The return of a pulse to the technology market after three moribund years was certainly the biggest story of 2003. Economic prognosticators put much of their effort into answering three questions. Are we in a recession? Are we coming out of the recession? How long will the good times last? However, far less analysis is expended concerning how this recovery will be different from those of the past. The huge increases in bandwidth and storage capacity provide the foundation for shifting technology development locations—and jobs—in a manner that remains contentious.
Another story was a paradox. At the same time that concern about viruses, bugs and computer security reached an all-time high, consumer purchasing via the Web continued to grow. Forrester Research predicts this Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period will see consumers spending $12.2 billion online, for a 42 percent year-to-year increase.
Virus writers and hackers continue to become more adept at finding security holes, and the constant rounds of warnings have led to low expectations that vendors will solve their problems. On the consumer side, the belief that credit transactions will take place securely is in evidence this holiday season. At present, people are more confident in doing their personal business and shopping via the Internet than they are in putting their companys operations on the Web.
One important technology story that was underreported in 2003 was the dissonance between military spending on technology over the last decade and the return on that spending in the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. This story is a corollary of the gap between armed forces that are geared for big World War II-type battles and the ongoing terrorist campaigns. The ability—so prevalent in business—to extract information from a sea of data has not been translated well to military intelligence. The need to retool our military technology for the new reality of the war on terror was a story in need of telling in 2003. It will continue to be one next year and beyond.