This is the first installment of a new feature on TechRepublic. We're going to give an honest -- if occasionally snarky -- take on four of the biggest stories of the week in the technology industry. Naturally, since business professionals make up most of our audience, we're going to lean toward the stories that most affect businesses. And, you'll notice that the big tech companies -- Google, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, HP, Dell, Cisco, etc. -- dominate a lot of the headlines since they wield a lot of influence. Oh, and did I mention that there will be scores involved?
Here's how it will work. Each Friday, we're going to select four developments from the past week (Saturday to Friday): two positive and two negative. We'll grade each development with a score from +1 to +8 or -1 to -8. Then, we'll total it all up to give a score for the progress of tech civilization for the week. These won't just be decided by me. Other TechRepublic editors will chime in as well, sometimes even writing the blurb for a particular development.
Let's get started.
Microsoft reports bullish balance sheet (+3)
Despite the fact that the company continues to be criticized for its lack of innovation and vision, Microsoft reported excellent earnings to Wall Street this week, exceeding expectations and growing by a bullish 8% over the same quarter last year. The challenge is that the company showed weaknesses in mobile, Internet, and its PC division, but those deficiencies were balanced by a very strong showing in its growing servers division and the fact that businesses keep buying licenses of Microsoft Office. Heck, the Xbox division even chipped in $32 million in profit. No matter what you think of Microsoft, a healthy Microsoft is a positive sign for the tech economy. (Also read Deb Shinder's ebullient take on Microsoft's performance.)
Apple opens B2B app store (+3)
This development flew under the radar last week, but word about it spread this week after Larry Dignan reported it on ZDNet on Monday. Apple officially calls this "App Store Volume Purchasing for Business," but it includes the ability for companies to buy apps in volume and then deploy them to employee iPhones and iPads (or give employees codes to download the apps themselves) and the ability to install private, custom apps built in-house or by a third-party partner. While businesses have been surprisingly bullish about iPhone and iPad in the enterprise, this move fills in one of the biggest gaps for those customers.
RIM lays off 2,000 workers (-2)
For BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, the fact that it announced 2,000 new layoffs on Monday is a terrible sign for a company that operates in a mega-growth market (mobile). RIM has repeatedly been unable to come up with new products to counter the momentum of Apple and Android, and it has been powerless to win over developers to its mobile app platform. The one consolation for the workers who get laid off is that their services should be highly valued by other mobile bellwethers and up-and-coming mobile startups.
Google+ incautiously erases user accounts (-5)
Over the weekend, Google began unceremoniously disabling large numbers of Google+ accounts for usernames that violate the company's real-name "community standards" or terms of service. Google reportedly closed accounts that used fake names, company names, nicknames, stage names, and even people who were using multiple accounts. In some cases, the people whose accounts were affected were only blocked from Google+, but in other cases users were no longer able to acces their Gmail, Google Docs, or other Google products. Lots of apparently innocent accounts were caught in the crossfire, while there are still a zillion Lady Gaga impostors with Google+ accounts. Even worse than the way Google botched this was that it didn't communicate very well about what it was doing and why.
Progress of tech civilization this week: -1
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.