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Top 10 tech stories of 2012: a busted IPO, spotlight on workers, titans in transition

Windows 8, the Foxconn riot, patent wars, HP's Autonomy accounting charge and the revolt against SOPA make top stories of the year

By , IDG News Service
December 10, 2012 05:26 PM ET

IDG News Service - Change in any industry involves conflict. Evolution and revolution in tech this year took place not only in the marketplace but also in the courtroom, the factory, and on the Web. Here are the top news stories of 2012 as selected by the editors of the IDG News Service.

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Windows 8 launches: Microsoft's big play in the post-PC era

Microsoft finally shipped its new family of Windows operating systems in late October, and the stakes have never been higher for the company that has dominated the personal computing industry for three decades. The company's continued position as a dominant force in computing rests on the success of Windows 8 for PCs, Windows RT for tablets, and Windows Phone 8. More mobile devices are being sold than traditional PCs, and Microsoft needs a win in tablets and phones. Windows 8 was designed for touch systems, and RT was created to run on devices built on ARM processors, which have a huge lead on Intel chips in mobile devices. To show off RT, Microsoft also made a risky plunge into the hyper-competitive mobile hardware business with its Surface tablet. While the early reception to the upgrade onslaught has been mixed, Microsoft is also readying Office desktop and server software for release in the third quarter of 2013. By this time next year, we'll have a better read on the software giant's place in the post-PC firmament.

HP's Autonomy charge: last straw for an industry giant?

Meg Whitman
HP CEO Meg Whitman

In November Hewlett-Packard shocked investors by announcing an $8.8 billion non-cash charge in its quarterly earnings, mainly as a result of what it called serious accounting improprieties that occurred at U.K. software company Autonomy before HP acquired the firm for more than $10 billion in 2011. HP essentially laid blame on Autonomy's former management, and that company's mercurial founder, Mike Lynch, was quick to hit back. The affair is the latest in a series of boardroom dramas and company missteps including a move to develop, then abandon, a family of smartphones and tablets, and, under the short-lived regime of former CEO Leo Apotheker, a plan to sell its PC business. After Meg Whitman took over as CEO, HP changed its mind and decided to keep the PC business. Whitman has stressed that the company generates a healthy cash flow. However, as Lenovo assumes the title of the world's largest PC maker, industry watchers wonder whether it makes sense to break up HP into separate businesses.

Apple's $1 billion patent victory over Samsung: patent wars rage on

Apple iPhone
Credit: Apple
The iPhone was one of the products involved in Apple's $1 billion patent victory over Samsung in August. Samsung is appealing and the two companies are locked in courtroom battle in other countries.

A California District Court jury in late August handed a stunning $1 billion victory to Apple in its complex patent trial with Samsung over smartphones and tablets. The case involved a countersuit as well as numerous products and company subsidiaries, but the result was that the jury found products of the Korean company and two of its U.S. subsidiaries infringed Apple's patents. Samsung is appealing and the companies are also fighting it out in other courts around the world. Such cases are likely to continue, since smartphones and tablets are the hottest-selling devices in tech and so much is at stake. Microsoft and Motorola -- now a Google subsidiary -- are also fighting their own battle over wireless and video coding patents.

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