Bloodiest tech industry layoffs of 2011

Cisco, RIM, Nokia among top tech companies that thinned their ranks in 2011 to boost financials, refocus

Job cuts in the U.S. technology industry in 2011 are down significantly from a year ago and turnover levels in IT shops have returned to pre-recessionary levels, but that doesn’t make the tens of thousands of people in the United States who have been laid off from electronics, telecommunications and computer industry jobs feel much better.

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Cisco, HP, RIM and others have been among those cutting their workforces this year to reduce costs, refocus or eliminate overlap in the wake of buyouts. Here’s a rundown of this year’s biggest technology industry layoffs (not all in the U.S.):

Cisco Whacks 6,500 Jobs

Cisco said in July it would eliminate about 9% of its regular, full-time workforce and some 15% of those of VP level and up. Cisco is taking drastic measures to slash operating costs by about $1 billion and to return its focus to core routing and switching businesses after posting disappointing results and watching its stock tumble. CEO John Chambers called for widespread changes in an internal memo earlier this year. In April, the company said it would close down its Flip video division and fold its Umi consumer video systems into the enterprise telepresence business.

Nokia hitches wagon to Windows Phone, obliterates 3,500 Jobs

Nokia has had at least a couple of big jobs cuts in 2011, announcing in September it would cut 3,500 jobs as it restructures to align business with its plans to put its full weight behind Microsoft Windows Phone technology, moving away from Symbian. Job losses will take place at a manufacturing plant in Romania being shuttered by year end, and others will take place next year. The changes are painful, yet necessary, and will turn Nokia into a "more dynamic, nimble and efficient challenger," CEO Stephen Elop said in a statement.  

These recently announced cuts are on top of another 4,000 cuts announced earlier this year. In April, Nokia said it will outsource Symbian activities to Accenture, transferring 2,800 employees to the company in the process, and cutting about 4,000 jobs.

RIM Axes 2,000 Workers

RIM announced in July it was slashing its workforce by 11%. RIM says its layoffs will eliminate redundancies and focus on realigning people with growth opportunities for the company. In its announcement, RIM emphasized a series of management moves that combined with the layoffs "are intended to create greater alignment of the organization and to streamline RIM’s operations in order to better position the company for future growth and profitability."

RIM’s rough year has included losing ground to Apple, Google and even Microsoft in the smartphone market, a poorly received entry into the tablet computer market with the PlayBook, a number of product delays, and an amazingly badly timed BlackBerry network outage just as Apple was announcing its new iPhone 4S.  

Motorola Trims Down by 1,500 Jobs

Motorola Mobility ended October by revealing it will lay off 800 people, the latest in a string of worker reductions at the handset maker, as it prepares to become part of Google. The 800 people include staff at its mobile device business and its home business, as well as some who perform corporate functions, Motorola said. The company has already let go around 700 employees this year.

AMD Shrinking Workforce by 10%

AMD announced in early November that it is laying off 1,400 workers worldwide and will terminate "existing contractual commitments" in a plan to cut costs. Reducing costs and "focusing" its workforce on key opportunities will boost AMD's competitiveness, AMD CEO Rory Read said. The overall restructuring plan should save $200 million in operating expenses next year, the company said. The company plans to use most of that money to fund AMD's strategies for lower power, emerging markets and the cloud, it said.

AOL Reduces Staff by 900

Despite laying off 20% of its  workforce in March, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said he foresaw 2011 as the year that AOL would start to grow again. Armstrong attributed the layoffs to the changing business model of AOL, which is moving from being an Internet service provider to an ad-driven online content company. Armstrong’s optimism hasn’t been entirely warranted: In Q3, AOL sales sank 6% and the company lost $2.6 million.

Adobe slashing 750 jobs

Adobe said in November that it will kill 750 jobs and reduce its investment in enterprise software as part of a broader plan to target the fast-growing markets for digital media and digital marketing products. The changes are part of a restructuring plan intended to increase Adobe's focus on what it called the "exploding growth categories" of digital media and digital marketing. Adobe targets those markets with tools for content creation and distribution, and for measuring results from digital marketing campaigns.

HP Acing as Many as 525 Jobs in Palm Unit

HP confirmed in September that it had started laying off workers associated with last year's billion-dollar acquisition of Palm, as it closes down the mobile device business it planned to base on Palm's webOS. The news came almost exactly a month after HP announced a sweeping reorganization and refocusing of its business. Of course the really big layoff came in September, when HP ousted CEO Leo Apotheker and hired Meg Whitman as its new chief

State Street Lets Go of 530 IT Workers

It’s a little trickier to decipher IT job losses within non-IT companies, but the Boston-based financial institution, which employed 4,000 people in IT, acknowledged over the summer that it was releasing 530 tech workers and shifting another 300-plus to IBM and outsourcing company Wipro. 

MySpace Lays Off Half of Staff

MySpace started the year by announced it was laying off about half of its 1,100 workers. And over the summer, in announcing its acquisition by Specific Media, the once influential social networking business said it was laying off even more employees

Yahoo, Google Head in Different Directions

In a negative prelude to its fourth quarter earnings report, Yahoo in January confirmed it was cutting 1% of its global staff, or about 140 employees, after slashing its workforce by 4% the previous month.   The news was followed almost immediately by word that rival Google was set to go on a hiring spree in 2011. 

Extreme Networks Cuts Workforce by 16%

Looking to slash $20 million in expenses, Extreme Networks in July said it would cut 110 employees as part of an effort to allow it to achieve consistent operating income improvements. Excluded from the layoffs: R&D personnel.  Among Extreme’s latest offerings: A WiFi access point about the size of an iPhone. 

IDG News Service contributed to this report

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