February 2014 in review: New CEO takes charge at Microsoft

It didn’t take as long as the 2008 AWS spectrum auction, but the 700 MHz auction that ended this month brought in more money: $5.27 billion.

That was the  biggest technology news event of the month, which included Ottawa putting in money for open data projects and for expanding rural broadband, BlackBerry acknowledging that many of its buyers didn’t want an all-touch iPhone clone, and Canada’s spy chief defended the collection of wireless metadata.

As spectrum auctions go it was pretty quiet: Unlike the 2008 auction, Industry Canada didn’t publicly issue round by round general bidding results, presumably to avoid media speculation about who was buying what and also to ensure bidders focused on what they wanted rather than on trying to psych out competitors.

But when the final results were released, there were a few surprises: Against all predictions that Quebecor, the owner of Quebec-based cableco and wireless operator Videotron, would stick to buying frequencies in its home province, it shelled out $233.3 million in  spectrum in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. as well as Quebec.

Was this because Wind Mobile and Mobilicity didn’t participate in the auction? Did Quebecor want to expand outside Quebec? Did it intend to buy one or both of the other startups? As I write this 10 months later we still don’t know.

Rogers paid a whopping $3.291 billion for spectrum, Telus spent just over $1.142 billion and Bell paid just over $565. 7 million.

Looking ahead to 2015, Industry Canada will hold two more auctions — one for so-called AWS3 spectrum, the other in the 2.5 GHz band — as carriers try to stock up for bandwidth-intensive applications that LTE enables.

Meanwhile, the government also told carriers that companies will have to consult with communities on where new antennas are located before construction, no matter what the tower’s size. Until now companies only had to consult on towers over 15 metres. A number of communities get agitated when told a tall antenna is about to be dropped into a neighborhood.

What will Ottawa do with its auction bonanza? It hadn’t collected the cash by the time the federal budget was announced, but that document did include provision for spending $3 million on an open data institute to be matched by the private sector. Headquartered in Waterloo, Ont., it is to be a centre of excellence specializing in commercializing open data that federal, provincial and local governments are releasing to help fuel innovation.

The budget also included $305 million to support more rural broadband projects of operators and communities. The goal is to give the ability of 280,000 households access to download speeds of at least 5 Mbps. The money will help bring access to that minimal level of broadband to about 98 per cent of the populace.

One of the biggest upheavals in the industry took place when Satya Nadella was anointed the new CEO of Microsoft, while former Symantec head John Thompson replaced Bill Gates as chairman. A tip at the board’s reasoning: Nadella had been executive vice-president of Microsoft’s enterprise and cloud computing business.

In an interview Rob Helm of the industry analyst firm Directions On Microsoft told me Nadella’s appointment reinforces what outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer wanted to do when he re-organized the company last year to better co-ordinate Microsoft’s technical roadmap. Nadella is one of the company’s long-time strategists, he pointed out.

“So I think a lot of technology decisions are going to go all the way to the top and you’re going to see a more co-ordinated approach.”

Like many years, 2014 was studded with security reports from vendors, which are often for marketing. One that caught my eye was an annual cyber threat report from Hewlett-Packard which was one of the few that urged organizations to share information to fight hackers.

“Adversaries today are more adept than ever and are collaborating more effectively to take advantage of vulnerabilities across an ever-expanding attack surface,” Jacob West, HP’s chief technology officer for enterprise security products, said in a statement. “The industry must band together to proactively share security intelligence and tactics in order to disrupt malicious activities driven by the growing underground marketplace.”

The founder of Russian IT security vendor Kaspersky Lab told our Jeff Jedras that hacktivists  to him are worse than organized cyber thieves. “Criminals don’t want to kill you; they want your money. Hacktivists have a political motivation,” said Eugene Kaspersky. “They want to damage your business, they want to kill your business, they want to disclose the data you don’t want to be disclosed, they want to very badly damage your reputation, kill your network and damage your data.”

One of my video interviews this year was with Jon Clay, core technology marketing manager at  Trend Micro Inc., who told me that, “There’s a lot more good happening on the Internet than bad,” he said, pointing to the use of the Web for communications and education. Still, he admitted that there’s a lot of work do be done to secure the Internet and organizations — and he offered a few ideas.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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