Top 10 IT stories of 2003

After a three-year roller-coaster ride, the IT industry settled down a bit in 2003. The year seemed to provide a respite from megamergers, monopoly-busting, history-making corporate scandals, and the exhilarating but scary boom-and-bust cycle. Not that anyone was operating on cruise control. IT managers faced continual assault from a variety of nasty worms, handled user demands for wireless access and figured out how to work 64-bit computing technology into their systems. IT issues spilled into the public domain as politicians around the world grappled with spam and the challenges created by offshore outsourcing. Home users saw an increasing number of consumer electronics products aimed at them from vendors who had once focused solely on the computer market.

Meanwhile, everyone still has an eye peeled for economic recovery. As the year wanes, there are signs of a pickup that might fuel IT spending, and as usual, the pundits have plenty of ideas about what that spending will entail.

Here are the top 10 IT stories of the year, not necessarily in order of importance:

SCO rocks the Linux boat

Just when things appeared to be going great for Linux the world over, a U.S.-made wrench in the works alarmed the open-source faithful. When the SCO Group Inc. filed a lawsuit in March, charging IBM Corp. with misappropriation of trade secrets, Linux users saw that the move involved more than a contract dispute. SCO asserts that IBM took proprietary Unix code and put it into the open-source community. This muddies the legal waters for open-source software users, some of whom believe that SCO's terms could restrict Linux users' ability to redistribute source code. Nevertheless, governments and local entrepreneurs around the world continue to develop new variations of Linux and promote open-source software as an alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows. With such strong winds of change blowing, Linux's sails are not likely to be permanently deflated by the SCO suit, but the legal wrangling is sure to cause continued consternation in the open-source community.

Oracle, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards star in merger drama of the year

Legal battles also added to the drama of PeopleSoft Inc.'s acquisition of rival ERP (enterprise resource planning) software maker J.D. Edwards & Co., and its subsequent fight to ward off a hostile US$5.1 billion takeover bid from Oracle Corp. With Oracle acting as spoiler of the J.D. Edwards deal, it got hit with several lawsuits by its takeover target. Adding spice to the affair was the war of words between Oracle's Larry Ellison, in the role of swashbuckling industry captain, and PeopleSoft's Greg Conway, who did his best to portray his rival as a pure opportunist. In any case the fracas is a milestone: The fragmented ERP market has been due for a shake-out, and the Oracle-PeopleSoft bout may end up being just one in a series of M&A events leading to a new chapter in the business applications story, in which there are far fewer characters.

Spam grows from annoyance to major political issue

As technology plays a bigger part in everyday life, it enters not only the legal realm but also, increasingly, the world of politics. This year, spam was one of the causes c

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