2012 Year in Review: Tech news round-up

We take a look back at the news year in tech, which was dominated by industry in-fighting, job cuts, and questionable new products.

Apple vs. Samsung

All this legal action reached something of a peak in August, when a court in California awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages after ruling that Samsung had copied six out of seven of the firm's patents.

A month earlier, Samsung scored a victory in a UK court where it was decided the South Korean tech giant had not copied the design on the Apple iPad to create the Samsung Galaxy Tab.The judge dealt Samsung a blow by declaring its product "not as cool" as Apple'sThe judge may have soured the ruling slightly, though, when he said end users were unlikely to confuse the two devices, as the Tab was "not as cool" as the iPad.

By way of compensation, the judge also ordered Apple to publish apologies in several national newspapers, stating the product had not infringed on the design of the iPad, which the firm duly did. Although, the words "sorry" or "apology" were not used at any point in the 363 word missive.

This did not go down to well with the UK High Court, who went on to demand in November that Apple change the statement and feature it more prominently on its website.

Extradition decisions

The first involved TVShack founder Richard O'Dwyer, who had spent the past two years battling calls for his extradition to the US to stand trial for copyright offences.

The Home Secretary Theresa May agreed to extradite him back in May, but O'Dwyer later cut a deal that meant all charges would be dropped against him if he travelled to the US voluntarily to pay a 20,000 fine.

Gary McKinnon admitted hacking into NASA and the Pentagon's IT systems back in 2001 and 2002, but claimed his activities were motivated by his interest in UFOs.

This was contested by US authorities who claimed his "malicious" activities caused 487,000 worth of damage, but their attempts to extradite him to the US to stand trial were thwarted by the Home Secretary in October on human rights grounds.

Earlier this month, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed McKinnon will not face charges in the UK, bringing his decade-long legal battle to a close.

Taxing times

Google and Amazon were accused by a Commons public accounts committee of using complex company structures to avoid paying tax on profits generated by the two firms in Britain.

The search giant responded to the criticism it received over its tax regime a couple of weeks later, with the firm's chairman Eric Schmidt proclaiming he was "proud" of the way the company pays its taxes, adding that his company "proudly capitalistic".

Microsoft was also accused of tax dodging, after it was revealed that its Ireland Operations subsidiary paid no tax on revenues of 1.7 billion.

Street View saga rumbles on

Back in 2010, the data protection watchdog ordered Google to delete the data, which the company claimed had been collected in error from unsecured wireless networks.

However, it emerged it July that this had not been done.

This disclosure came hot on the heels of a report by the US Federal Communications Commission, who claimed emails, passwords and other data had been deliberately amassed using software created by an engineer.

Its findings prompted the ICO, whose handling of the case had been criticised by privacy groups, to reopen its investigation into Google Street View in June.

7in tablets take-off

Google, Amazon and Apple all launched 7in devices tablets this year, namely the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and the iPad Mini, respectively.

Considering the important role Apple has played in popularising tablet PCs over the past few years, the firm was surprisingly late to the 7in party.

But the consumer electronics giant's decision to throw its weight behind the smaller form factor, albeit belatedly, suggests the devices are in high demand.

That said, analysts have expressed mixed feelings so far about how useful these devices will prove to be for business users, with several claiming the smaller screen is better for consuming rather than creating content.

Even so, the original iPad was created with consumers in mind from the off, and ended up finding a home in the enterprise, so all bets are off for now.

McAfee goes on run

McAfee's neighbour Gregory Viant Faull, someone he was known to have argued with in the past, was found shot dead in November.

The police in Belize, where McAfee is understood to have lived since 2010, wanted him to come in for questioning, stressing that he was a "person of interest" to the investigation, rather than a suspect.

However, McAfee decided to go on the run instead, managing to evade capture until the start of December when he was caught trying to illegally enter Guatemala.

At the time of writing, he was back in the US, after getting deported from Guatemala, but is still wanted for questioning in Belize.

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