The Top 20 Tech Stories of 2011


Mergers and Acquisitions

Holiday shoppers made 2011 a big year -- Cyber Monday holiday sales broke all previous records with $1.25 billion in sales in the United States [source: comScore]. But that's just chump change compared to some of the year's biggest spenders.

Microsoft purchased the peer-to-peer communications service Skype for around $8.5 billion in May of 2011. Fans of Skype praise the service for its features, including video calls and VoIP transactions. Some feared that Microsoft might alter Skype. Others predicted that Skype would become a fundamental feature of Microsoft's Xbox Live service.

In a move that surprised several tech journalists, Google announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Theories about why Google would buy a handset manufacturer ranged from access to patents to creating a new testing procedure for future builds of the Android operating system. But the plan met with resistance -- European Union regulators worry that such a merger could hurt competition among Android handset manufacturers.

One proposed merger that dominated 2011 headlines was AT&T's intent on purchasing T-Mobile USA for around $39 billion. The two companies rank second and fourth among the largest cell-phone service providers in the United States. People who opposed the merger claimed that the new company would stifle innovation and become a monopoly for GSM handsets in the United States.

AT&T withdrew its merger proposal from the Federal Communications Commission in late 2011. The FCC released a report on the proposed merger, which caused AT&T executives to protest. The report criticized the merger plan. This was bad news for AT&T, which had withdrawn the proposal in order to concentrate on a lawsuit leveled by the U.S. Department of Justice against the proposed plan. Before the end of the year, AT&T decided to call off the merger, a tough decision due to the terms of the deal -- the company owed T-Mobile USA about $4 billion in the event the acquisition failed.