Where We Stand: The Year in IT

As each year draws to a close, we summarize in this space where we stand on the most important issues facing the IT community.

As each year draws to a close, we summarize in this space where we stand on the most important issues facing the IT community. As 2004 dawned, the role of IT in corporate governance emerged as a significant obligation, challenge and opportunity.

The seemingly thankless chore of engineering compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was the most striking example. We urged IT professionals to show their skill in project management and prove their worth not by merely bringing their companies into compliance with the letter of the law, but by seeking opportunities to make IT and business operations more efficient.

In 2005, smaller companies will have to do what larger companies have already done. For all companies, the process will be an annual one. The opportunity to do things right will remain.

Another challenge and opportunity for IT professionals was securing their enterprises. We urged corporate e-mail managers to implement SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and to prepare to deploy Sender ID. For e-mail privacy, we urged companies to use encryption or secure internal corporate portal forums.

Linux faced in 2004 a two-pronged attack of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt—led by the intellectual property claims of SCO and the cost-of-ownership claims of Microsoft. Linux survives and continues to provide a welcome alternative for many users.

Autumn saw the release by the Mozilla Foundation of the Firefox browser. In a field that appeared bereft of competition and innovation, an attractive alternative browser emerged. The debut of Firefox was an encouraging sign that our means of accessing the Web continues to be a field of innovation.

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We called for a new, tougher approach by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to software and business process patents. The issuance of too many of these patents, many on flimsy grounds, has inhibited innovation in all software fields, particularly e-commerce. Its too soon to tell if our advice has been heeded; well continue to press the case.

As Google launched its much-heralded IPO fizzle, only to rebound spectacularly, we cautioned that Google ought not to let commercial success go to its head. The companys Gmail initiative struck us as unattractive but harmless as long as customers were fully informed that they would become the target of advertisements. As Microsoft prepares its entry, the search market looms as a vibrant one.

2004 was a pivotal year for Sun Microsystems. The company concluded a major peace treaty with Microsoft and announced it would release an open-source version of Solaris. For a company that faced stiff challenges, these were bold and necessary moves, and Suns leaders deserve credit for making them.

In sum: IT is reasserting itself in the enterprise; there is choice in operating systems and browsers; an Internet business is succeeding brilliantly; and a battered IT vendor is regrouping. There is reason for optimism.

Agree or disagree? Let us know where you stand. Send e-mail to eWEEK@ziffdavis.com.

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