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Battles of twists and turns

2006 saw many twists and turns in the dramatic battles that played out between IT powerhouses in the otherwise monotonous landscape.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor

2006 was the year that saw many twists and turns in the dramatic battles that played out between IT powerhouses in the otherwise monotonous landscape.

But as always, where the tussle for power in the tech world is concerned, few battles are far from over, even as we usher in the new year.

Apple and Creative
The personal media player market led the way in 2006 when Creative Technology took Apple Computer to court in May for the use of its patented technology--a hierarchical user interface used in its Zen music players, after hinting for months that the company would "pursue aggressively" rival music player companies that infringed on its patent.

Apple countersued. The spat took another twist when both companies agreed to settle the dispute three months later, where Apple agreed to pay US$100 million to use Creative's patented technology in its music players.

Drama at HP
Also making headlines was Hewlett-Packard which continued to be dogged by company troubles, despite having enjoyed an economic turnaround.

Former Chairman Patricia Dunn resigned from HP's board in September due to a spying scandal sparked by an investigation into media leaks emerging from its boardroom.

This made Dunn the second high-ranking female executive to depart from the company, barely 18 months after former head honcho Carly Fiorina was ousted in 2005.

Microsoft and open source
The most dramatic battle of the second half of 2006 was the ongoing rivalry between open source advocates and Microsoft, which took a turn when the Redmond-based software giant struck an alliance with old foe Novell to work on harmonizing their products.

The deal also called for both companies not to sue each other's customers over patent issues.

However, barely three weeks after the announcement, Microsoft and Novell squabbled over Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's comments that Suse Linux infringed on his company's patents. Novell's CEO retorted with a letter issued to the open source community disputing Microsoft's contention.

In response to the Microsoft-Novell announcement, leading Linux seller Red Hat moved quickly to pour cold water on the partnership, and proclaimed that the deal was a victory for Linux, and not just Novell itself.

The Microsoft-Novell agreement also did not sit well with some industry watchers. Legal IT Web site Groklaw was even more cynical. "Excuse me while I go throw up," wrote Groklaw's founder Pamela Jones. "I gather Microsoft no longer thinks Linux is a cancer, or communism. Now it just wants a patent royalty from it. Wasn't that kinda SCO's dream at first?"

Microsoft battles the EC
On other fronts, Microsoft fought a tough battle with the European Commission (EC) over antitrust concerns regarding Windows Vista. In July, the Redmond giant was fined 280.5 million euros (US$352.5 million) by the EC for failing to comply with the 2004 antitrust ruling against the company.

After making changes to Vista to comply with the EC regulations, the software maker finally shipped the long-awaited operating system to business customers in November, not before company chairman Bill Gates took a swipe at his rivals and accused them of attempting to "castrate" Vista.

What will the tech battlefield be like in 2007? Stay tuned.

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