IT People to Watch in 05

Opinion: Less familiar faces join technology luminaries on people-to-watch list.

The start of the new year is often the time for forecasts. While you can guess at acquisitions, takeovers and tech trends, sometimes its a better idea to keep your eye on the industry leaders. Here are some of my picks for people to watch this year in the tech industry. While some are familiar names, Ive included some lesser-known people who I think will have an impact in 2005.

Jeff Jordan. Who is he? Hes the new president of PayPal, having been named to that position early last month. Hes been with eBay (PayPals owner) since 1999. Of all the many electronic banking and commerce institutions out there, I think PayPal is the most important and has the best chance of finally delivering on the promise of secure, trusted e-commerce transactions. Why? If PayPal cant deliver, eBay cant continue its torrid growth.

The PayPal integration process has been fraught with bumps since eBay acquired the company in 2002; the electronic payments company has had to contend with fast growth, as well as being considered a very attractive target for hackers and assorted other bad guys. In the third quarter of last year, PayPal had a payment volume of $4.6 billion (yes, billion). If Jordan can deliver, PayPal will become the de facto way to transact electronic business.

The IBM clan. In 2004, current and former IBM senior executives extended their influence far beyond the confines of Armonk. This year, it will be interesting to see if all that IBM training will pay off. Mike Lawrie became CEO of Siebel Systems in May and finished up the year with a $115 million acquisition of Edocs. Lawrie has big integration and company positioning hurdles still to overcome.

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Speaking of big integration projects, Computer Associates President John Swainson (a 26-year veteran at IBM) has his work cut out for him. And Stephen Ward, currently vice president of IBMs Personal Systems Group, will become CEO of Lenovo and has to convince corporate customers that a Lenovo ThinkPad is just as good as the IBM laptop. Add to the mix Symantec CEO John W. Thompson. Hes been with Symantec since 1999, but his $13.5 billion acquisition announcement of Veritas in December will present the biggest and possibly the most beneficial enterprise technology integration task for 2005. The IBM way is currently holding sway throughout the corporate technology market; those executives have what corporate boards of directors want.

Michael Dell. Now theres a familiar name. Dell and his CEO, Kevin Rollins, continue to be the computer industry dream team. At the end of Dell Inc.s third quarter, ended in October, the company reported $12.5 billion in earnings for that quarter, up 18 percent from the same period one year earlier. If ever there was a company in a position to address the lackluster security inherent in the current generation of Windows desktop products—fixing the problem now rather than waiting for the next generation—Dell is in that position. Well see how it addresses that requirement this year.

Mozilla developers and supporters. There are a lot of them, but any time you can get a group of people to contribute money (instead of comments, blogs and rants) to a technology project, youve got to pay attention. The development, distribution and grass-roots support of the Firefox browser and associated other projects is the key browser story for 2005.

Whoever ends up running the Department of Homeland Securitys National Cyber Security Division. With sufficient turnover (the former director, Amit Yoran, quit in September, and Deputy Director Lawrence Hale currently seems to be running things) and sufficient consternation from organizations such as the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, the person who winds up in charge of the NCSD will play a crucial role in defining and implementing standards and processes. Lets hope we get someone who stays with the task at hand.

And, finally, the people-to-watch list includes all the IT folks who have stayed with technology. Youve lived through downsizing, "rightsizing," insourcing, outsourcing, offshoring and budget slashing. After all those obstacles, you still provide the technology underpinnings that remain the primary way your company can remain competitive in 2005 and beyond.

Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at

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