional processing power. In order to help make that happen, Microsoft has released a library to make this easier. Check out the team blog, Parallel Programming with .NET, for more information.
ASP.Net 3.5 Extensions CTP Preview (December 9th)
This package from Microsoft introduces the ASP.Net MVC architecture and URL routing (amongst other features). I'm not much of a web developer anymore, but this stuff seems like it could have a significant impact on how web applications are developed.