IT in 2008: Not Business as Usual

The recession dominated IT headlines. But Microsoft, HP and others also made notable tech news.

What first appeared to be a banking crisis became an economic mess for everyone, including IT professionals. The recession ensured that last year wasn't business as usual for IT departments and prompted tech analysts to slash their 2009 spending forecasts.

While the economic downturn was (and is) top of mind, it wasn't the only noteworthy IT news during 2008. Here, not necessarily in order of importance, is the rest of the IDG News Service's list of the year's top 10 technology stories:

HP gobbles up EDS.Hewlett-Packard Co.'s agreement in May to buy outsourcer Electronic Data Systems Corp. for $13.9 billion positioned HP to challenge IBM in the IT services market and surpass its rival as the world's largest vendor in terms of revenue.

Microsoft tries to buy Yahoo, and Google wins. Microsoft Corp. couldn't get Yahoo Inc. to agree to an acquisition -- after which Google Inc. called off a proposed online advertising deal with Yahoo and Jerry Yang stepped down from his job as Yahoo's CEO. Meanwhile, Google is using its dominance of search and online advertising to develop new offerings that could diminish Yahoo's importance and pose a challenge to Microsoft's Office apps.

Open XML gets a controversial victory. In April, Microsoft declared victory in its effort to win fast-track approval of Office Open XML as an ISO standard. Some critics complained about irregularities in the voting process. But Microsoft and its supporters said that software developers and users now have a choice of ISO file format standards: one for Open XML, and the other for the Open Document Format for Office Applications.

Android starts to open up handhelds. The September launch of the T-Mobile G1 smart phone, built on top of Google's open-source Android software, introduced a more open business model for mobile devices. That got the attention of rivals: Even before the G1's rollout, Nokia Corp. said it would make its market-leading Symbian mobile operating system an open platform.

Blu-ray beats HD DVD. Toshiba Corp. announced last February that it would discontinue its HD DVD products, handing victory to Sony Corp. and other backers of the rival Blu-ray high-definition video disc format. Both camps sank hundreds of millions of dollars into the format war, and even the winners have battle scars: Sony conceded that it wouldn't reach its 2008 goal for sales of Blu-ray players.

Spam king McColo falls -- but spam goes on.McColo Corp., a Web hosting firm that allegedly ran systems used by various spamming and cybercrime operations, was disconnected from the Internet by its upstream ISPs in November. About half the spam circulating on the Net disappeared as well. Early last month, though, security researchers said spam volumes were already rising again as cybercrooks rebuilt botnets crippled by the McColo takedown.

XP is dead; long live XP. On June 30, a long-dreaded deadline arrived: PC makers could no longer sell systems loaded with Windows XP. But many users hope to skip Windows Vista and continue running XP until the upcoming Windows 7 is released. So Microsoft has created ways for people to continue getting their hands on the old operating system, such as giving business users the right to "downgrade" new PCs from Vista to XP.

Obama taps tech to help clinch the election. Among the keys to President-elect Barack Obama's victory were database technology, social networking, e-mail list management and automated business intelligence. Cutting-edge IT likely will be de rigueur in future campaigns.

Gates retires from Microsoft. When Bill Gates gave up his day-to-day role at Microsoft in June, it was a milestone for him, the software vendor and the IT industry as a whole. Gates now has a chance to make as much of an impact in philanthropy as he did in technology, via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ferranti is a news editor at the IDG News Service.

This version of this article originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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