In another tumultuous year for tech, the bully pulpit of CNET News.com's Perspectives pages reflected sharp differences of opinion over what's broken and how to fix it.
Security and privacy glitches continued to make headlines. In part, this reflected the increasing aggressiveness of online predators. But it also testified to poorly written software, a lingering problem that security experts loudly bemoaned.
Despite all the jawboning, observers were hard-pressed to find demonstrable progress in an industry that paid ample lip service to fixing the problem. One idea: instead of compensating software engineers to add software functionality and meet deadlines, why not provide incentives for them eliminate vulnerabilities in the first place?
Heading into 2006, all eyes were on Washington D.C., where Congress and regulators were set to debate a number of
weighty technology questions--chief among them Net neutrality. This was the notion that broadband network operators such as AT&T and cable operators such as Comcast should not be allowed to discriminate among content providers or favor their own content.
Proponents of Net neutrality argued that the nondiscrimination prohibition should apply to wireless and all other technology platforms that deliver Internet access to consumers. But the antineutrality forces argued that this was little more than a scam being promoted by the big tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon. What's more, they contended, the broadband marketplace's increasingly competitive vigor rendered a new government Internet mandate unnecessary. The final decision is likely to come in 2007.
Washington also played host to a cranky debate about how seriously the government took the question of computer security. In late 2005, Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the Department of Homeland Security was creating the post of an assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications. But that position remained open for the next 12 months, turning the vacancy into a touchstone for partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans.
And since it seems nearly all problems ultimately wind up in Washington's lap, it was altogether fitting and proper that the traveling circus of the Hewlett-Packard spy scandal would end up before a congressional hearing. The affair, which involved HP operatives snooping on reporters, HP board members and employees to trace a series of media leaks, left some people wondering whatever had happened to the famed "HP Way" fostered by company co-founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard.
Another big story that excited no small amount of commentary was energy, or the lack thereof. The answer to the conundrum was anyone's guess. Neither Congress, the president, nor the private sector had an answer. But as gasoline prices waxed and waned throughout the year, more money poured into finding an alternative to crude oil. The list of possibilities includes ethanol, electricity, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, hydrogen fuel cells and hybrids. The only consensus was that the era of cheap oil has come to its historic end.
Since 2006 was also the year in which new Internet enterprises of all shapes and forms attracted keen interest and--more importantly--gobs of money from eager venture capitalists looking for the Next Big Thing. Some wondered whether we weren't seeing a rerun of 1999. Back then, the money flowed, and all that the recipients seemed to need was a warm pulse. Things are different this time around, we are being told. That's reason enough to suggest that there could be major trouble over the horizon. In the meantime, laissez les bons temps rouler.
Policy analyst Randolph J. May says the time is right for advocates to step back from the precipice.
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren says the unfilled job of cyberczar--one year after it became vacant--points to a much bigger problem.
Attorney Eric J. Sinrod says the group is picking up important allies as it seeks to revolutionize traditional copyright law.
We probably have about 50 years of "cheap" oil left. CNET's Brian Cooley offers his take on the Seven Horsemen of the Automotive Apocalypse.
CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says that as every new bizarre detail emerges in HP's spy scandal, it becomes clearer that the CEO has only one choice: Come clean.
News.com's Charles Cooper writes that Google's $1.65 billion deal for YouTube puts Mark Cuban in the position of soothsayer.
News.com's Scott Ard says Microsoft's first attempt at a digital music player still isn't ready for prime time.
News.com's Charles Cooper says it's time to ask whether the tech industry is approaching another dot-com disaster.
Analyst Jon Oltsik cautions that the simmering discontent within the IT community over insecure software is about to boil over.
News.com's Michael Kanellos says Apple should think again if it believes it can make a phone to match iPod's success.