by Thomas Wailgum

Tech Winners and Losers of the Week

Feb 29, 20084 mins
IT Leadership

Winners this week included the mobile phone and the mainframe. And there were plenty of losers: Microsoft, Sprint, Google's stockholders and lots of retailers.

Which tech vendor had a week to remember—and which had one to forget?

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Winners and Losers for March 7: Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Facebook Up; Bill Gates and Apple (Stock) Down

IDG News Service World Tech Update for the Week of Feb. 29, 2008

Which IT department needs a “do over,” and which exec should be looking for a new job? On Fridays, we chronicle what went right and what went wrong in the IT world during the past week.

LOSER: Microsoft

On Wednesday, the European Union’s antitrust regulator fined the world’s biggest software maker a whopping $1.3 billion against for its continued failure to honor a 2004 antitrust ruling. Combined with previous EU fines, Microsoft’s total tab is up to nearly $2.6 billion. “The Commission’s latest fine is a reasonable response to unreasonable actions by Microsoft,” said EU Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes. To put this in perspective, it’s important to note that Microsoft’s revenues last year were $51 billion. So don’t worry too much.

WINNER: The Mobile Phone

News broke this week that more than 1 billion mobile phones were sold around the globe in 2007, which is a first. Most of that growth came from first purchases from the billions of people in emerging markets such as China and India. Nokia sold nearly 40 percent of all the phones on the market; Motorola, which has seen its share of struggles recently, was the only handset manufacturer to lose market share.

LOSER: Sprint

If misery loves company, then Motorola can take some comfort in Sprint’s woes: On Thursday the wireless provider reported a $29.5 billion fourth-quarter loss. (Yes, that’s nearly $30 billion in one quarter.) Just one year ago the company made a profit of $261 million. Execs attributed the loss to a write-down from Sprint’s 2005 Nextel acquisition and a shrinking number of mobile subscribers. Maybe they should look harder in China and India? Just a thought.

WINNER: The Mainframe

Ahhh, behold The Mainframe, long left for dead. Apparently, the senior citizen of the data center is still alive and well. On Tuesday, IBM announced the System z10, the next-generation mainframe that features more horsepower in its quad-core processors for today’s computing-intensive jobs. In a bit of not-so-subtle marketing, IBM deftly noted that the mainframe can go “hand-in-hand with green IT”—a single System z10 is equal to 1,500 distributed servers, with up to an 85 percent smaller footprint, and 85 percent lower energy costs, according to IBM. The Green Mainframe? That’s a nice image.

LOSER: Google Stockholders

From the ancient mainframe to the always-hot Google. Well, perhaps, not so hot anymore: Since early November, when shares of Google were trading at $747.24, the stock has plummeted 38 percent and lost roughly $83 billion in market value, reported The New York Times. On Tuesday, Google’s stock closed at $464.19. What’s got investors worried? A ComScore report that the total number of clicks on U.S. Google ads was flat in January, when compared with 2007 data. Is that a chink in the armor?

LOSER: Retailers

Many of the biggest retailers posted sluggish earnings and deep dives in profitability this week: Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, J.C. Penney, Sears, Kmart. What’s got to be maddening for all of them is that Wal-Mart announced solid fourth-quarter earnings the week before, and it seems new IT applications helped out. Score one for Bentonville—and IT.

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IDG News Service World Tech Update for the Week of Feb. 29, 2008

AND THIS WEEK’S MOST LOVABLE TECH LOSER: Consumers Who Bought Toshiba’s HD-DVD Player

Another kick in the gut for those leading-edge, early adopters who picked a side (albeit the wrong one) in the “HD-DVD Wars” saga: Despite heart-felt pleas from the blogosphere this week, Toshiba still will not refund customers’ money for the HD DVD players they bought. As a Toshiba PR person told Valleywag: “There is nothing wrong with the products, so we aren’t accepting returns from customers.” Such is the price of admission for life on the leading edge.