IT in 2006: Google, Linux, Digg, Web-based Apps

Friday Dec 22nd 2006 by James Maguire
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A review of some big stories that flew under the radar, plus a few that simply deserve a bit more scrutiny.

Most of the big tech stories of 2006 have already gotten far too much coverage. Does anyone not know that HP hit a serious bump in the road this year due to its snooping on employees and board members?

Other stories – with far more long-term importance – have gotten much less ink.

One of the most important stories of 2006 was the continued growth of Web-based applications. This was the year that Google launched Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which is fully Web-based. It’s likely that historians will look back with a gleam in their eye and point to this moment as the beginning of a new era in software history.

(Minor note: couldn’t Google have come up with a snazzier name than “Google Docs & Spreadsheets”? If you’re going to revolutionize an industry, it helps to have some marketing savvy.)

Web-based apps change everything. The over-arching importance of Vista or Leopard is greatly lessened when you can log on and work with an application that was designed (using industry standards) to be interoperable with a slew of other programs – regardless of their core OS. As an added plus, these built-in standards allow you to work with Web-based apps using any browser, instead of having to use IE.

In the future, the hoopla surrounding the release of a new Windows OS will be replaced by a big collective yawn. A new OS? So what? Caring about operating systems is so 20th century.

The Rise and Fall Of Digg

The apparent gathering place for all tech news, Digg, is ending the year on a less than happy note.

Over the last couple years, Digg has become increasingly important in driving traffic to tech news stories, as more and more readers posted story links on the user-driven news aggregation site. Popular articles earn many “diggs” – clicks of approval from readers – sending still more traffic to those pages.

But Digg seems to be a victim of its own success. Marketers and scammers have caught on, and all manner of schemes have sprung up to artificially boost a story’s popularity.

For example, the User/Submitter site purports to sell popularity on Digg in exchange for mere filthy lucre. (The site claim to pay .50 cents for every 3 stories you digg. “Digg Users Make Easy Money,” the site says.)

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As Digg itself concedes on its blog, its site has an issue with fraudulent postings and pay-for-digg popularity. Apparently Digg is working to remedy problems. But at the moment it’s not clear who’s winning, legitimate readers or spammers. Digg, if it’s not careful, could be co-opted by marketers.

Novell: Operating Systems Make Strange Bedfellows

Whenever you can ink a deal that makes you the first Linux vendor to work in concert with Microsoft – as Novell did in November – you know you’re scoring big time. Oh sure, the two partners had some tussles about the deal. You knew that putting Microsoft and Linux in the same room couldn’t have been all sunshine and smiles.

Still, Novell, whose fortunes haven’t been all that great recently, earned points for aggressive business maneuvering. On Microsoft’s part, the alliance seemed to be a case of, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Or, more accurately, “If you can’t beat ‘em, try and control ‘em.”

Speculation about the long-term result of the deal has run rampant since the announcement. Predictions range from the demise of all other Linux vendors to the end of Microsoft as we know it (if Redmond has acknowledged the devil of Linux, then the end must be nigh).

But whatever the outcome, the headline from the original announcement has to win the prize for 2006 Tech Headline of the Year. Certainly scads of readers had to blink their eyes when they first saw it: Microsoft…and Linux, huh?

For your viewing pleasure, here it is one more time:

November 2, 2006: Microsoft Likes (Novell) Linux

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Oracle Is a Big Bad Wolf

Here’s what Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison proclaimed to the audience at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in October:

"If you are a Red Hat support customer, you can very easily switch from Red Hat support to Oracle support."

And with that, Ellison proved that companies with really deep pockets and really long client lists (like Oracle) can push around companies with not-as-deep pockets and not-as-long client lists (like Red Hat). Oracle, by announcing it would offer its own free clone of the Linux OS, along with low-cost support – not to mention indemnification from intellectual property litigation – positioned itself to take a big bite out of Red Hat’s business.

(But rumors of Red Hat’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The company just reported it added a whopping 12,000 customers in the recent quarter, with a revenue jump of 45%.)

In retrospect, Oracle’s announcement seems to go hand in hand with the Microsoft-Novell alliance. Taken as a pair, the two news items indicated that the biggest of the big dogs, and any last remaining hold-outs, are now acknowledging that Linux is a dominant force in enterprise software – and they need to get on the train before it leaves the station.

IT Workers: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The year 2006 was a good one for tech professionals, with 2007 also expected to be healthy. As noted in this survey of IT salaries, pay levels across the industry are rising, if not at a leap-and-bounds rate.

This article about next year’s hot tech jobs (and this article as well, which covers Linux openings) talks about hiring trends in 2007. Is it time to dust off your resume?

Next page: Linux-Mac-Windows Cross Platform, Plus: Pricing vs. Technology

From our Enterprise Advisor columnist, Joshua Greenbaum:

I think the biggest winners [of 2006] are the CIO and line of business buyer, and their users. From the buying standpoint, there is an unprecedented amount of great technology available at very competitive prices, and many if not most companies have the budget to buy these new solutions. From the end user standpoint, enterprise software has become much more functional and more usable as well.

A winner in the product category is SAP's Duet and, when it becomes available, Microsoft's Office Business Applications technology. Both promise an important quantity of enterprise software functionality based on the familiar MS Office paradigm, and offer an unprecedented win/win for user and vendor.

From our Apple in the Enterprise columnist, John Welch:

2006 Winner:

Without a doubt, Parallels. They've been on an upgrade schedule from hell, and the results have been impressive.

While VMWare gradually extends its infrastructure into place for Mac OS X support, Parallels has been helping people get work done in a reliable, efficient, and pretty inexpensive manner. If I had one wish, it wouldn't be for support for 3-D and games, but rather the ability to run multiple Mac OS X Server sessions on an Intel Xserve. Still, I've rarely had a product so relentlessly impress and please me.

Recent Tech Job Articles
How to Get Hired at Google

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2006 Loser:

Microsoft. While their size and market share will bail them out, in terms of getting work done, Microsoft has been the single biggest stumbling block. Note that I'm not talking about the Mac Business Unit and any delays in Office 12 for Mac OS X. That's not even close to an issue for 2006.

I'm talking about how my Microsoft servers still require far too much personal attention, and a permanent (for the foreseeable future), rotating weekend server reboot day, just to deal with patch applications. Also, I’m not fond of the continual, meaningless "interop" announcements with Sun and now Novell that always work out to mean "They'll do all the work so we can claim interoperability." That's not a partnership by any definition I'd use.

The last straw for me this year was finding out that we can't upgrade to Exchange 2007 anytime soon because Microsoft made the very odd decision to not support Public Folder access in Outlook Web Access. So instead of upgrading to current server software, we're upgrading to what will soon be a 4-year old groupware server. I'll close out this by saying that no one is happy that there are six different versions of Vista.

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