It’s that time of the year again – when one looks back at the year that was, and look forward to the year that will be. 2001 will be remembered for 9/11 – when the world changed. As 2002 dawns and the initial phase of the war on terror nears conclusion, two more terror flashpoints are edging their way on to our radar screens – the Middle East (between the Israelis and the Palestinians), and Kashmir (between Indians and Pakistanis). Technology and the Internet have taken a backseat for now, as the battle between Good and Evil has come to the forefront.
2001 was a year when many things got postponed. Prosperity, Profits and Peace will have to wait for 2002.
In 2001, much of the world sank into a recession. On the technology front, the pace of innovation slowed as venture capital became harder to find for newer ventures and companies focused first on the immediate tasks of rightsizing to survive. Corporate IT budgets came under scrutiny after years on unbridled spending. IPOs on the anemic stock markets were almost non-existent. A new maturity came over the world, heightened even more by the events of the past three months.
Internationally, even as attention was diverted, the flow of events in the technology space reflected the newer realities: growth stalled forcing companies to eliminate jobs by the thousands and look at outsourcing, yesteryear stars like Excite@Home, Enron, Webvan, eToys and Napster slid into oblivion, and stock prices fell to lows which were unimaginable just a year ago. Yahoo got a new CEO from Hollywood, ATT gave up its grand convergence theories and is selling its broadband business to Comcast, a Time Warner executive took over
at AOL-TW, Amazon shrunk its m-commerce plans.
Viruses, Spams and Break-ins too continued unabated, highlighting the need for security. The Microsoft juggernaut rolls on, with a favourable settlement in its anti-trust trial and the launch of Windows XP and Xbox. Microsoft’s entry into the video gaming business has focused attention on the sector, as it takes head-on Sony and Nintendo. Messaging is what everyone seems to want to do. It now comes in all kinds — email, Instant Messaging, wireless (through devices like the Blackberry) and SMS (on cellphones).
The Invention of the Year has to be Segway, Dean Kamen’s human transportation system. The Device of the Year is undoubtedly Apple’s iPod, the sleekly designed MP3 player. Creativity still has its place. So does operational efficiency and branding as both Dell and Nokia try and aim for 40% market share in personal computers and cellphones.