Top 10 IT News Stories of the Week

Microsoft Vista turns one, Government cyberattacks on the rise, Facebook privacy issues, Motorola CEO to step down, and more...

1. "Vista Turns One and Businesses Start to Come Around...Slowly,"

Computerworld, November 28

Windows vista hit the one-year mark since it was launched, with companies still taking their time about migrating. That wasn't entirely unexpected -- analysts had predicted business users would be slow to make the switch from XP, though some of those forecasts seem to be more pessimistic than reality. But it's hard to tell about that because a lot of the enterprise Windows license renewals are for machines that are probably still on XP, according to Microsoft, and the company hasn't given an update on Vista figures for four months. Even so, it does appear that Vista migration is happening, albeit slowly, and the expected release of SP1 in the first quarter of next year could find more enterprises willing to make the move.

2. "Government Cyberattacks Increasing,"

Techworld, November 30

As if we didn't have enough to worry about with hackers and malware and spyware and ... Now comes word from McAfee in its annual report that governments and allied groups globally are spying on their enemies (or perceived enemies) over the Internet and also are launching cyberattacks. They're targeting critical systems such as government computer networks, electrical grids, financial markets and air traffic control. "Attacks have progressed from initial curiosity probes to well-funded and well-organized operations for political, military, economic and technical espionage." With state-sponsored malware beginning to show up, David Marcus, security research and communications manager at McAfee Avert Labs, anticipates that governments will increasingly license cybercriminals to do the dirty work for them.

3. "Microsoft Releases SP1 for Exchange Server 2007,"

CIO.com, November 29

The first service pack for Exchange Server 2007 came out this week, with fixes for software bugs and new features to make it more stable and useful. SP1 can be downloaded at the Microsoft Web site. Meanwhile, some Exchange partners say that Microsoft needs to make additional improvements so that Exchange offers a more complete messaging architecture. Microsoft did already add support for Windows Server 2008, which is due out early next year and also included integration between Exchange Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.

4. "Fantasy Football, IM Throwing Productivity for a Loss,"

Network World, November 26

So you were worried about the big productivity lag for those who worked the day after Thanksgiving and the additional hit on work focus that came on "Cyber Monday," when employees hit the Internet to do record-breaking holiday shopping in the U.S.? Those were one-day blips. Employees who are obsessed with Fantasy Football have a whole season of distraction. Nearly half of 260 respondents to an online poll (and we suspect that the other half might have been a little less than truthful) confess that they use instant-messaging programs to talk about Fantasy Football when they're at work. Not exactly a huge surprise, but Fantasy Football alone could account for as much as $7.4 billion in lost productivity this football season, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas suggests. Well, now. How about those Patriots?!

5. "Privacy Concerns Prompt U-Turn at Facebook,"

Computerworld, November 30

Well, that didn't take long. Facebook launched a "service" earlier this month that posted the online activities of its users for Facebook friends to see, including items bought online, movies ordered through Blockbuster and other details. The service, called Beacon, vexed enough users that Facebook said this week it would provide an opt-in question (rather than the initial opt-out option) for each site in the Beacon partner network. Though the opt-in will come too late for some users who according to newspaper accounts had gift surprises for loved ones broadcast to other Facebook users, including the intended gift recipients.

6. "Remember the Pandemic Threat? (Some) IT Planners Do,"

Computerworld, November 28

It wasn't that long ago that seminars and simulations about what to do to plan for a pandemic and then what to do when the pandemic struck were all the rage. But with the short attention spans of us media types -- the bird flu hasn't caused any recent freak outs -- concerns over possible threats would seem to have ebbed. The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a recent report saying that organizations ought not to let their planning slide "due to the uncertainty of when a pandemic may occur." According to interviews at a Gartner conference this week -- with a captive IT manager audience -- preparations are still under way at various companies, despite the lack of headlines about the threat. Various IT managers said that their companies have included pandemic planning as part of business continuity and that while the media spotlight has dimmed, preparations are still a priority.

7. "Google Asks for Help Finding Malicious Web Sites,"

InfoWorld, November 30

Google wants Internet surfers to help it track down and blot out malicious Web sites. An online form is aimed at making it easier for surfers to report sites they suspect are harboring malicious code, so that Google can build its database of suspect sites. Google knows of "hundreds of thousands of Web sites that attempt to infect people's computers with malware," but also knows there are many sites it's not yet aware of, according to a posting in the company's security blog.

8. "Outsourcing Moves Closer to Home,"

Network World, November 29

Offshore service providers are coming back to the U.S. with some of their operations aiming to appeal to U.S. companies that aren't keen to use service providers in India or elsewhere. The continued fall of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies, including the Indian rupee, also is a factor, with some offshore service providers raising prices as a consequence. "While it is less expensive than operating solely in the U.S., the cost of doing business in India has become more onerous because the demand for talent there is so high now that workers want more money and staff turnover has increased," according to Yankee Group analyst Mindy Blodgett. Add to that the improved public relations that comes when U.S. companies can say they're "outsouring" and "not offshoring," and the trend toward moving operations abroad -- at least to India -- appears to be curbing.

9. "Motorola CEO Ed Zander to Step Down at End of '07,"

Macworld, November 30

This week's personnel shift at a struggling company comes courtesy of Motorola, which said that Ed Zander, who is 60, will leave as CEO, with President and Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown, 47, taking over as of Jan. 1. Zander will stick around as chairman until the May shareholder meeting. Motorola has struggled along, without any new gadgets on the market of much interest since the Razr was released a while back. Net sales dropped from $10.6 billion in last year's third quarter to $8.8 billion in the most recent third quarter, with net earnings of $60 million in this year's third quarter compared to $968 million in the year-ago quarter.

10. "Technology's Most (and Least) Reliable Brands,"

PC World, November 29

Technology users showed how well they remembered products they liked -- those that worked reliaby and held up well, among other qualities -- as well as those that they didn't care for, listing long-ago gadgets and tech wares, as well as newer goods. They tend to stick with tech brands they grow to trust and with companies that provide reliable customer service. No big surprise there in this wide-ranging survey that covered PCs, printers, digital cameras, routers and other gear that businesses and home users have come to rely on.

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