The Years Top 10 Tech Stories

Linux grows up, merger mania returns and Microsoft is everywhere. eWEEK news editors pick their top 10 stories of the year.

If 2001 was a year of cataclysmic change and 2002 was a year of prolonged recovery, recessionary and otherwise, then in 2003 we seemed to get back to business. In fact, in business terms, it was a very good year. It was a year in which we spent more time looking forward than back, for a change. IT spending was up, and startups began stirring again. Online businesses led the way, yet with none of the hysteria that marked the late 90s. It all points to an even better 2004—if only we can do something about all that spam. Here are eWEEKs most intriguing stories of 2003 and beyond:

Open Source Finally Grows Up

For years, Linux and open source have been viewed by many in corporate America as youthful and intriguing but not nearly mature enough for the enterprise. Well, they do grow up fast, dont they? In fact, in 2003 alone, Linux seemed to skip its teen years and head straight into adulthood, complete with a bad marriage, a messy divorce and an IRS audit. (And its still not clear wholl get custody of the kids.)

As part of its rapid maturation, Linux started earning its keep this year. In addition to becoming a bigger part of the enterprise, Linux for the first time started to take business away from Microsoft Corp. In May, the city of Munich, Germany, announced plans to migrate its 14,000 Windows computers to Linux. In October, the United Kingdom announced nine Linux pilot projects across central government departments. Microsoft, which used to scoff at the possibility of losing business to Linux, reacted by slashing prices, such as cutting its popular SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition by $450, to $49. With the 2.6 Linux kernel on the way by the end of 2003, look for more enterprise wins for Linux.

But these milestones pale next to the uproar caused by The SCO Group, the erstwhile Unix vendor that turned copyright litigation into a profitable business model in 2003. The onslaught started March 6 when SCO filed a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM for "efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of Unix." IBM countersued in August, claiming SCO violated the GPL—the GNU General Public License. SCO then turned on corporations and individual users of Linux with threats of licensing fees. Linux creator Linus Torvalds had this to say about SCOs actions to eWEEKs Peter Galli in August: "They are smoking crack."

Undeterred by the criticism, SCO, which has spent much of the past few weeks fighting off denial-of-service attacks on its Web site, took aim at the GPL itself in an open letter in early December. If SCO succeeds in dismantling the GPL, the lifeblood of the open-source movement, all bets are off on the future of open source. This battle will rage on in 2004.

Next page: Merger Mania—Its Back

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,...