2013 Year in Review: Top 10 tech news stories

We take a look back over some of the year's biggest news stories.

While much of the tech industry talk of 2013 centred on the hype surrounding big data, wearable technology and the internet of things, it was news of surveillance scandals, failed products, web censorship and vendor spats that kept IT Pro readers riveted over the past 12 months.

Here we take a look back over 10 of the year's biggest stories. If there are any you think we've missed, feel free to list them in the comments box below.

1) BlackBerry crumbles

It has certainly been an eventful 12 months for ailing smartphone maker BlackBerry, with the low points outnumbering the high ones by some quite considerable margin.

The year started off well enough for the vendor, as it geared up for the launch of its highly-anticipated and much-delayed Z10 and Q10 smartphones by undergoing a major corporate rebrand that saw it ditch the name RIM in favour of BlackBerry.

The deal fell through, with reports suggesting Fairfax had struggled to secure funding because of concerns BlackBerry was beyond saving.

Sadly, despite its new crop of smartphones garnering favourable reviews (with IT Pro awarding both the Z10 and Q10 devices four stars), sales of the devices failed to live up to the hype.

So much so, the firm was forced to swallow a $934 million inventory charge over unsold Z10 devices in September. It also had to delay its BBM software for Android and iOS users after an unofficial version was leaked in the run up to its official release.

Even so, the software was a hit for the firm, chalking up 20 million downloads during its first few weeks of release.

Earlier in the month, BlackBerry's largest shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings set out plans to acquire the firm for $4.7 billion, a move the analyst community had been broadly supportive of.

Unfortunately, the deal fell through at the 11th hour in November, with reports at the time suggesting Fairfax had struggled to secure funding for the deal because of concerns BlackBerry was beyond saving.

Shortly afterwards, it was confirmed that CEO Thorsten Heins was stepping down as an alternative means of securing its future is pursued.

2) Microsoft CEO says cya later

Thorsten Heins wasn't the only high-profile CEO to head for the exit doors this year, as Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer announced his retirement in August after 13 years in charge.

Industry watchers have been quick to blame Ballmer for Microsoft's relatively slow response to the tablet and smartphone revolutions of recent years, and for the downbeat reaction Windows 8 received (more on that later). So much so, shares in the company shot up by around nine per cent in the aftermath of his retirement news.

At the time of writing, the hunt for Ballmer's successor was still ongoing, with former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company, widely tipped to takeover.

3) Windows hate

Even before Windows 8 dropped in October 2012, market watchers expressed concerns over how the operating system's radically different user interface would be greeted by end users.

And they were right to be wary, with figures released in the wake of its release suggesting sales of the operating system were lagging behind Windows 7, while user complaints about the lack of Start button started to gather pace.

As result, hopes the release of Windows 8 might give PC sales a well needed boost were quickly dashed.

In February 2013, rumours about an update to the operating system (codenamed Windows Blue) started to surface, and - in the months that followed - gave way to concrete information from Microsoft about forthcoming improvements it was planning to introduce.

Microsoft's declarations about Windows 8.1 (as the update went on to become) bordered on the contrite, as it promised to make good the mistakes made with Windows 8.

The free update was released in October 2013 and saw Microsoft bring back the Start Button, and make it easier for users to re-size the software's flagship live tiles. To boost its enterprise appeal, its security and collaboration features were also much improved.

However, recent figures from Net Applications seem to suggest the release of Windows 8.1 has had little impact on the combined market share of Windows 8.x.

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