TECH TALK: The Years That Were: 1994

Red Herring (April-May 1994) had an interview with Steve Case, CEO, America Online. AOL as then signing up 2,000 new subscribers a day with projected 1994 revenues of USD 150 million, three times that of the previous year. Its market cap (March 31) was USD 518 million. Some quotes:

Its very unlikely that any startup will emerge out of some garage somewhere and become a major system operator of online services, because it would have to compete with a lot of big players poised to enter the market such at AT&T, Apple, Microsoft, Ziff-Davis, and others.There are certainly opportunities on the content side for companies with highly specialized information services, and on the technology side for companies developing new, enabling technologies.

Our view has always been that the interactive service medium has the potential to have mass appeal, serve tens of millions of people, and ultimately, earn its place next to other mass media such as television and radio.

Our service is the easiest and most fun to use. But we have also focused on building what we call electronic communities within our service. We dont see ourselves as merely a content provider, since we also provide a service that fosters interaction between people with similar interests.

This is a market where the big players benefit from economies of scale, in terms of certain costs of running the network, and the ability to invest in R&D, and partner with the large content companies. Essentially, the big will get bigger. The other dynamic to remember is the potential for interactive advertising and online transaction services, whether you are buying software or mutual funds. Right now, one hundred percent of our business is subscriptions. Thats going to change when all these new services come online.

Fortune had a special report on technology entitled Managing in a Wired World in its July 11, 1994 issue. Heres how the lead story by Thomas Stewart began:

Businesses around the world will spend three and a quarter billion dollars this year to buy intelligent hubs, hardware and software devices that sit at the center of computer networks. They will spend tens of billions of dollars more for routers and other networking gear, for software such as Novells NetWare or Lotus Notes or code they write themselves to stitch operations together.

Computer networking is lots more than a technological phenomenon or an industry you wish youd bought stock in a while back. It may be the most important development in the management of organizations since Du Pont, General Motors, and others invented the modern corporation before World War II.

Whats new is the deliberately networked organization, made possible because it has become cheap enough to put a computer on every desk. A technological network supercharges social networks; no longer adjuncts of the hierarchy, they can supplant it becoming the means by which the company does business.

Fortune also had profiles of 25 cool companies. Among them: Mosiac (later called Netscape), Enterprise Integration Technologies (later became CommerceNet), Womens Wire, RSA Data, Logitech, Radish (software that married telephones and PCs), Maxis (simulation software), McAfee, Cisco, Infosafe (data meters), LucasArts, Norris Communications (inventions), Verifone, Collabra, PF Magic (videogames), Iterated (image compression), Scientific Computing Associates (software for idle workstations), Indigo (digital offset colour printers), DaVinci (interactive TV network for children), MicroModule Systems (multichip modules), Spectralink (wireless office phones), Security Dynamics (digital keys), Medio Multimedia , High Techsplantations (computer simulated surgery) and MicroUnity Systems Engineering.

Interestingly, Nasscom had a 5-page advertising supplement in Fortune, stating Indias software industry crossed the $500 million mark this year. Over 60% of this was from exports of software products and services. Advertisers in the issue included Adam Comsof, CMC, Citicorp, Eurolink, Bangalore IT Park, IIS, Kirloskar, Mastek, PSI Data, Patni, Phoenix Software and SquareD.

Tomorrow: 1995

The Years That Were T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.