Top 10 IT News Stories of the Week

Microsoft ousts its CIO, Google's Android announcement, federal IT security, social networking in the enterprise, and more...

1. "Questions Abound on Firing of Microsoft's CIO,"

Computerworld, November 7

Microsoft's firing of CIO Stuart Scott probably isn't the biggest story of the week in terms of widespread effect and staying power, but it definitely got the IT world buzzing. An internal memo announced his termination, but the company didn't say anything publicly until reporters started to ask what was up. Even then, not much was said -- as is often the case with such personnel moves -- other than that Scott violated unspecified corporate policies. Scott seemed perfect for the job when he was hired in July 2005, with an impressive resume and educational background. The lack of comment has led to a lot of speculation and a sort of "public hanging" element to the firing, but that can't be what Microsoft intended, according to consultants who engage in helping companies hire executives. Others suggested that Microsoft look internally to find a replacement.

2. "What Google's Android Means for Apple, Microsoft, Open Source and the Enterprise,"

NetworkWorld, November 8

Google unveiled its highly anticipated mobile strategy on Monday, sparking debate about precisely what that strategy will mean. There seems to be general agreement (with Steve Ballmer one notable exception as he termed the strategy "just a press release") that Google's entry into that arena will have wide-ranging effects. The company announced that it has paired up with T-Mobile, Motorola and Sprint Nextel to create the Open Handset Alliance to push its "Android" open-source mobile platform. That news caught many industry observers off guard as speculation has mounted in recent weeks that the company was set to announce the so-called "Gphone," to compete with Apple's iPhone. After Google's plan -- while still sketchy -- was announced, some analysts predicted it would have a minimal enterprise effect, but others say that's not so that, like the iPhone, once devices are actually released those will wind up being used by employees and therefore trickle into businesses. So, put this one in the "stay-tuned" column.

3. "Microsoft Unveils Enterprise Search Products,"

November 6, CIO.com

Microsoft unveiled Search Server 2008 and Search Server Express 2008, low-cost enterprise search products aimed at what the company sees as a largely untapped market. "We hope it will help enterprise search move from kind of a sleepy town to more of a mainstream market," said Jared Spataro, Microsoft group product manager for enterprise search. The Express edition is available in release candidate form now as a free download (it doesn't get cheaper than that), with the same features as the commercial software, but a single-installation restriction. Both enterprise search products are expected to be out in the first half of next year.

4. "Federal IT Pros Insecure over Security,"

InfoWorld, November 8

A Cisco-sponsored poll found that federal IT decision makers are more vexed about security issues than they were when the same survey was taken a year ago. Project leaders feel they don't have adequate time or money to deal with the worst of the network security issues they face, the survey of 200 government IT professionals found. Respondents came from 30 federal agencies across all government branches and the military, indicating that the concerns are widespread. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they spent more time on security issues this year than in the past. However, just half of those who were polled feel more confident about the security of their agencies than they did three years ago. Respondents who work for branches of the military are even less confident than those in civilian roles. A lack of adequate funds for security issues was the chief problem cited, followed by the amount of training needed to install new network security technologies, existing architecture and the need to give other projects a higher priority than security.

5. "Social Networking Finding Friends in Enterprise,"

Network World, November 8

Social networking tools, including blogs and wikis, are increasingly being used as collaboration tools in enterprises, but companies are tending toward caution in moving to their widespread use for fear that history will repeat itself. Over the years, the promise of increased productivity and knowledge sharing through the use of such tools has often fallen to the wayside. "There is a long history of deploying collaboration and having it gather dust," Andrew McAfee, a Harvard Business School associate professor, said at a conference this week. More questions than answers seem to be in play when it comes to using social-networking tools for business purposes.

6. "Gartner: IT Leaders Must Prepare for Bumpy Economy,"

InfoWorld, November 5

The embattled U.S. housing market, credit concerns and the ongoing energy crisis are going to ripple effect their way into IT, warned Peter Sondergaard, head of global research for industry analyst Gartner. (The warning was issued before the dollar dipped to its lowest level ever against the euro and various financial services companies reported lame financials, sparking renewed concerns about an impending recession.) Sondergaard recommended that CIOs get two budgets ready for 2008, with one assuming growth akin to what has been experienced in recent years and the other assuming "the need to cut costs with the arrival of a recession." This has been a banner year for IT, but a worsening economy could lead to changes in the IT growth rate next year, he cautioned.

7. "Salesforce.com Customer List Stolen,"

Techworld, November 7

This week's security story involves a Salesforce.com employee being tricked by criminals into sharing a corporate password. Hucksters sent fake invoices to customers, along with viruses and key logging software as a consequence. It all started a few months back when a Salesforce.com employee was duped by a phishing scam, giving out a company password that allowed criminals to get access to a customer list. Some customers then were tricked into handing over their passwords. Salesforce.com said that only a small number of customers were affected, but to be on the safe side the company issued an alert to nearly 1 million subscribers. However limited the scam was in terms of those who were sucked in, the incident emphasizes the need for caution and care when it comes to passwords.

8. "The Verdict: Leopard Spanks Vista, Continues OS X's Reign of Excellence,"

Computerworld, November 7

An exhaustive look at Leopard, the Mac OS X 10.5, with all its developer improvements, bundled apps and utilities, with an eye toward the good and the bad, found that Leopard is an ambitious upgrade that can lead to better productivity, even when used in an IT environment that is more Windows-based. Leopard may, in fact, push Macs more into the enterprise, providing a "truly viable alternative to Windows PCs for business." Of course, Leopard isn't quite breathing down Windows' neck, even with a slower-than-expected Vista uptake. But over time, that could change.

9. "Green Issues Hitting IT Business Decisions,"

Techworld, November 7

Those in charge of IT buying decisions are actually starting to think about "green" issues, according to analyst IDC. A whopping 80 percent of executives surveyed said that environmental issues related to IT are increasing in importance in their companies. Forty-three percent take the "greenness" of vendors into account when they are thinking about purchases. Much of that interest turns out to be related to the bottom line -- going green saves money.

10. "Why Telecommuting Stinks,"

Computerworld, November 9

Those of us who telecommute even occasionally know the advantages of working at home (casual Fridays takes on a whole new meaning when wearing pajamas is an option). But there are also disadvantages to working outside of the office. Those who only telecommute may lose valuable life/work balance because they become conditioned to merge work and home; it can be difficult to get tech support remotely; if others household members are around the distractions can be fierce; and hands-on managers may have difficulty accepting that telecommuters are, in fact, productive. Though Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of The Telework Coalition, flatly rejects that latter "disadvantage." If it were the case that being in the office guaranteed more productivity, the busiest online shopping day of the year wouldn't be the Monday after Thanksgiving when we're back at work and company networks would be impervious to the likes of college basketball's annual March Madness playoffs. He likes to ask companies: "What do you call this when people can work anywhere?" The answer? Work is work is...

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