2008: The Year In Tech

Good riddance, 2008. This was the year of bailouts, scams, and recession. Change is coming? It had better, and soon.

Tech stocks took it on the chin like everything else. The Nasdaq Stock Market, home to many of the Silicon Valley's superstars, is down more than 40% this year. Dozens of firms are down more than that.

What caused the carnage? Good question. Let's take a look back at the Fool's 10 biggest tech stories of 2008. Some were good, some were bad, and far too many were ugly.

10. Silicon Valley sees another dot bomb. The credit crunch stalls the IPO market, putting the hurt on both venture capitalists and promising start-ups. Layoffs, meanwhile, top 100,000 in less than six months. No one is safe. Stalwarts Adobe and Symantec collectively cut more than 1,400 jobs.

9. Facebook loses $11 billion. Once thought to be worth as much as $15 billion, some of Facebook's insiders cash in holdings for less than $4 billion, then leave for new gigs. The gravy train ends shortly thereafter.

8. Twitter twinkles. The microblogging up-and-comer proves so useful for marketing that Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) reports that it has sold more than $500,000 worth of refurbished computers via the service. Shortly after, eyewitnesses to tragedy in Mumbai demonstrate Twitter's usefulness as a news source. Financiers begin to commit capital to businesses built on the platform.

7. Everyone hates Vista. Consumers are slow to adopt Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) new operating system, and some businesses even refuse to. In response, Mr. Softy rushes to create Windows 7, an early version of which has already leaked. Windows XP, meanwhile, apes Jason Voorhees by refusing to die.

6. Chrome gets polished in record time. Not content with dominating search, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) polishes its Chrome browser from beta to full production in three months. 'Nuff said.

5. Akamai under attack. Web content delivery proves so important that everyone wants in. Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) finds itself assailed by start-ups like BitGravity and behemoths such as AT&T (NYSE: T  ) . The firm announces a 7% workforce reduction in November.

4. The iPhone becomes the top U.S. handset. After first unseating the BlackBerry, the iPhone becomes the top-selling U.S. handset in the third quarter. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , meanwhile, collects more than $600 in cash revenue per iPhone sold.

3. Cloud computing ascends. Mr. Softy rolls out Windows Azure in response to rapid adoption of cloud computing services from salesforce.com and Google, among others. All signs point to cloud computing as the tech story of 2009.

2. Microsoft proposes to Yahoo! The on-again, off-again courtship that lasted for most of the year begins in February, with Mr. Softy offering $31 a share for Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) . Ironically, the offer proves to be too high. Yahoo! gets greedy. So does Hall of Fame fund manager Bill Miller. Instead of accepting Microsoft's terms, Yahoo! chooses instead to play nice with Google, inking an ad deal worth $800 million.

1. Yahoo! rejects Microsoft, dumps Jerry. Yahoo! should have known better. GooHoo is doomed when the Feds object. By June, Microsoft tires of waiting and tells Yahoo! to get lost. After a few later hopeful head fakes, the board decides that co-founder Jerry Yang has to go, and that Microhoo should die. Fools and investors alike call it a mercy killing. A perfectly rotten end to a rotten 2008.

So scram, Father Time. Don't come back unless you're bringing Baby New Year with you. 2009 can't get here fast enough.

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Dell, Microsoft, and Symantec are Inside Value picks. Akamai and Google are Rule Breakers recommendations. Try any of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers team and had stock and options positions in Apple and Google and stock position in Akamai at the time of publication. Check out his portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is tech-tastic.


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