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Headline makers of 2008

The tech sector took a wild ride in 2008. Some technologies, like virtualization, entered the mainstream. Big name industry vets bid adieu.

Like the stock market, the tech sector took a wild ride in 2008. Some technologies, like virtualization, entered the mainstream, and big name industry vets bid adieu. Here are the top 10 headliners of 2008.

1. Virtualization: Virtualization is the single coolest thing that has happened in the computer industry in the last 10 years, says Mark Minasi, author and Windows expert. There are few companies that haven't installed the technology in some variation or another, but server virtualization really took hold in 2008. IT managers now may look to harness the technology to make similar gains on the desktop. Expect to see new companies and technologies fill the gaps left behind by the big vendors.

2. Cloud computing: Industry old timers say cloud computing is just a variation of time-sharing. And, remember application service providers? What's unclear is whether or not vendors can convince corporations to put their data in the hands of outsiders. During this economic downturn, it's possible that customers may be drawn in by the notion of a reduction of capital expenses.

3. The economy: When asked what was on their wish list for 2009, IT pros often said, "Keep my job," followed by nervous laughter, then, "No, seriously, I just want to keep my job." From the yo-yo stock market to the big bailout of the mortgage lenders, IT is getting squeezed. Some industry analysts paint a grim picture for IT spending next year. Consolidation could occur as stronger vendors scoop up start-ups and competitors at bargain basement prices.

4. The new desktop: From bypassing the operating system via virtualization to road warriors using mobile devices as their primary workstation, users want anywhere, anytime access to the device of their choice. IT would love to get rid of desktops and the messy management it requires keeping them up to date. But end users want their personal settings. Going forward, the industry must address this shift to anytime, anywhere access and not lose sight of the needs of those it impacts most -- the users.

5. The Obama administration: Much of the country has high hopes for the new administration. But IT professionals already burdened with tasks to secure data and achieve compliance with government regulations wonder what impact the recent $700 government bailout of the mortgage lenders will have on those regulations. Some wonder if the government will relax the rules for SOX compliance. Others say they think corporate behavior will lead to more stringent regulations.

6. Green computing: As dire environmental warnings prevailed and gas prices soared, the IT industry got into the act of saving the planet -- well, really trying to save money. Although it's not a glamorous endeavor, many IT folks have been told to start introducing a green agenda into the data center in 2009.

7. The Yahoo/Microsoft saga: Microsoft rarely gives up when it wants something. The company has been trying to make a dent in the search/marketing space for some time. Early last year it acquired Fast Search & Transfer, and this month CEO Steve Ballmer said he'd like to see Yahoo's search business become part of Microsoft sooner rather than later. Now that Yahoo's Jerry Yang is no longer around as CEO, the deal just may happen sooner rather than later.

8. Changing of the guard: Parting is such sweet sorrow … if you actually, finally, really leave. That is the case for Bill Gates who retired this past summer, and left the running of the company up to the likes of Ballmer and chief software architect Ray Ozzie. VMware also lost a chunk of history when founder Diane Greene was ousted with EMC chief Joe Tucci blaming her departure on a lack of operational experience. And after 13 years at the helm of Yahoo, co-founder Jerry Yang caved to resignation pressures, possibly paving the way for Microsoft to finally get its hands on Yahoo's search business.

9. Software as a Service: Microsoft software-plus-services strategy is holding steady, although if you ask IT folks on a showroom floor what the difference is between SaaS, cloud computing and so on, they are a bit confused. SaaS isn't going to replace traditional applications in the near future. But, maybe next year the technology will get a boost from less confusing marketing messages from the vendors.

10. We're the kids in America: All grown up and changing the world -- and the way corporations do, well, just about everything. From iPods and social networking to Web 2.0 technologies, each is becoming just another part of the corporate fabric.

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