Wanted: the Next Big Thing

The only problem is, there is no next big thing just now.

Its hell, ending the year with a hangover, and as I write this, its not even New Years Eve yet. Oh, not that kind of hangover. The dot-com hangover. Its still there, like a headache that wont clear after three cups of coffee.

Hangovers like this hurt your reputation. When youre in no condition to apply technology to achieve business advantage the next day, everyone knows you cant handle your euphoria. They may even embarrassingly insist on a designated IT driver—like the CFO, perhaps. Its enough to make you want to drown your sorrows in another IT spending binge. But that opportunity wont present itself until the arrival of the next big thing. The only problem is, there is no next big thing just now. This is obvious.

You know theres no next big thing when the best Microsoft can do is to reroll out the Tablet PC and then be unable to persuade Dell to make one. IBM can be excused. Having given up on a tablet of its own, Big Blue is taking its Pepto-Bismol rather than go for another round. No, IBM is busy touting its grid computing concept. Grids are a great idea, but they go back about as far in history as, well, the tablet. Sure, there will be a few university installations, but for IBM, grid computing is all about something marketers call the "halo effect," something that gets customers in the door to gawk until a salesperson can get them to focus on something practical. If grid computing were a car, it would be the Dodge Viper. Meanwhile, Larry Ellison is so bored he doesnt even pretend to prefer selling databases to racing yachts anymore.

Against the backdrop of this ennui, Moores Law continues its relentless march, as researchers play with carbon nanotubes and three-dimensional computing. Therein lies the next big thing. But its not ready yet. No, were shut off from exciting IT projects until we can prove they will return a profit.

Here, have a fourth cup of coffee. And, say hello to 2003.

Can you handle your euphoria? Tell me how at stan_gibson@ziffdavis.com.