Barcelona: AMD's Waterloo?
AMD was hoping that the launch of its Barcelona quad-core chips would press a perceived technology advantage it had built up against archrival Intel beginning in 2003, the year the smaller company launched Opteron chips for 64-bit applications. As Intel stumbled, AMD gained market share. But Intel cut prices and launched new 64-bit and quad-core processors. The release of Barcelona, delayed until September, may end up being a counterpunch that was too little, too late. Dragged down by shrinking margins and costs from last year's acquisition of ATI, AMD in October announced its fourth-straight quarter of losses and this month said it has delayed volume shipments of Barcelona to fine-tune the chip.
Windows Vista: The last big OS upgrade?
Microsoft launched the consumer version of Windows Vista in January after making it available to businesses in November 2006. Microsoft officials hyped it as the biggest launch in the company's history and now say adoption is on a normal trajectory for new operating systems. In November it said that 88 million copies have been sold. But a range of market-analysis reports show that users, especially corporate professionals, have concerns about stability and compatibility and hesitate to upgrade. Though Bill Gates has said that big marketing events most likely will always accompany major product releases, Vista may yet prove to be the last of the old-school upgrades in a world where users, on their own timetable, download incremental updates.
Dell reinvents itself
For years, Dell remained the world's number-one vendor in the cutthroat PC business by exercising unmatched control over logistics and sticking to its direct-sales model. But by 2006 HP unseated Dell as global PC leader. Dell seemed to lose its way as rivals adopted better supply-chain management techniques, and inquiries into accounting practices forced the company to delay earnings reports. In January, founder Michael Dell took back the CEO reins and the company expanded offerings for the enterprise, increased services for medium-size businesses, and departed from its traditional business model to start selling products in stores. Dell also plans to expand in growth markets globally. Early results are promising: Dell had record revenue growth for the third quarter, fueled by an increase in worldwide notebook sales.
Software consolidation: Big fish get bigger
While globalisation has fueled IT mergers and acquisitions for several years, consolidation in 2007 fundamentally reshaped the software industry. Facing saturated markets and nimble, innovative rivals, SAP, IBM and Oracle have snapped up competitors and partners in order to expand customer lists and acquire expertise and technology in hot areas such as business intelligence and software as a service. Some of the bigger deals this year included: SAP's $6.8bn acquisition of Business Objects, IBM's $5 billion deal for Cognos, and Oracle's $3 billion buyout of Hyperion. As usual, Oracle provided the most drama, with a $6.7 billion offer for BEA, which was successfully rebuffed -- at least, for now. While innovative entrepreneurs are bound to continue bringing startups to market, it's getting harder for medium-size vendors to refuse deals with the giants.