For weeks, some of us have been watching the financial markets swoon, wondering when the bank trouble would extend to the high-tech sector.
On Sept. 29, which some pundits are already calling Black Monday, we got our answer. Within a few hours of trading, Internet bellwether Google's stock plummeted 8 percent and ended the day down 11.6 percent to $381. That's $50 per share down the toilet.
Apple, whose iPhone has been the most successful consumer device since Apple launched the iPod, fell to $100 in midday trading and closed down 17.9 percent, or $22.98, at $105.26. Microsoft lost $24 billion in market capitalization.
The House of Representatives hardly helped alleviate the stress, voting down an aid package yesterday. Welcome to the bear market.
"There have been thoughts on tightening budgets and reducing spending," Gartner analyst David Mario Smith told me today. "A lot of people are stunned and shocked and scared, but from an enterprise perspective I do expect some budget tightening. That's par for the course."
High-tech companies may not be laying off staff in droves...yet. To help avoid the chaos, high-tech analysts say companies can cut costs a number of ways. Travel is a prime candidate, according to Forrester Research's Rob Koplowitz:
"In a down economy, T&E gets cut early and often and companies turn to collaborative technologies to drive more productive interactions without the need to be face to face. Web conferencing thrived and became a legitimate technology in the downturn following 9/11. I would expect Web conferencing and teleconferencing to thrive."
Gartner's Smith agreed, noting that Gartner has been seeing businesses increasingly embrace real-time tools, such as Web conferencing and enterprise instant messaging. Smith said:
"We will see companies continue to investigate using Web conferencing tools, instant messaging and team workspaces, all of which not only cut costs but are greener because they cut down on the carbon footprint. I can cut X amount of travel times in face to face meetings by conducting these same meetings over the Web."
What sort of specific solutions can we expect to see an uptick? Smith named the obvious players. They include Cisco, which has been making a strong unified communications and collaboration push and agreed to buy enterprise instant messaging stalwart Jabber, IBM's Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office Communications Server.