Like your average NBA game, 2004 came down to the last 2 minutes before things really got interesting. Following the resurgent growth that capped 2003, 2004 opened with the promise of a banner year. But the technology industry spent most of the year going sideways.
But what a finish: IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo Group Ltd.; Oracle Corp. consummated its 18-month fight to own PeopleSoft Inc. and become the worlds second-largest software company; Symantec Corp. snapped up Veritas Software Corp. to create the fourth-largest software company; and Sprint Corp. acquired Nextel Communications Inc. to jump to No. 3 in the wireless-carrier standings.
The impact of the merger mania will take months to sort out completely. But, near term, they signal a new wave of technology-industry consolidations, which should continue into the new year. And they signal, once again, a new year full of promise. But before we get there, heres eWeeks take on the biggest stories that shaped 2004:
Larry, are you happy now?
Year-in-review writers and editors rejoiced Dec. 13 when news came that the Oracle versus PeopleSoft hostile-takeover siege finally came to fruition. Our story was almost to press at the time, tempered to allow for a late-year resolution. Just in time, however, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison got off the dime and raised his bid to $10.3 billion and won the company hes been after for a year and a half. No word yet on how the poison pill will be dealt with or how many PeopleSoft customers will be left in the lurch. Along the way in 2004, PeopleSofts energetic CEO, Craig Conway, who brought the company back from the brink in the late 90s, was fired in October and replaced by founder Dave Duffield, ostensibly to smooth the path toward PeopleSofts eventual assimilation into Oracle.
Out, damned spam!
Internet e-mail spam officially became its own plague in 2004. It steadily got worse, and there still is no end in sight. Spam volume was expected to hit 90 percent of all e-mail traffic this month, according to FrontBridge Technologies Inc. No word on how much productivity is lost deleting spam from in-boxes.
Some attempts were made to stem the tide. In February, the grass-roots movement SMTP+SPF (SMTP-Sender Policy Framework) published a plan to improve the SMTP protocol that governs e-mail traffic. In May, the group announced a proposal to merge SPF with Microsoft Corp.s Sender ID specification. By fall, those efforts had fallen apart. Last month, Yahoo Inc. put its DomainKeys cryptographic solution to the test in Yahoo Mail to help filter out the most insidious form of spam ...
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Before this year, if you asked anyone what a "phish" was, they might say a legendary rock band. There are few IT managers who can now plead ignorance, and no frequent user of e-mail has been immune to the hooks, lines and sinkers of the biggest wave of malware since the worm. The Information Systems Security Association reported that Visa and MasterCard issuers lost $820 million in 2003 to phishing. That number will increase for 2004. Worse, the criminals are starting to get more sophisticated, and theyre also starting to work together to swap ideas and methods.
"These worlds are starting to collide. The code behind these newer attacks is very polished," Dan Maier, a member of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, in Redwood City, Calif., told eWeeks Dennis Fisher in May. "Theyre sharing code with crackers, using spamming techniques. Its a scary combination."
In other security news, the nations top cyber-security official resigned in October, saying he had done all he could with the resources provided. The departure of Amit Yoran from the Department of Homeland Security after just one year on the job has several branches of the U.S. government scrambling to strengthen the position to ensure that Yorans successor is equipped for the long haul.