As 2004 draws to a close, I thought you'd enjoy a retrospective-a recount of important Microsoft news from 2004. Microsoft made this task easy for me by summarizing the achievements it felt were most significant in a 15-page PressPass released last week.

Some of the most interesting news has almost nothing to do with SQL Server--at least not at first glance. Microsoft has made numerous advancements in consumer fields associated with entertainment and digital media. Not the least of these is the general acceptance of digital media. Microsoft points out that more than 10 billion music tracks now exist on user hard drives, more than 40,000,000 US households now have digital cameras, and more than 100 million digital video recorders (not counting PC devices) are installed in homes around the world.

Media Center PCs

By now, you've probably heard about Windows XP Media Edition 2005, Microsoft's push to make a Windows-based PC the integrated brain and hub of your entire home-entertainment system. Research from the Yankee Group says that by 2007, 25 percent of all PCs sold will be Media Center PCs. Think about that for a moment. Managing your home budget and Christmas card list on the family PC is one thing--trusting it to serve up "The Sopranos" or "Survivor" is a whole new level of technology integration in the home. Windows Media Connect and Portable Media Centers extend the reach of a central Media Center PC to every room in the house and give you nearly seamless portability. Of course, it will take a few releases for Microsoft to solve the functionality and feature problems that keep Media Center from being the truly seamless experience that Microsoft wants it to be. Windows Media Center is now in its third major iteration, and it's starting to look and feel like a viable solution for managing your home-entertainment experience.

Xbox Growth

Another important accomplishment for Microsoft in 2004 was increased acceptance of the Xbox, including Xbox Live, Microsoft's online Xbox gaming service. Microsoft says that Xbox Live reached a subscriber base of more than 1,000,000 within 2 years of its launch, which is half the time it took for AOL, HBO, and TiVO to reach the same subscriber levels.

I think database technology is fun, but most people probably don't think databases are as entertaining as giant plasma TVs serving up the latest movies or your family vacation videos. But as Microsoft creates more touch points in the house, I see the need and opportunity for larger amounts of home data storage and manipulation. The technologies Microsoft is touting in its press release don't rely heavily on SQL Server in their current incarnations, but future versions of Windows (e.g., Longhorn) will rely on core SQL Server technology. So it makes sense to assume that future versions of Windows home-media-oriented technologies will most likely begin to leverage SQL Server technology for various storage needs as well. Protecting the sa password will always be important; perhaps in a few years, you'll need to keep it under lock and key so that your kids won't order too many pay-per-view movies.