Fireworks Flying: 10 Explosive Tech Spectacles In 2011


It just isn't the Fourth of July without fireworks. For many, we celebrate our independence by grilling some burgers, sipping a beer (or two) and enjoying the explosive light show. And the high-tech industry has a light show of its own. From high-profile lawsuits and contentious competitions to wars of words and massive cyber attacks, 2011 certainly has been explosive.

With that in mind, we take a look at 10 explosive tech spectacles in 2011 that are causing a quite a commotion and making the fireworks fly this Independence Day.

Sparks Fly Between Oracle And HP

The ongoing legal battle between HP and Oracle over Oracle's decision to stop software development for the Itanium processor has resulted in a back and forth so hot it could spark a blaze.

In March, Oracle ended development of its software for the Itanium processor, a move HP says forces HP customers to move to Oracle's server platforms. Oracle, however, said its decision was related to a decision by Intel to end development of the Itanium processor. On June 16, HP filed a lawsuit against Oracle, claiming that Oracle ending development of software for HP's Itanuim-based server line was a breach of contract.

And this week, Oracle asked a judge to reject HP's request to seal documents in the case and accused HP of abusing the judicial process. Oracle, in that filing, called HP's lawsuit a "publicity stunt in a broader campaign to lay the blame on Oracle for the disruption that will occur within HP's Itanium-based server business inevitable comes to an end."

Google Apps Vs. Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft officially launched Microsoft Office 365 this week, its cloud-based suite of productivity apps which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer affectionately said is "where Microsoft Office meets the cloud." Office 365 bundles Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote) with SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online and moves them into the cloud. Problem is, that cloud space is where Microsoft rival Google plays with its Google Apps platform, and Google wasted no time in calling Microsoft and Office 365 to task and warning users of the pitfalls of Office 365.

Google Apps Product Manager Shan Sinha outlined in a blog post several areas in which Google Apps excels against Microsoft Office 365: Google Apps is made for teams, not individuals; Apps is built for choice, while Office 365 is built for Microsoft; Google Apps is simple and affordable; and Google Apps is pure and proven.

This is the latest round in Google's and Microsoft's cloud kerfuffle.

Dropbox Users Speak Out, Sue

Angered Dropbox users peeved with the cloud storage service's handling of an authentication bug that left user accounts wide open and accessible via any password have filed a class action lawsuit against the company. The class action suit against Dropbox claims the company was negligent and didn't adequately notify users that their data faced potential exposure during a four-hour time-frame in June. The lawsuit also claims that Dropbox violated the California Unfair Competition Law.

According to Dropbox a June 19 update introduced a bug that affected Dropbox's authentication mechanism leaving accounts accessible by anyone. Dropbox said the problem was fixed within minutes after it was notified, but that it had lasted about four hours. Dropbox also said less than 100 of its 25 million users' accounts were accessed during that time and no data was modified during the security lapse. Dropbox said it has notified all users whose accounts were accessed during the hiccup.

Showdown: Apple And Samsung

Apple's and Samsung's relationship took a few rocky turns in the first half of this year, with back and forth lawsuits and now word that the Apple may sever its use of Samsung chips, which Samsung has produced for the Apple iPad and iPad 2.

But reports indicate that Apple will move its ARM-based A6 system-on-a-chip production from Samsung to another fabrication partner next year, most likely the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Ditching Samsung essentially signs the divorce papers between Apple and Samsung, which are embroiled in a pair of patent infringement lawsuits in the U.S. and Korea in which Apple claims that Samsung is copying its device designs and infringing on its patents to make its Samsung Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets

Microsoft, Face Off

The dustup between cloud CRM combatants Microsoft and took another turn early this year with Dynamics CRM general manager Brad Wilson chiding Salesforce for being too expensive and calling Salesforce's own trash talk against Microsoft is a clear defense mechanism.

" spends a lot of time bashing Microsoft," Wilson wrote in a blog post. "Their CEO, Marc Benioff, can't stop talking about us, whether in customer events or on their financial analyst calls. Their sales force tries desperately to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about Microsoft, giving slick 'hit pieces' to prospects with a slanted perspective and dubious claims. All of this raises the question: Why is so worried about Microsoft?"

Wilson's blog is the latest blow in a bitter war of words as Microsoft and Salesforce lock horns in the CRM software arena. At last year's Dreamforce conference Benioff called Microsoft "the evil empire" in his keynote.

HP Reorg Shows Inner Turmoil

HP's huge executive reorganization caused some turmoil at the tech giant and eliminated some of the faces from former CEO Mark Hurd's regime while paving the way for new chief executive Leo Apotheker.

Ann Livermore, executive vice president of enterprise business, will leave her post and join HP's Board of Directors; she'll continue to serve as the lead enterprise services executive on an interim basis until a replacement can be found. Additionally, Pete Bocian, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, left effective immediately, HP said, and functions will be absorbed into other HP positions. And Randy Mott, executive vice president and CIO, also left effective immediately, and HP is currently searching for his replacement.

Meanwhile, Dave Donatelli, executive vice president of HP's enterprise servers, storage, networking and technology services; Bill Veghte, executive vice president of software, and Jan Zadak, executive vice president of global sales, will report directly to Apotheker.

Cisco, Juniper Executive Tug-Of-War

The competition between Cisco and Juniper moved into the executive ranks with an executive tug-of-war this year.

Juniper has poached a handful of top Cisco talent this year. Most recently, Juniper snagged Christofer Hoff, Cisco's director of cloud and virtualization solutions within its Security Technology Business Unit. Hoff's jumping from Cisco to Juniper is the latest in a series of high-profile executive leaps. Luanne Tierney left her channels marketing post at Cisco for a similar role at Juniper in January, and former Cisco vice president of engineering and operating in the Cisco security unit, Nawaf Bitar, joined Juniper as its senior vice president and general manager of emerging technologies.

Cisco has also purloined Juniper talent. Most recently, Juniper executive vice president and general manager, Fabric and Switching Business Group, David Yen, left Juniper and joined Cisco as its general manager and senior vice president, Server Access and Virtualization Technology Group.

Google, Microsoft Face Off In FISMA Flap

Google and Microsoft went blow for blow this spring in a battle royal concerning the companies' Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification, or lack thereof.

Microsoft drew first blood, with a pointed blog post claiming that Google's federal cloud play, Google Apps for Government, lacked FISMA certification, which is required by federal agencies to adopt certain technology products. Microsoft's accusation started a FISMA flap in which Google defended its FISMA certification claiming that Google Apps is certified, therefore Google Apps for Government, which adds stronger security controls, is also certified under FISMA.

It was later revealed that Microsoft itself had not officially received FISMA certification for its rival cloud product, Microsoft Business Online Productivity Services (BPOS). Google then moved ahead with its existing FISMA certification and Microsoft BPOS earning FISMA certification, settling the feud -- for now.

HP Takes Former Channel Chief To Court

HP is suing former channel chief Adrian Jones, claiming he stole proprietary information about HP products and customers before leaving to take a job with arch rival Oracle.

In the lawsuit, HP accused Jones of downloading and removing sensitive documents related with confidential and strategic data, according to court documents. All told, HP alleged Jones took hundreds of files and thousands of e-mails via a USB device. Jones also allegedly had a "close personal relationship" with a subordinate in HP's Australia operations, arranged a substantial promotion and salary increase for her and filed improper expense reports to cover the costs of continuing that relationship, according to the complaint.

Jones left his post as senior vice president of Enterprise Storage, Servers and Networking for HP Asia Pacific, in February, and in March Jones resurfaced as senior vice president of Asia Pacific/Japan at Oracle, where former HP CEO Mark Hurd joined as president months earlier.

LulzSec Goes On 50-Day Hack-A-Thon

Hacker group LulzSec went on a 50-day hacking spree that saw it launch massive cyber attacks on a slew of high profile organizations that include Sony, Nintendo, PBS, the CIA's public-facing Web site and InfraGard, an affiliate of the FBI. The hack-and-attack crew also exposed more than 700 files from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and published the passwords to roughly 60,000 e-mail addresses.

After the 50 days of tech terrorism, and the Scotland Yard arrest of a 19-year-old supposed LulzSec leader, LulzSec passed the torch to another hacker collective, Anonymous.

"For the past 50 days, we've been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments, often the general population itself, and quite possible everything in between, just because we could," LulzSec said. "It's time to say bon voyage. Our planned 50 day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance."