A Look at Past to Better View the Horizon
"IT" turned out to be an overpriced gyro scooter. Excite@Home turned out to be anything but. The Goner virus proved that Outlook users are no safer this year than last. And the stock market took off, making the tech stocks look like, well, tech stocks of old. Id say all these events together prove that while the tech business is still cleaning up a messy past, new bets are being laid down for the future.
The much-hyped Dean Kamen "IT" invention turned out to be a scooter that to me looks like an oversized, upturned weed whacker on wheels. Shame on Bob Metcalf (he compared the then-secret scooter to cold fusion), Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos for engaging in the overheated publicity campaign. Im sure they saw their insider enthusiasm for the scooter as good-natured fun with the press. Instead, they furthered the idea that technologists are blind beyond the technology they champion. Maybe the whole group should be forced to try to ride the Segway Human Transporter (as "IT" is named) down Park Avenue amid the blaring taxi traffic. Have fun. My advice: If you want a scooter, go to Toys "R" Us and buy one for $49.99.
Excite@Home proved the economic principle that the semiconductor companies learned long ago: If you are losing money on every customer (or chip), trying to make up the losses by adding lots of customers (or building lots of chips) will only translate into an exciting trip to bankruptcy court. Cable modems are great products and can give you fast access, but right now, there is a big race among the service providers to see how fast they can jack up rates before users quit en masse. My advice: Go to www.bbwexchange. com/wisps, stick an antenna on your chimney and start reselling wireless broadband access to your cable/DSL-disgusted neighbors.
The Goner virus wasnt newsworthy so much for breaking new-virus-creator ground but for reminding us that even in this year, when security has become the No. 1 IT issue, the same old virus problems continue. E-mail filters, prohibitions against nonbusiness e-mail, and quarantine areas for attachments and executables all make sense but are useless if not part of an overall corporate policy. For a sensible way to address corporate IT security, read Part 5 of our Security Series.
If the past belonged to the overhyped Segway and Excite@Home, the future in the corporate IT space belongs to companies developing enterprise-level applications using standard Web and Internet technologies. Two examples I ran into recently were Callidus Software (www.callidussoftware.com), which helps companies manage sales incentive programs, and Voxeo (www.voxeo.com), which develops integrated voice systems. Both companies address applications that previously tended to be proprietary and costly.
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