Top 10 Hardware Stories Of 2010

Dec 21, 2010 (11:12 PM EST)

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CIOs and IT managers investigated how to incorporate iPad security, upgrades, and management into their overall hardware plans while harried parents considered whether to treat their children to the costly, yet much-desired, device this holiday season. In fact, iPads topped many wish lists, enabling Apple to top $20 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time and giving the company unprecedented access to the Fortune 500. Experts predict further growth, with some analysts predicting that the second-generation iPad will have two cameras.

Hardware sales looked healthier in 2010, as corporate purchasing departments and families loosened their respective budgets, looked at their aging computers and networks, and began replacing or adding to their equipment. In the first quarter of the year alone, worldwide PC shipments grew almost 28% compared with a year earlier, a figure that surpassed prior estimates by 5%, according to Gartner. And PC shipments did not flag, as expected, in 2009: Rather, global PC sales grew about 5% last year, the research firm found. And 2010 was even healthier for many companies. PC sales in general grew this year. However, sales of mobile computers did not increase as much as expected, victims of the overwhelming success of Apple's iPad, the tool equally beloved by corner-office-dwelling Fortune 500 executives and twenty-somethings, Gartner found. "PC market growth will be impacted by devices that enable better on-the-go content consumption such as media tablets and next-generation smartphones," said Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. "These devices will be increasing embraced as complements, if not substitutes, for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired. It is likely that desk-based PCs will be adversely impacted over the long term by the adoption of hosted virtual desktops, which can readily use other devices like thin clients." Of course, behind all the gee-whiz designs are humans, imperfect beings known for making errors. This past year featured several headline-making moves, in the courtroom and on the 6 o'clock news, as the SCO-Novell lawsuit finally came to a close and Mark Hurd left HP in a blaze of infamy.


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Two years after discovering memristor technology, HP continued to advance its work in these four basic elements in integrated circuits. In August, HP partnered with Hynix Semiconductor to bring memristor technology to market in the form of Resistive Random Access Memory (ReRAM). Memory chips created using memristor technology could run much faster and use far less energy that those using Flash memory technologies, according to Dr. Stanley Williams, HP senior fellow and founding director of HP's information and quantum systems laboratory. The partnership with a computer-memory manufacturer should enable the two companies to deliver a high-quality, memristor-based memory solution quickly and on a mass scale, he said.


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IBM focused on speed and power when it developed the zEnterprise family of mainframes, a more than $1.5 billion investment described as one of the most significant upgrades to the company's mainframe line in about 50 years. The zEnterprise System incorporates new technology that lets it manage workloads running across System z, and some Power7 and System x servers, IBM said. The core server--the zEnterprise 196--holds 96 of the world's fastest, most powerful microprocessors running at 5.2Ghz, and is capable of executing more than 50 billion instructions per second, according to the vendor.


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Moviegoers saw 3D take over theaters -- and television-makers began making TV sets that offered the same capabilities for film-watchers to enjoy in the comfort of home. While some 3D TVs still require viewers to wear special glasses -- albeit, many now are made of higher-end plastic, not the once ubiquitous blue-and-red paper frames--the next generation of 3D screens do not need special lenses, a step some view as necessary in order for 3D to become widely adopted. Manufacturers such as Toshiba, Sharp, Panasonic, Nvidia, and Sony entered the market, with others widely expected to roll-out 3D offerings.


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In the face of Oracle's acquisition of Sun, HP and Microsoft announced their plans to jointly spend $250 million to strengthen the integration of their hardware and software in a move geared toward the cloud. The two companies teamed up on areas such as virtualization, systems management, and storage. Mark Hurd, then-CEO of HP, countered critics' claims that it was merely a bundle, saying the pact marked a deep level of integration and collaboration. And Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed the company would continue partnering with other vendors, stating both businesses would team up with the others' competitors. Ironically, today, Hurd is at Oracle, taking on HP and Microsoft.


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People who sit, for extended periods, with a laptop on their bare skin have a slim chance of potentially getting "Erythema ab Igne,"more commonly known as toasted skin. Since it was discovered in 2004, only 10 cases have been reported. Symptoms include heat damage and skin discoloration; only one of the 10 cases included a burn, a medical journal said. Nevertheless, news of the potential harm may well have prompted a surge in sales of lap desks and notebook cooling devices by vendors such as Belkin, Logitech, and Targus.


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In April, HP inked an agreement to buy Palm for $1.2 billion in cash, a deal finalized by July 1. HP has talked about expanding the Palm OS beyond the phone, perhaps using the operating system in netbooks, tablets, and other hardware. In October, HP unveiled webOS 2.0, crammed with many new features such as enhanced multitasking support, a renamed and reinvigorated Just Type function, and new developer tools. On the hardware side, HP took the wraps off the Palm Pre 2, sold through Verizon Wireless in the United States.


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Six years after SCO filed a lawsuit against Novell, a Utah federal jury ruled that Novell owns the copyrights to Unix. SCO had threatened to include IBM and the entire open source community in the lawsuit and, in fact, the former federal judge Edward Cahn who has been running SCO during its ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, said SCO still has some claims against IBM. But the open source community, as well as Novell, rejoiced when the jury's verdict was released in late March. About eight months later, Attachmate announced it was acquiring Novell for $2.2 billion.


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Microsoft made waves or, to be more accurate, allowed gamers to ride virtual waves, with the release of Kinect for Xbox 360, a sensor that lets players use their own voices and bodies to play games and interact with entertainment. Within the first 25 days of its release, Microsoft sold more than 2.5 million Kinect sensors, creating a holiday furor for the rapidly hard-to-find devices. In November, Kinect represented 60% of all videogame hardware accessory sales, according to NPD Group.


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Microsoft Boosts Kinect Sales Forecast By 67%

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In an ugly tale that grew steadily uglier, HP's board fired Mark Hurd for allegedly inflating expense reports in order to cover an affair with marketing contractor Jodie Fisher, with whom Hurd had made a reportedly unapproved settlement after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against the CEO. Within weeks, friend Larry Ellison of Oracle signed-on Hurd as president, along with incumbent Safra Catz, prompting HP to file a lawsuit based on Hurd's signature on a non-compete agreement -- and the companies to trade barbs and threats to dissolve their technology partnerships. Soon, however, calmer heads prevailed; the companies came to an undisclosed agreement, allowing the lawsuit and the threat of a technology divorce to dissipate. Meanwhile, after looking internally, HP opted to name former SAP chief Leo Apotheker to take the helm of the company.


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