And now—the most important tech person of 2003…The drumroll will have to continue a bit longer as I explain the wholly unscientific, subjective and arbitrary process behind my selection.
In my quest to identify this person, I asked the eWEEK staff, the eWEEK Corporate Partner Advisory Board and an assorted group of friends and acquaintances for their suggestions as to the people who had the greatest influence on the corporate technology marketplace in 2003. I specified that they could nominate anyone, regardless of whether that persons influence was positive or negative. I reserved the right to count the votes in my own way, tossing some into the hanging-chad pile, if I so chose. I did say this was a subjective process, didnt I?
Nominations from the vendor group included plenty of well-known names.
Carly Fiorina got a mention for beginning to deliver some benefits resulting from the combined Hewlett-Packard and Compaq. Michael Dell got a nod for becoming the king of enterprise commodity technology. Ciscos John Chambers got several nominations for continuing to provide a tech vision after the bursting of the tech bubble. Bill Gates got votes for making good bets with billions of dollars.
Linus Torvalds gained adherents for reminding the industry we dont have to settle for being locked in to a single vendor. Steve Mills had support at the polls for spearheading IBMs Web services push and in so doing making Web services a reality. AMDs Jerry Sanders, a behind-the-scenes player who has been giving even those who arent ready a path to 64-bit computing, got write-in votes.
There were also nominations among up-and-comers. Salesforce.coms Marc Benioff was named for backing up his braggadocio with revenues. Ambuj Goyal, the new Lotus general manager, got a mention for deftly guiding Lotus into deeper integration with the rest of IBMs technologies without forcing users to abandon their Notes/Domino investments. Eric Rudder, Microsofts senior vice president for Servers and Tools, got a vote for being the companys secret weapon in its efforts to make Windows the easiest and cheapest platform on which to develop innovative applications. Shai Agassi, a member of the executive board of SAP, who came to that company through the 2001 acquisition of TopTier Software, was acclaimed for making SAP approachable. Suns Jonathan Schwartz drew a rave for actually going where the technology puck was headed and forcing Sun to offer Solaris 9 on x86 hardware. Old-timer and up-and-comer Steve Jobs was named for making iTunes the best Windows application of the year.
Among those who had support as both heroes and villains were Michael Doyle, the holder of the Eolas patent and a party in a patent infringement lawsuit that resulted in a $521 million judgment against Microsoft. Alas, his patent threatens to mess with the way the Web itself works. In the same group was SCO CEO Darl McBride. He must have been the tech exec who had the greatest industry impact while generating the smallest industry revenues. He wont be invited to Torvalds sauna anytime soon, and his legal attack on Linuxs GNU General Public License blew a chill through the open-source software industry.
Finally, Larry Ellison gained villain votes for threatening to have Craig Conway walk the plank as part of his scheme to have Oracle roll up the applications software segment.
And the award goes
And now, my choice. I looked neither to the West Coast nor the East Coast for the winner. The biggest driver in corporate tech this year came from the heartland: Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Marts physical presence in the U.S. and worldwide landscapes is unmistakable. The stores under its umbrella have continued to grow in size, number and economic clout to where they are setting the retail agenda for the U.S. economy. That same clout is growing in Wal-Marts IT planning and investments. The company is setting the pace in purchasing, inventory control, distribution, and sales automation technology development and implementation. Linda Dillman is Wal-Marts executive vice president and CIO of its IS division. She gets my nod as 2003s top tech person.
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Editor in Chief Eric Lundquists e-mail address is [email protected]