Farewell to 2008 and all that

It's traditional at end of year for those journalists who haven't escaped away for the holidays to write stories looking back on the year just gone, and making predictions for the year ahead

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By  Mark Sutton Published  December 31, 2008

It's traditional at end of year for those journalists who haven't escaped away for the holidays to write stories looking back on the year just gone, and making predictions for the year ahead. And who am I to break with tradition - so here it is, my round-up of the top stories for the region and the world of IT in 2008.

1. Abu Dhabi buys up AMD (well, most of AMD).
In a move that caught most of the tech market completely by surprise, the Abu Dhabi government built on its 2007 investment in AMD by buying up the company's chip manufacturing business completely. The new technology investment company will own around half of a new joint venture that will focus on processor manufacturing, while the Mubadala investment fund doubled its stake in AMD stock.

2. Yahoo! turns down Microsoft.
A story that's most likely already being taught in business schools as a lesson in bad timing and belligerence, Yahoo! turned down a $46.6 billion offer from Microsoft, only to see its market cap sink to $16.6 billion by year end. I bet Jerry Yang hears those numbers in his sleep.

3. Cable breaks turn off the internet.
Undersea cable breaks brought internet connections to a standstill for most of the Middle East and India. I’d still like to know exactly how four cables all got damaged at once, and why, even though operators and cable companies spent the rest of 2008 telling us that they were investing to make sure that it could not happen again,  did it all happen again, ten months later?

4. Card fraud sweeps the Gulf.
Banks across the Gulf, but mainly in the UAE, forced every single customer to change their PIN after a massive outbreak of card fraud. The UAE central bank kept quiet about how such an attack happened, but most of the industry knows that an unnamed (and unpunished) bank in the UAE made a major cock-up and had its systems compromised. Another ‘win’ for the bankers in a year in which their greed brought world financial systems crashing down.

5. Apple launches the iPhone 3G.
Despite the best efforts of many other handset manufacturers  Apple's iPhone 3G still sets the bar for smartphones and sheer 'must-have' factor. Most of the Gulf is still waiting to get an official release however, and it seems that you can’t have GPS on your iPhone in Egypt.

6. Netbooks everywhere
Small, cheap computers ruled the roost in consumer hardware this year, with just about every vendor launching products into this new market. Netbooks have been such a success that some vendors are believed to be discussing having them listed as a separate category of the hardware market with analyst companies like Gartner and IDC. While Intel's Atom processor lies at the heart of the machine, there are netbooks available with a wide variety of specifications, including a supposedly sub-$100 model.

7. Gulf telecom operators expand everywhere.
In another sector that saw too much action to mention every deal, Gulf telecom operators racked up the airmiles in the race to buy up new licences in the Gulf, the wider Middle East, Africa and just about anywhere they could find them for sale. Presumably using the profits they've made from their ridiculously expensive internet charges.

8. The Gulf gets a taste for Supercomputing.
While the oil companies may have been sitting on some big iron for a while, supercomputing in the region looks set to take off, with IBM signing a deal to provide Saudi's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) with a supercomputer that should rank in the world's top ten when its switched on. The computer will be used primarily for research into supercomputing, and the university hopes to attract world-class scientists and engineers. IBM also partnered up with Intel in the UAE for more commercial supercomputing research.

9. Bill Gates steps down at Microsoft.
Regardless of how you feel about his company, there are few people that have been as influential in the IT industry as Bill Gates. Gates stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft in June this year, and while he might be a bit disappointed that no-one seems to want Vista, his legacy in the software industry will live on. Gates was also one of the CEO's who has paid a fair bit of attention to the region, visiting several times during his tenure at Microsoft.

10. Cisco spends big in the Middle East.
The start of the year saw another familiar CEO, Cisco's John Chambers, back in the region and going on something of a spending spree. Chamber's visit saw Cisco announcing new investments and projects in Palestine, Qatar, and a $1.5 billion package for the UAE. Given the economic climate, I can't help but wonder if they are actually going to spend that money though...

That's enough for one year, there will be more bad tempered rantings from me in 2009, so it only remains for me to wish you all a Happy New Year!

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