A Look Back: Top 10 Tech Stories of 2002

Cyber-security, Microsoft case topped the news in a year of uncertainty for the technology industry.

If 2001 was a year of cataclysm and change, 2002 was about looking for—and in some cases finding—closure on events that dominated the previous year. IT and government officials refined their view of networking and computing infrastructures through the filter of potential terrorism; Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. shed some of the uncertainty that weighed them down the previous year; and, with many enterprises still working off the IT spending binge of the past, consolidation continued unabated, and investments in IT remained slow.

Here are the stories that shaped IT in 2002:

1) The visible hand

Still reeling from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, IT and government policy-makers in 2002 forged ahead on two fronts to fortify the nations networks and data centers.

As eWeek began reporting in August, the Presidents Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, headed by Richard Clarke, released in September a draft Strategy to Secure Cyber Space. Industry applauded the voluntary nature of the recommendations, but many others, fearing costly new regulations, raised concerns about the balance between security and economic realities.

IT organizations objected to proposals calling for new standards bodies, federal assessment of service providers and a public/private fund to address the Internets needs. The PCIPB is expected to release its final version of the strategy early in 2003.

Meanwhile, legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security was signed into law by President Bush Nov. 25. Security experts praised the prospects for bringing all data regarding cyber-security under a single organization.

Whether these measures will strengthen the nations IT infrastructure is still in doubt. One year after Sept. 11, eWEEK found many IT departments decentralizing their organizations and moving data centers out of city locations such as Manhattan. Meanwhile, IT security upgrades at many of the nations potential terrorist targets remain works in progress.

2) Beating the rap

Microsoft had another full docket in 2002. Lawyers for the Redmond, Wash., software maker fought a retrial of the antitrust remedies with nine dissenting states and the District of Columbia and, in November, claimed a victory when U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a ruling that affirmed much of a federal settlement signed earlier in 2002. Kollar-Kotelly rejected most of the tougher penalties proposed by the nine states, which fought that settlement. By the end of the year, only two states—Massachusetts and West Virginia—continued to pursue the case.

Microsoft also renewed its tug of war over Java with Sun Microsystems Inc., which in March filed a private antitrust suit against Microsoft, claiming the company used its monopoly power to hinder Java. It was the second Java-related suit filed by Sun. The first was settled in January 2001 over Microsofts distribution of Java-compatible products. As the year closed, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, showing some sympathy for Java, was considering whether Microsoft should ship Java with Windows.

Meanwhile, outside the legal arena, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and company dodged shells lobbed by enterprise customers, particularly small and medium-size businesses, that felt cheated by new licensing plans instituted in July that required heavy upfront payments by some customers. As eWEEK reported in November, Microsoft was by then considering new ways to add value to the new Software Assurance licensing program.

3) HP, Fiorina: On their own

In a vote that had all the makings of a Florida recount, HP and Carly Fiorina sweated out the shareholder ballot approving the acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. in March. In April, Fiorina took the stand and fought back an HP dissident director, Walter Hewlett, in a lawsuit that charged HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., with coercing shareholders. In May, Fiorina, as CEO and chairman, celebrated the new HP.

Fiorina retained former Compaq CEO Michael Capellas as president. But by November, Capellas was being tapped by WorldCom Inc. to lead it out of bankruptcy, and, suddenly, HP and Fiorina were truly on their own.

By years end, the new HP was showing signs of life, delivering on Web services, exceeding expectations in fourth-quarter earnings and closing a billion-dollar outsourcing deal with NEC Corp.

4) Hot-spot warming trend

Wireless LAN technology entered 2002 in an alphabet soup war that threatened to push WLANs into a state of confusion even before the technology had a chance to prove itself. But by years end, 802.11b products were reaching commodity status, thanks to rising user demand.

802.11b, also known as Wi-Fi, has proved popular enough that support for the rival wireless transport protocol, Bluetooth, is dwindling. Security, though, remains the biggest problem with Wi-Fi, and it wont be solved until follow-on specifications such as 802.11i are adopted. As a result of 802.11bs popularity, the first public wireless network access points—or "hot spots"—emerged. HP, Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Nokia Corp. and IBM Global Services each were developing WLAN-related products or services. In addition, T-Mobile USA Inc. helped Starbucks Corp. roll out public hot spots in 2,000 stores.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...