A 2011 year of unlikely unions, unwanted threats, unfortunate ends

IT industry sees year-long merry-go-round of partnerships and acquisitions, experiences barrage of hacking incidents and witnesses IPO milestones as well as, sadly, passing away of tech icons.

The mobile industry saw lots of unlikely partnerships and acquisitions, hacktivist groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec continued to wreak havoc online, tech initial public offerings (IPOs) got bigger and the IT world bade adieu to iconic figures Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie--in what was an eventful 2011.

The economic gloom that gathered over the start of 2010 was swept away a year later as 2011 began in optimism. Global IT expenditure was forecasted by Gartner to hit US$3.6 trillion for the year, spurred on by expected strong showing in the telecom equipment market and favorable U.S. currency exchange.

Mobile players played their part in fulfilling the figures projected, as struggling Nokia announced in February that it was jumping off its burning platform and straight into partnership with software giant Microsoft. The Finnish handset maker said it was dumping its ageing Symbian platform for Redmond's more advanced Windows Phone operating system (OS), which was given a Mango refresh in May this year, in order to better compete with the Apple iOS and Google Android.

Another unexpected mobile alliance took place in August when Google announced it was acquiring Motorola Mobility for US$12.5 billion. Google CEO Larry Page said then that the acquisition would "supercharge" the entire Android ecosystem as well as boost the Internet giant's patent portfolio, which was needed to fend off patent attacks from both Microsoft and Apple.

The early months of 2011 also saw the emergence of hactivism, referring to hackers with an activist agenda, which was represented by various groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec. In particular, the attacks on Sony which began in April--and went on for months--were committed to protest against the Japanese electronics giant for bringing PlayStation 3 hackers to court.

LulzSec, a hactivist group that surfaced during the Sony attacks, then partnered with Anonymous in June to embark on their "AntiSec" (anti-security) campaign which targeted banks, government agencies and other high-profile targets.

June was also significant for the fact that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the proposal to open up the Web to more generic top-level domains, beyond the existing 22 which includes .com, .org and .net. The initiative, though, will only be implemented end-2012.

Four months later, Apple introduced its iPhone 4S device together with its latest iOS 5 operating system. And while consumers were disappointed that Cupertino did not release an iPhone 5, sales for the iPhone remained strong with almost 17.1 million sold during its final quarter in 2011.

The company, however, will remember October for the passing of its iconic co-founder and chairman, Jobs, which came a day after the iPhone 4S was launched. Barely two months after handing over his CEO role to former COO Tim Cook in late-August, the 56-year-old on Oct. 5 finally succumbed to a rare form of pancreatic cancer, which was first diagnosed in August 2004.

Perhaps slightly overshadowed by Jobs' death, but no less significant, was the passing of Dennis Ritchie, the renowned computer scientist who created the C programming language. The 70-year-old who died Oct. 16 also made significant contributions to the development of the Unix OS, for which he received the Turing Award in 1983 along with Kenneth Thompson.

Finally, 2011 was also notable for a glut of tech IPOs launched. Zynga, in particular, grabbed the headlines after it raised US$1 billion in its public offering earlier this month, making it the biggest IPO by a U.S. Internet company since Google raised US$1.9 billion in 2004.

Daily deals operator Groupon launched its IPO in November, pricing it at US$20 per share, while business networking site LinkedIn completed its listing in May and raked in US$352.8 million after pricing its shares at US$45 each and selling 7.8 million of these to investors.

Check out the top 10 headliners in 2011, ranked chronologically, based on the amount of reader discussion and number of pageviews the articles generated, and their impact on the industry:

Nokia: Windows Phone 7 to be market challenger
CEO says the smartphone maker chose to partner software giant, instead of Google, to prevent Android from monopolizing market, and adds decision supported by telcos.
Monday, February 14, 2011

Google buys Motorola Mobility for $12.5B
Search giant unveils move to buy phonemaker for US$40 per share, or US$12.5 billion in total, allowing Google to "supercharge" Android ecosystem for benefit of consumers, partners and developers, says CEO Larry Page.
Monday, August 15, 2011

Schmidt: Android to be Asia's mobile gateway
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt sees Android as ideal for region as competition from hardware partners, platform openness and strength of ecosystem help lower prices and make smartphones more available.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anonymous targets Malaysian sites
Hacker group launches attacks on over 50 Malaysian government Web sites over censorship of sites such as WikiLeaks, according to report.
Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 freeware to boost office productivity
From word processing software to e-mail clients and cloud-sync programs, ZDNet Asia rounds up some popular tools for employees to level up at the workplace.
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Apple's iPhone 4S vital to keep rivals at bay
Cupertino's newest handset, essentially an iPhone 4 with better components including processor, camera and memory, will help it compete better with Android and Windows Phone but nothing to "blow customers away", analyst notes.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Why iOS 5 is a big deal
This week's iOS 5 update isn't a few tweaks here and there. It's a rethink of how iOS fits in with Apple's other products, as well and how iOS can scale to more devices in the future.
Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple co-founder, chairman Steve Jobs dies
Technology pioneer who also co-founded the Oscar-winning animation house Pixar and computer-maker NeXT, has passed away.
Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dennis Ritchie, father of C programming language, dies
In addition to C, the pioneering computer scientist made significant contributions to Unix and received many awards honoring his work.
Monday, October 17, 2011

Zynga IPO values company at US$7B
Social game developer raised US$1 billion for its initial public offering, the biggest offering from a Web company since Google went public with US$1.4 billion in 2004.
Thursday, December 16, 2011