Stories by Mark Hall

The rise of videoconferencing

With airlines adding new fees just about every day (Delta now charges US$50 for a second checked bag), videoconferencing has never looked more promising.

IT people who 'rattled the cage' since 1967

The megastars in the IT industry over the past four decades are easy to name. The accomplishments of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy, Larry Ellison, Linus Torvalds and others are well known. But clearly there have been many more who have helped turn IT from the narrow back-office operation of yesteryear into the ubiquitous corporate necessity it is today.

Opinion: Open-source apps losing desktop . . .

OPEN-source apps losing desktop . . . . . battle with Microsoft. In fact, one wonders whether there's been a skirmish at all. For more than two years, open-source advocates have been furiously throwing alternatives into the market to compete against the Windows/Office combo, with little or nothing to show for their efforts. OpenOffice and StarOffice have been the most notable attempts, the latter pushed hard by Sun Microsystems Inc. These office productivity tools run on Linux, of course, and, for all intents and purposes, have been free for the taking. Yet, despite some of the toughest, most cost-constrained years in IT history, "it's pretty hard to come up with data that shows any traction from these products," as Alan Yates, Microsoft's senior director for business strategy, carefully puts it. That's an understatement. How has Microsoft defended its desktop turf against freebie competitors? By focusing on cost, says Yates. "Given the focus of the entire business world on cost recently, it's natural for people to focus on low-cost alternatives," he says. "We ourselves position Office as having the lowest TCO on the market." Switching to open-source productivity tools would cost you plenty in new deployment fees, user training, file conversion and more. That's an argument that clearly resonates inside IT shops, or else they would have embraced open-source on the desktop much as they have on servers, where Linux, Apache, MySQL and other tools are giving Microsoft a run for its money. But Microsoft owns the desktop, and the open-source folks might as well give up the silly game.