The first month of the year ought to be sluggish for news, with people shaking off the holiday, and, in the northern hemisphere, looking at colder temperatures and more snow.
But it was hot — at least for IT news: IBM announced it was selling its x86 server business to Lenovo, reducing its already small hardware business; BlackBerry’s new CEO John Chen continued remaking the executive suite, and the first of many POS data thefts was announced.
In this country the biggest news was the start of what was expected to be a multi-billion dollar auction of highly-desired cellular spectrum in the 700 MHz range. It was expected that startups Wind Mobile and Mobilicity would be eager bidders. But Mobilicity was in financial trouble and unable to bid.
Then before the auction opened Wind Mobile stunned the industry by saying its biggest financial backer and minority shareholder, Amsterdam-based VimpelCom, wouldn’t put up the tens of millions needed.
Without more spectrum, it was wondered, how could the carrier expand? “It is business as usual at Wind,” CEO Anthony Lacavera said in a statement. “We do need more spectrum so I am not happy we had to withdraw from 700 but onwards and upwards from here!”
It was another in a series of struggles to stabilize Wind’s ownership that wouldn’t be straightened out until late in the year.
As for IBM, anticipating that margins would only get smaller in the highly-competitive PC business, in 2005 it decided to focus more on software and services. So it sold that division to Lenovo. A decade later it decided to drop the x86 server and related networking business to Lenovo for US$2.5 billion.
The deal came after IBM’s US$2 billion acquisition of SoftLayer Technologies cloud service, giving it increased ability to offer cloud-based services to enterprises, the creation of its Watson-based cognitive computing cloud services and the US$1.2 billion investment to expand IBM’s number of existing data centres. including building a new one in Toronto.
Also in January, on New Year’s Day U.S. retailer Neiman Marcus discovered that six months earlier its network had been penetrated by malware which was able to pull out customer credit card data. Like many firms later in 2014 who were victims of point of sale attackers, the retailer said it was complaint with guidelines set by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) association. That wasn’t enough, as many through 2014 were to learn.
BlackBerry Ltd. named Ron Louks, former CEO of the OpenNMS Group –a network monitoring and management platform development and training organization — to head its long-term-product planning. It was just one of a number of steps Chen took in 2014 to stabilize the once dominant smart-phone maker.
“On our path to return BlackBerry to profitability, nothing is more important than remaining deeply connected to our customers and designing and delivery secure products that exceed expectations,” said Chen.
Along with security, privacy was one of the big stories of the year. For some time search engines have been placing ads on its pages that relating to recent searches by a user. But in January, acting on a complaint, the federal privacy commissioner found Google had violated its 2012 guidelines not to use medical-related searches for this. Google said it would do better.
For those who thought the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was the only electronic snooper around came news from whistleblower Edward Snowden that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) had figured out how to track people with Wi-Fi devices through airports.
Hewlett-Packard expanded its Microsoft .Net centre of excellence and SAP delivery practice in Winnipeg to become a regional delivery centre of services for enterprises. It’s HP’s first RDC, one of 12 around the world.
Bruce Pearce, HP Canada’s vice president and general manager for enterprise services, said in a statement. “The deep expertise and services offered by the HP Canadian Regional Delivery Centre will enable organizations to become more agile by reducing complexity, while increasing service quality,” Bruce Pearce, HP Canada’s vice-president and general manager for enterprise services, said in a statement.
Finally, January marked the 10th anniversary of VoIP service in the country. The technology was soon a smashing success, catching incumbent carriers like Bell Canada off guard.