Top 10: OOXML, MIDs, Google's moves, Eclipse's crossroads

This week's roundup of the top 10 IT stories includes OOXML passing muster with the ISO, Intel's MIDs, Google's business and IT moves, the Eclipse IDE's future, and more

Microsoft's OOXML made the cut as an international standard this week, but it will still take time for the file format to be widely implemented. Meanwhile, expect to see mobile Internet devices using Intel's Centrino Atom chip hit the market, even though not many were on display at Intel's Developer Forum. Google started to deal with some growing pains from its DoubleClick acquisition, claiming that it will cut some DoubleClick jobs and sell off the Performics search-engine marketing and optimization business, and it also has been experimenting with a bit of IT heresey: Letting users pick out and manage their own hardware and apps.

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1. OOXML adoption only first step on road to approval and Microsoft's ISO win may worsen its antitrust woes: The International Organization for Standardization approved Microsoft's OOXML file format, which the company had pushed onto the fast track to become an international standard for document exchange. Protests and grumblings of foul play continued even though it will take a while for Open Office XML to see more widespread adoption. The grumbling could, in fact, hold sway with the European Commission as it wraps up its latest antitrust probe of the software behemoth's business practices.

2. Centrino Atom devices will run XP and Vista: Intel and Analysis: Intel has a chip, but where are the MIDs?: Mobile Internet Devices (or MIDs, because technology does not have enough acronyms) powered by Intel's new Centrino Atom chip will run on Windows XP and Vista as well as Linux, Intel says. The chipmaker previously had said MIDs would run Linux, and the company started the Moblin initiative to develop a Linux version for MIDs. Oddly, for all the ballyhoo over Atom and MIDs, there wasn't much in the way of new products based on the chips at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai. If the hype is to be believed, MIDs are going to unlock a new frontier of computing or at least give users new ways to goof off with mobile Internet access, communications, and the ability to play multimedia files all in one package. "As with most Jetsons-like products, they tend to suffer from too much hype and overly high expectations," says Bryan Ma, director of personal systems research at IDC Asia-Pacific, commenting on the likelihood of the devices hitting the market in any serious volume in the second or third quarter.

3. Google to cut DoubleClick jobs, sell Performics piece: We could see this one coming from 10 miles off. Google is cutting jobs or offering "transitional roles" at DoubleClick and also will sell part of DoubleClick's Performics division. The layoffs and "transitional roles" -- which seem to amount to turning some staff jobs into contract jobs -- will affect about 25 percent of DoubleClick's 1,200 U.S. workers, a source said less than a month after Google closed the contentious deal to buy DoubleClick. The search-engine marketing and search-engine optimization bits of Performics will be unloaded.

4. Gartner: Global IT spending growth stable and US CIOs rein in spending while counterparts in Europe and Asia plan increases: Worldwide IT spending has been mostly unaffected by economic malaise, analyst firm Gartner finds. Projected IT budget growth for the year is holding steady at 3.3 percent, consistent with Gartner's last survey. Even so, budgets in the U.S. are expected to have less growth than previously anticipated, coming in at 2.3 percent compared to 3.1 percent in the last Gartner report. The European growth rate is 3.86 percent, while Asia-Pacific is coming in at a robust 5.98 percent. A February and March survey of more than 1,000 CIOs found that those in the U.S. expect to cut it budgets this year as their European and Asian counterparts are in growth mode. There will still be growth in the U.S., but for every CIO with a bigger budget this year, two or three plan to decrease IT spending.

5. Asperger's and IT: Dark secret or open secret?: Here's the stop-and-think story of the week with the news hook of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 -- is there a connection between people who have a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome and IT professionals? People with AS tend to have an aptitude for math and logic with the ability to remember details that fly right by other people -- some of them report feeling as if they can get inside of code. They generally aren't keen on nonsense and may be inclined to speak their minds when something, or someone, is wrong. "Is there a connection between Asperger's and IT? We wouldn't even have any computers if we didn't have Asperger's," says Temple Grandin, an associate professor at Colorado State University, who, as an "Aspie" herself has brought autism into the fore. "All these labels -- 'geek' and 'nerd' and 'mild Asperger's' -- are all getting at the same thing.... The Asperger's brain is interested in things rather than people, and people who are interested in things have given us the computer you're working on right now."

6. Eclipse IDE at a crossroads: The Eclipse open-source IDE is downloaded about a million times per month

and has become a major player in the software development field, battling giants like Microsoft's Visual Studio. However, the IDE scored low in several functionality measures according to a survey of developers, and a pared-down version could be in the cards for the future.

7. IT heresy revisited: Let users manage their own PCs: Going strongly against the grain, some businesses are trying out the idea that the IT department should neither pick out users' desktop and mobile hardware nor manage them.  Google practices what it calls "choice, not control," a policy under which users select their own hardware and applications based on options presented via an internal Google tool. The U.K. oil giant BP is testing out a similar notion and giving users technology budgets with which they pick and buy their own PCs and handhelds. In addition to choosing their hardware and apps, users are tasked with taking care of their product lifecycles as well. Workers select, configure, manage, and ultimately support their own systems, choosing the hardware and software they need to best perform their jobs.

8. April to be another big IT security patch month: Get ready. Microsoft aims to let loose with eight security updates, five of them rated critical, on April's Patch Tuesday next week. Windows, VBSscript programming software, Microsoft Project, and Internet Explorer will all get critical patches.

9. Men fall harder than women for Internet fraud, study finds: Men are more likely to be swindled by Internet fraud than are women, says the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is a clearinghouse for online crime complaints in the U.S. Women spend more online then men -- no surprise there! -- but a review of the 206,000 complaints the center received last year found that men lost $1.67 to every $1 women lost. Doesn't that look sort of like a reversal in the pay gap between men and women? Oh, wait, that's a different story.

10. Google, Virgin planning to colonize Mars. Wait, what's today's date?: From a notice on Google's Web page: "Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars." Even considering the people involved that's a little far-fetched, but it still rates right up there as an April Fools Day gag.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.