The Great Recession cast a shadow on all sectors of the economy in 2009. IT fared better than most, however, and the slump did not curb the dynamic nature of the industry. Acquisitions among big vendors continued to reshape the market, operating-system wars extended to mobile battlefields, microblogging became a powerful source of real-time information, and the take-up of small, Net-connected devices was stronger than ever. Here, in no particular order, is the IDG News Service's pick of the top 10 technology stories of 2009.
Oracle (tries) to buy Sun: The big get bigger
Oracle's April deal to buy Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion, reportedly outbidding IBM, has the potential to reshape the tech industry. It's also a denouement for Sun, whose prescient "the network is the computer" tagline has been overshadowed by mounting losses as users take up commodity servers. In dollar terms the acquisition is smaller than Hewlett-Packard's May acquisition of services giant EDS for $13.9 billion, but could be more of a game-changer because it gets one of the biggest software companies on the planet into the hardware game, zeroing in on the data center. Major players are trying to emulate IBM's "one-stop shop" for software, hardware, and services. Other notable acquisitions this year included HP's November deal to buy networking company 3Com for $2.7 billion and Xerox's September agreement to acquire services company ACS for $6.4 billion. The story is not over, though: The European Union is threatening to block the Sun deal, out of fear that Oracle could quash the budding open-source database market by crippling Sun's MySQL.
- Relive Sun's glory days and its fall from the top in InfoWorld's slideshow.
Microsoft launches Windows 7 -- we can all move on now
On Oct. 22, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage in downtown New York at the lead event for a somewhat -- for the software giant -- soft-edged launch for Windows 7. Ballmer presided over a day of speechmaking and sales promotions in cities worldwide. But the events were on the whole smaller than the usual major Microsoft launches. The scaled-back hoopla and the marketing mantra of "simplicity" fit Microsoft's characterization of the new OS -- above all, faster and more straightforward to use than its predecessor, Vista. That much-maligned OS was plagued by hardware compatibility problems, slow performance and annoying system alerts. The older Windows XP, as of the Win 7 launch, was still being used by more than 70 percent of computer users. Microsoft, no doubt happy to turn the page on an embarrassing chapter in its history, says Win 7 is being adopted faster than Vista.