It happens every year: as the calendar gets ready to turn over, we get an itch to pause, to be quiet, to reflect. That’s probably why “year in review” stories are so popular at this time of year: they channel a seasonal compunction among editors and readers alike.
But what to make of 2006? It’s a year in which some enterprises and IT firms made bold moves to set themselves on a new course, while others failed, in spectacular fashion, to learn the lessons of the past. For this penultimate Tech Watch, we review the year with the aid of some pithy quotes.
“If I knew then what I know now, I’d have done things differently.”
-- Patricia Dunn, former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman
Sometimes you come across a product or corporate initiative -- let’s take Sony’s recent DRM spyware as an example -- that is so patently wrongheaded you can’t imagine how it ever came to see the light of day. When you dig into the history of those decisions, you often find that they were made by people who were trying, earnestly, to solve a very specific problem without seeing how their “solution” might affect the company as a whole. That’s what makes the scandal that led to the resignation of HP Chairman Patricia Dunn and the criminal charges against her, HP legal counsel Kevin Hunsaker, and three outside investigators all the more exceptional. These were the folks at the top of the totem pole.
The dispute arose over the handling of an investigation by HP to see which members of its board of directors leaked information, including arguments about the ouster of former CEO Carly Fiorina, to the press. Hurd and other board members, it seems, became distracted by a “plumbing” expedition, as it was called in the Nixon White House, and contracted with a company to use “pretexting,” a controversial technique where investigators pretend to be the people being investigated in order to access private information.
Despite intense media and legal scrutiny, though, the squabble has not fazed HP shareholders or customers. Under Mark Hurd, CEO and newly appointed chairman, the company is fulfilling the promise of the controversial HP-Compaq merger engineered by Fiorina: It has overtaken Dell as the leading PC maker and IBM as the biggest IT company. The spy scandal has broad implications, however. Congress is now considering federal laws against pretexting, and increased oversight of corporate governance is becoming a shareholder rallying cry.
--Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service
“‘Free has to have a price?’ That’s nonsense.”
-- Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz
After years of staving off open source proponents, Sun Microsystems in November 2006 bit the bullet and made Java available via open source, and doubled down on that by offering up Java to the GNU General Public License, ensuring that revisions to Java are submitted back to the community at large.
Naturally, the move raised as many questions as it answered. Chief among them: Can Sun’s Java gurus adapt to the new paradigm and relinquish some degree of control?
Looking at the evidence, it seems likely that Sun can. Java already has spawned a whole industry’s worth of open source projects such as the popular Spring Framework. Sun’s Solaris OS has thrived under open source.