The smartest and dumbest tech moves of 2007 - and why they matter

VMware's IPO was one smart move, while company use of ghost-bloggers pretty darn dumb. See what else made the lists.

The year’s smartest moves include VMware going public, the judge slapping down the SCO lawsuit against IBM and Novell, and Cisco’s WebEx buy, while the dumbest moves include the funding of social networks and Apple’s iPhone pricing.

Overall, the industry did several things right and wrong this year. But here’s what Network World readers, columnists, bloggers and testers say are the absolute smartest and dumbest moves of 2007 -- and why they matter.

Smartest

1. Google’s OpenSocial API and Android phone operating system. Google continues to make all the right moves. “Google has become one of the companies people look to to determine where the industry is headed. It is a force,” says Josh Hinkle, manager of network management and security for the American Heart Association, in Camp Hill, Pa. “Like with Android, everyone anticipated Google coming out with its own GPhone, and it basically did the opposite. It went open source and is working with all these partners.” 

Smartest

Tom Nolle, president of CIMI and a Network World columnist, agrees, pointing to the OpenSocial API as a smart move. “It was clever. By opening up the API, it is going to be able to build a market.”

2. VMware IPO.VMware has just been smart and right on target time after time,” says Joel Snyder, senior partner at OpusOne and a Network World tester. “From a financial standpoint, it was really smart of EMC to spin it out and get all that cash. I’m sure the EMC CFO is getting a nice bonus at the end of the year and some high-fives from shareholders.”

3. SCO suit gets slapped down. “The judge slapping down SCO in the SCO vs. IBM/Novell lawsuit was the smartest move,” says Andreas Antonopoulos, founding partner at Nemertes Research and a Network World columnist. “It was a completely frivolous lawsuit by SCO against Linux when it sued IBM and Novell for intellectual property infringement and then failed to prove it. It was great that it got dismissed.”

4. FCC’s franchise order. “The smartest move was the FCC’s franchise order, when it said the franchise law the cable companies had used to protect their incumbency in video is anti-consumer and anti-competitive,” Nolle says. “The whole idea of IPTV and telco video would not have happened if that process had not gone forward.”

5. Cisco’s move into software with the WebEx acquisition. “That’s smart because software lets the company add differentiable features to its products and it’s getting a better level of strategic engagement with the customer,” Nolle says. (See related story, “Three IT deals that matter.")

Dumbest

1. Funding of social networks. “No one has ever really done a study on the effectiveness of social network sites,” Nolle says. 

“Where is the return going to come from? What are we doing?” Snyder agrees. “One of the stupidest moves is Microsoft investing in Facebook,” he says. “I personally think social networking sites are extremely trendy and there is no reason why there won’t be another company coming up in a few weeks that everyone will just abandon Facebook and go to. It’s just a trend as opposed to this is a fundamentally great product.”

2. Comcast vs. the Bible. An Associated Press test in which researchers tried to download the Bible via BitTorrent proved Comcast was blocking BitTorrent content, whether it was copyrighted or not. “It was just a beautiful bit of PR on the AP researchers’ side,” Antonopoulos says. “And messing with the protocol in the way Comcast did with forged TCP packets was a dumb move, especially when the net neutrality issue is dying down.”

Dumbest

3. Apple alienates iPhone users. “Hands down the dumbest move of the year,” Hinkle says. “When it dropped the price [from the original $599 to $399], it didn’t take care of their early adopters and just gave them a gift card to the Apple store. Very un-Steve Jobs like. A $100 gift card is a Microsoft move.” (See related story, “Why one little gadget matters so much.”)

4. Companies that don’t encrypt their laptops. After high-profile cases such as those at the TJX Companies, Monster.com and the Department of Veterans Affairs, eschewing encryption is the height of idiocy. “Any company that’s not doing that gets a bid for stupidest company of the year,” Snyder says. (For an idea of how widespread this form of stupidity still is, see PrivacyRights.org’s chronology of breaches, featuring at least 10 examples in the last two months.)

5. Ghost-bloggers. “Companies that have been posting fake blogs in which marketing communications writes it under the guise of the CEO are stupid,” says Sue Hanley, an independent consultant and a Microsoft Subnet blogger. “There’s no excuse for that now.” Especially when Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz shows that a CEO can blog and blog well.

Cummings is a freelance writer in North Andover, Mass. She can be reached at jocummings@comcast.net.

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