Top 10 tech stories of 2010

A global leak that’s turning government officials’ faces red as Rudolph’s nose, the BlackBerry ban, Facebook’s privacy faux pas and the tablet wars sparked by iPad.

These are some of the top technology stories that grabbed the headlines in 2010 and there are certainly more. ITBusiness.ca paired down the list to 10.

10. WikiLeaks floods the Internet

It’s a story that’s still playing out. The whistle blowers’ site WikiLeaks is now under heavy cyber attack after having laid bare more than 250,000 classified documents including U.S. Embassy cable messages and sensitive discussions between high-raking diplomats. Among documents leaked were remarks from former Canadian Security Intelligence Services chief Jim Judd who was quoted as saying Canadian courts have an “Alice in Wonderland” worldview.

In a bizarre twist WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing allegations of sex crimes. The WikiLeaks story may be fodder for political gossip columns but it’s also a tech story because it speaks of the powers of social media and crowd sourcing and how they have turned the notions of traditional journalism on its head. When employees or groups can simply post sensitive or damaging information on the Internet, this also raises serious security concerns for governments and businesses.

9. iPad and the tablet war

We’re not likely to see the death of the PC in 2011, but the iPad certainly drove another nail into its coffin with the iPad.

Although blasted for being an overgrown iPhone, the iPad’s thundering success precipitated a deluge of copycats and sparked a tablet war.

8. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7

Microsoft hitches a ride on the smartphone bandwagon with Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft’s share of the booming smartphone market has shrunk to 2.8 per cent. The company is not hurting for cash, but to keep up its current growth rate it badly needs a hit in the mobile phone market. Global mobile phone sales in the third quarter alone totaled 417 million, compared to a forecast 352 million for PC sales for the entire year, according to Gartner.

Brian Jackson, senior writer for ITBusiness.ca (with his Movember moustache), talks about the LG Optimus smartphone with Windows Phone 7 in this video.

7. RIM runs the BlackBerry ban gauntlet

Early in August this year, business travelers that favour the BlackBerry received a rude awakening when several countries threatened to ban their favourite smartphone.

With its much vaunted cache on security threatened and access to large markets in peril, Research in Motion had to negotiate for a ceasefire with several governments. The BlackBerry maker eventually had to make hard choices.

6. HP’s boardroom soap opera over Hurd

HP shocked the IT world at the beginning of August by announcing that CEO and Chairman Mark Hurd had resigned, following an investigation into claims that he sexually harassed a former contractor to the company.

Hurd did not break HP’s sexual harassment policy but he did violate standards of conduct in his expense report filings (reportedly for charges incurred while working with the female contractor in question). Hurd took the helm at HP after the board fired Carly Fiorina in 2005 for failing to capitalize on her acquisition of Compaq. Hurd led HP to edge out IBM as the world’ largest IT company. Hurd had been delivering great results but apparently his slash-and burn methods of curbing costs made enemies.

To replace Hurd, HP named Leo Apotheker, who had been forced out SAP in February after the ERP maker stumbled during its move to cloud technology. But supporters say Apotheker is a good choice to lead HP as it beefs up its software offerings in order to provide the one-stop-shop sort of services necessary to stay on top of competitors like IBM, Oracle and Dell.

5. Canadian researchers bust China cyber-spy ring

Researchers at Citizen Lab, a Internet research outfit at the university’s Munk Centre for International Studies, reveal that cyber spies based in Chengdu, China used phishing e-mail attacks and a bot network to steal top secret Indian government documents and visa information from Canadian citizens.

The group headed by Ron Deibert, professor at U of T, is also created for blowing the lid off GhostNet in 2009.

4. Stuxnet and Zeus

Security experts have been warning for years that industrial systems could be hit hard by a cyber attack. This year it finally happened, with the discovery of Stuxnet, the first worm written specifically to disrupt large-scale industrial systems.

2010 was also the year that international teamwork broke up the Zeus botnet crime ring. Over the course of several days starting at the end of September, authorities in the U.K., the U.S. and the Ukraine arrested more than 100 people involved in a criminal ring that exploited the Zeus botnet.

3. HP-Dell Battle for 3Par

CentriLogic, the Canadian partner of 3Par was excited when the learned they learned that HP and Dell were in a bidding war for the cloud storage company.

HP finally got 3Par for $2 billion.

2. Google and Facebook – privacy’s bungling duo

Canadian privacy officials were always a torn on the side of Facebook, but that’s because the social networking site appears to be so inept in safeguarding its users’ private data.

This year, Facebook unveiled a new set of privacy tools and got a nod of sorts from the Privacy Commissioners approval.

Google went through some rough roads in 2010 when it was found out that its StreetView cars were grabbing e-mail access passwords and extracts of the content of e-mail messages via Wifi signals.

Unfortunately, Google keeps getting a free pass to collect private data because of weaknesses in both U.S. and Canada privacy statues.

1. Tech sector bounces back

After getting off to a good start for the year, tech stocks slumped for most of the third quarter as fears of a double-dip recession dampened investor confidence. But IT companies, reporting strong sales especially to businesses, started to lead markets at the beginning of September.

Apple and Intel, for example, reported record revenue and profit, while Microsoft announced it had the most sales ever for its first fiscal quarter. By November tech shares were back up to where they were two years ago when Wall Street crashed in the wake of Lehman Brother’ collapse.

In Canada the IT sector got a much needed boost with a digital economy-focused budget from the government.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

(With notes from Marc Ferranti,IDG News Service – New York Bureau)

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