Outsourcing and its discontents
Looking at the great debates in the technology business over the last year, one had the feeling that 2005 would go down in the annals as a watershed year.
Not that there was any more clarity in the last 12 months than in years past. Rather, 2005 was a year in which several of the long-simmering arguments about where the industry ought to be headed soared to the top of the decibel measure.
After a series of disappointing performances by American students vis-a-vis their peers overseas, a chorus of domestic critics wondered whether the United States was in jeopardy of losing its high-tech edge. EMC Chief Executive Joe Tucci voiced the concern of many Silicon Valley executives as he urged a greater national commitment to upgrading the educational system. But UC Davis professor Norm Matloff rejected the conventional wisdom that America was slipping, arguing that the criticism was being used as an excuse for businesses to outsource jobs to India.
Indeed, the controversy over outsourcing and its assorted discontents remained on the front pages for most of the year. Even as the computer industry continued to take advantage of the lower costs of sending work to India and other nations, new worries emerged about how to guarantee the security of consumer information and data privacy. As the year came to a close, that question mark remained.
Was the so-called Microsoft "monoculture" ultimately good or bad for consumers? The commonwealth of Massachusetts stepped into that argument when it decided to standardize desktop applications on OpenDocument, an open-source standard ratified in May.
Government regulators again found themselves grappling with sundry free-speech issues related to pornography and politics, the rights of bloggers, and the proper guidelines for protecting software patents and intellectual property.
But with the price of a barrel of crude oil hovering for much of the year around $60, at least one topic brought consensus: The country's current energy dependence would come to no good. As the year came to a close, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy offered an eco-friendly challenge to the rest of the technology industry on how it can do more with less. How they respond in 2006 may say something about whether crude prices are inevitably headed toward the $100 level.
EMC chief Joe Tucci warns that the United States is falling dangerously behind in math and science skills.
Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan, explains why he sees a future in something called "blogcasting."
If the porn domain remains voluntary, that's one thing, says CNET New.com's Declan McCullagh. But what happens if politicians make it mandatory?
With mainframe talent retiring faster than it's being replaced, BMC's Bill Miller sees a dangerous juncture ahead.
Rep. Rick Boucher says Congress will OK the broadcast flag rule only if Hollywood agrees to restore fair use rights to consumers.
After a rash of data breaches, Ping Identity's Eric Norlin questions why corporations are storing personal data in the first place.
Policy analyst George Pieler says spat between European trustbusters and Microsoft speaks volumes about what's wrong with EC antitrust policy.
COBOL expert Mike Gilbert examines the looming skills gap between the legacy world and the newer worlds of Web services, Java.
Vormetric CEO Reed Taussig says U.S. businesses are sleepwalking into a security trap of their own making.
HP's Joe Beyers urges the formation of a consortium to combat what he sees as a patent shakedown.
CCIA President Ed Black explains why he thinks Massachusetts has set an example other governments will follow.
Sun's CEO says it's possible to be business-savvy and eco-friendly at the same time.
CNET News.com's Charles Cooper finds that Silicon Valley is worried by a lack of impetus to stay on top in tech.
Verdasys chief scientist Daniel Geer says Massachusetts' decision to go with OpenDocument Format comes not a moment too soon.
Behind the headlines