The Push and Pull of the News

Microsoft introduces XP. Microsoft and Sun Microsystems detail their Web services plans.

Microsoft introduces XP. Microsoft and Sun Microsystems detail their Web services plans. AT&T makes a series of strategic announcements about its future. Communications companies offer up new, robust IP services. And inches closer to profitability.

Yes, those big news stories, and others, broke last week. Id classify them as the Pushes, the Pulls and the Pull Backs/Push Backs.

The Pushes. Microsoft pushed out its Windows XP system, which runs faster and crashes less often than previous Windows systems. Lots of PC industry types are hoping the new OS will give buyers a reason to upgrade their desktops. In unrelated announcements, Microsoft and Sun made it clear theyre both ready to make big bets on Web services — an umbrella concept under which software and systems are designed to allow consumers seamless access to a host of online products and services.

The Pulls. Many organizations are pulling together big collaborative computing, commerce and communications drives. The government is trying to drag heath care and benefits systems under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which mandates privacy for online medical records. A bunch of businesses are looking to pull in their messaging systems and go with more secure e-mail setups. Amazon, the No. 1 e-tailer, said it still expects to pull out its first-ever profit by years end. And a number of communications vendors are pulling out all the stops implementing new IP systems that promise businesses more options and lower costs.

The Push Backs/Pull Backs. Web services, collaborative computing, corporate communications and e-commerce are all bandwidth-hungry apps. Yet, on the networking front, there seems to be a lot of pulling back. SBC Communications is the latest carrier to pull back a DSL effort. AT&T is shutting down its fixed wireless data-and-voice network, and will spin off or sell its broadband unit. Meanwhile, our cover story on wireless networks being more vulnerable — a lot more vulnerable — than anyone thought might cause I-managers to pull back on wireless implementation plans.

OK. So where does this leave us?

While these stories are significant, they pale in comparison to the war in central Asia and the anthrax attacks here at home — events every corporate move must be weighed against. These are indeed tough times. I-managers are being pushed and pulled in many directions. Theyre being asked to implement systems that boost profits, reduce costs — or both — on budgets that seem to grow tighter by the day.

Still, new technologies and services present opportunities I-managers cant afford to miss. Success will come down to knowing when to push on and when to pull back. The adage holds true now like never before: Set your own agenda or someone will set it for you. If there was a theme to last week, it was that big movers and shakers were pushing and pulling to make something happen — on their own terms. And, the lesson to draw from the news: Its too critical a time to let someone, or some event, push or pull you in a direction you dont want to go.

John McCormick is Editor of Interactive Week. He can be reached at [email protected]