Top 10 IT stories of 2009

Acquisitions still reshape the market; cutting-edge products like Chrome OS and Windows 7 emerge

The Great Recession cast a shadow on all sectors of the economy in 2009, but the IT industry fared a bit better than most as the slump failed to curb the dynamic nature of the tech business.

Acquisitions among major vendors continued to reshape the market, operating system wars were extended to Web and mobile battlefields, microblogging became a powerful source of real-time information, and interest in small, Net-connected devices was stronger than ever.

Here, in no particular order, are the IDG News Service's picks for the top 10 technology stories of 2009.

Oracle (tries) to buy Sun.Oracle in April agreed to buy Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion -- a deal that could alter the high-tech landscape. However, the European Union is threatening to block the transaction because Sun owns the open-source MySQL database.

Microsoft launches Windows 7. A scaled-back launch on Oct. 22 and a marketing mantra of "simplicity" fit Microsoft's characterization of the new operating system -- faster and more straightforward than its predecessor, Vista. The much-maligned Vista was plagued by hardware compatibility problems, poor performance and annoying system alerts. The older Windows XP, as of the Win 7 launch, was still being used by more than 70% of computer users.

Google unveils Chrome OS. A month after the Windows 7 launch, Microsoft's arch nemesis released its new Google Chrome operating system to the open-source community. Chrome is built to run only Web-based applications; it's not meant to replace current PC operating systems.

Yahoo, Microsoft sign search deal. After failing to reach a merger agreement, Microsoft and Yahoo struck a revenue-sharing deal that calls for Microsoft's Bing to power Yahoo's search sites and for Yahoo to sell premium search advertising services for both companies. The agreement still needs regulatory approval.

Obama includes tech in stimulus plans. President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, approved by Congress in February, included $7.2 billion for broadband deployments, $17 billion for incentives to adopt electronic health records and $11 billion to hook up the electricity grid to the Internet.

Steve Jobs comes back, again.Apple's comeback kid did it again -- but this time, Steve Jobs overcame serious health problems. He returned to work in June after taking a leave of absence to receive a liver transplant; he had undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2004.

Microblogging business explodes. Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities jumped on the Twitter bandwagon to solidify the status of microblogging and social networking technologies. The U.S. government even urged Twitter to delay a planned service outage so that tweets could continue to flow from protesters challenging the results of the Iranian election.

E.C. fines Intel for antitrust violations. The European Commission fined Intel $1.44 billion in May, citing damage to competition as a result of discounts the chip maker gave to partners. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Intel in December.

Droid escalates smartphone battle.Verizon Wireless launched Droid, a half-inch-thick contender for the smartphone crown, in October. Sporting a 3.7-in. touch screen, a metal top and a sliding keyboard, the device is the first serious challenger to Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

IT forecast: Clearing, with a chance of sun. The recession hit every business sector, but tech occupies a special place in the recovery. In December, IDC echoed other market research firms when it declared that IT will lead the world out of the bad economic times. The researcher projects that global IT spending will increase 3.2% this year and return to 2008's pre-recession spending level of about $1.5 trillion.

Marc Ferranti is executive news editor of the IDG News Service.

Next: Opinion: IT's future lies in sharing

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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