As 2003 dawns, what kind of a year in technology do we expect? In a single sentence, it will probably be more like 2002 spent waiting for the recovery which always seems two quarters away. So, at a superficial level, we continue to live on hope. What I think we perhaps still do not realise is many of the changes which have taken place in technology spends are deeper and more impactful. More on that in a moment. Also, at a deeper level, there are some very innovative technologies to look forward to. These are creating their own sets of opportunities.
Information technology has powered much of the change in our workplace and at home that we see in the past two decades. The PC revolution came in four waves: the personal computer revolution of the 80s, then the networks that connected these standalone machines in enterprises in the late 80s, multimedia in the early 90s and the Internet and Web in the second half of the 1990s. In the last decade, the party was joined by enterprise software which helped glue together various parts of the enterprise, the fibre optics improvements which powered ever greater bandwidth, the availability of anywhere voice communications via cellphones, and the free availability of venture capital and public market capital for new ideas.
The situation now is somewhat different. In much of the developed world, there are no new killer applications driving PC purchases, enterprises are delaying computer upgrades as they are under pressure to cut costs (and besides, the 3-or 4-year-old computer seem to work just fine), and many telecom companies are weighed down by severe debt which they took upto fund their expansion of the late 1990s in anticipation of the traffic boom. Besides, almost everyone who needs a computer or cellphone in places like North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia already seems to have one.
The 5 big winners of the technology revolution are sitting on huge stockpiles of cash Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Dell and Oracle are together have USD 87 billion, which is up USD 10 billion from a year ago (mostly attributable to Microsoft). They are of course not sitting idle. As the Wall Street Journal wrote in a recent story: These tech companies will likely emerge from the long slump in stronger competitive positions, compared with cash-starved and debt-ridden rivals. The titans are wielding their cash as competitive weapons. Microsoft is pouring billions into far-flung searches for new growth markets, such as Internet service, video-game consoles and cellphone software. Intel is investing $12 billion in new and retooled factories, hoping to expand its lead in semiconductor technology. Dell is grabbing market share and expanding into new products.
Everyone is in search of the next new markets. WiFi, Web Services, Grid Computing, Small and Medium Enterprises, Online Video Gaming, Linux, BioInformatics, Nanotech, Multimedia Messaging on Cellphones, Search, Robots, Outsourced Services, Security, Developing Nations, Digital Photography – what will it be? Everyone has their own vision of the future. Well look at some of these expectations for 2003.
Tomorrow: Microsoft and Office 11