E-business hit the big time in 1999

The tech industry grew into the mainstream this year, with the UK even getting into the startup and IPO game alongside the US. ZDNet News brings you some of the top business stories of the year

It was a banner year for e-business in the UK, as the high-tech industry grew by leaps and bounds. Established businesses such as telecommunications and Internet service providers grew and consolidated, and, perhaps most notably, Britain began to develop a startup culture similar to that which has led to so much innovation in the US.

The year started off with the UK pondering its role in international e-business. The government, which says it is committed to making Britain a high-tech leader, was criticised in January for its "plodding" attempts to stay in touch with the Internet, and when its long-awaited e-commerce bill finally arrived in July it faced a stream of criticism.

Guy Kewney: Too little too late from the government

UK E-commerce bill comes under fire

Though public demand for e-commerce began to grow, studies (such as a Fletcher Research report in February) found that British businesses were sluggish in giving consumers compelling reasons to shop online.

UK firms fail to encourage e-commerce

In the meantime, things heated up for Microsoft as it faced off with the US' Department of Justice in its anti-trust trial. "Findings of fact" delivered in November, which said that Microsoft was a monopoly, cast ripples far beyond the software giant to affect every part of the computing and Internet industries.

Microsoft antitrust judgement: Winners and losers

Linux, the free, open-source operating system that had been cast in the trial as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows, suddenly became a darling of Wall Street, partly because of publicity from the trial. As the year wore on, it seemed that all you needed to boost your stock price was a Linux product. But some of the beneficiaries, such as Corel, later saw their shares plummet again.

Will Wall Street's Linux love affair last?

Back on home shores, a battle royale developed around Europe's booming wireless communications industry and its Internet-connected potential. Germany's Mannesmann first agreed to acquire the UK's third-largest mobile phone operator, Orange; but this upset Mannesmann's British business partner Vodafone AirTouch so much that in November the wireless giant launched a hostile takeover bid for Mannesmann. The takeover will be decided early in 2000.

Vodafone makes record Mannesmann bid

In November came the launch of the UK's technology-oriented exchange the techMARK, designed to compete with the US' Nasdaq and Germany's Neuer Markt. Critics said the exchange came late in the game, and blasted its inclusion of established companies. But venture capital continued to flow into tech startups, many of which went public.

techMARK puts spotlight on high-tech companies

Internet IPO bubblers

But techMARK put early criticism to rest after its value surged, leading many to talk of a high-tech stock fever on par with that in the US. In december the tech market's main index reorganised to include more emerging companies. And even central bankers finally got into the act, with the government reversing its previous stance and signalling that the technology market may justify some of the hype after all.

High-tech fever hits the UK

All change for techMARK after 50 percent gain

Central bank gives 'buy' signal on high-tech shares


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