Now that 2001 is (thankfully) behind us, what do the next 4Qs hold in store for us? Drew Bird prognosticates.
Recently, we took a look back at the happenings of 2001. Now it's time to pull out the crystal ball and look forward to what might be coming our way in 2002.
As in 2001, the biggest factor in the IT industry as a whole will be the economy. Many analysts predict that by the end of the year the economy will be back on the up and the money will, once again, start to flow. That is not to say that there are still not hard times ahead, and there are sure to be further surprises before things get better. As the saying goes, 'It's always darkest before the dawn.'
Closer to home, speed will be the order of the day, with many companies moving toward 100 Mbps to the desktop and gigabit in the server room. As network manufacturers look to regain some of the momentum that carried them through 1999 and 2000, new products will bring performance at a price that's accessible to organizations other than blue chips. The slowdown in the economy will also play a role in making new network devices more affordable as manufacturers run tempting promotions to move existing stock.
In the Operating System arena, 2002 will see the introduction of the new Microsoft .net server products. What the impact of the new OSes will be, in an industry that is likely to be only shopping for necessities, the subject of much debate. With many companies only having recently moved from NT4 to 2000, some analysts suspect that uptake for the new OSes will be slow, at least to begin with. Even if there aren't too many OS upgrades going on, it will be a busy year on other fronts.
The events of 9/11/2001 have made for a surge in the security and disaster recovery business, and any company involved in security measures is sure to have a busy year. Notwithstanding the increase in security at places like airports, many companies are re-evaluating their security needs and examining 'what if' scenarios with a renewed sense of realism. The attitude of "it will never happen to us" is being replaced with "yes, it really can". For those with the need and the dollars, biometrics will be the name of the game.
Analysts are also predicting a busy year for more traditional areas of security such as anti-virus and network protection. With the threat from mass-mail viruses forecast to increase along the with threat of more web site attacks, security products and the people to install and manage them are likely to be in high demand.
On the subject of demand for IT personnel, the industry as a whole continues to experience an overall shortage even if some areas are less of an issue than others. What those working in the industry can expect is a further tightening of budgets, rationalization of IT salaries and a re-examination of benefit packages. The days of the complimentary perks like personal trainers and monthly theater tickets may have passed, but those working in IT will still be able to count themselves very fortunate in comparison with like professions.
In the courts, 2002 should see the settlement of the Microsoft anti-trust case, and whether the company will be able to continue in its current form. Microsoft is preparing for new battles outside of the courtroom as well. Apparently taking the line that they have tamed the Novell animal, Microsoft appear to be turning their attention to perhaps the only serious threat to their domination of the OS market -- Linux. In a leaked document, Brian Valentine, Senior Vice President of the Microsoft Windows Division, encourages account managers to visit customers and find out if they are using, or considering using Linux. There is even talk of a Unix/Linux escalation team that can help sales staff with experience in ""winning against Unix and Linux"". All this seems a far cry from times gone by when Microsoft pretty much discounted Linux as a major OS.
Although many companies have entered 2002 in a much leaner configuration than before, there is still no slowdown in development on practically every front; from the desktop to the airwaves.
AMD started the year brightly with the announcement of their new Athlon XP processor 2000+. Naming the two most popular PC operating systems in the name of the chip is an unusual but smart move that will have consumers making an association between the two products. Who cares about 'Intel inside' when you can have a processor called XP in your system that's running XP? AMD look set to close the year on a high as well with the forecast introduction of their first 64-bit "hammer" processor in Q4.
From a consumer's perspective, 2002 should be a year of more attentiveness and competitiveness as businesses work ever harder to compete for your IT dollar. This means better deals on hardware and software, and services such as ISP accounts and cell plans with Web access. While we are on the subject of wireless, 2002 will likely see a further increase in the use of wireless access of all types, though whether the technology can shake the "insecure" tag only time will tell.
2002 will also see the return of Napster, though whether they will be able to muscle in to the paid-for music download market will remain to be seen. Other sites like PressPlay are now up and running in this sector, and whether there are enough people willing to pay for music downloads is still not clear. For those using this type of service, the method of choice for transporting the music will move away from the conventional memory based MP3 players and toward hard disk based devices like the Apple iPod and the Archos Jukebox. Apple recently announced that they had sold 125,000 of their natty little music players, and that's before a version for Windows platforms is available.
Whatever 2002 holds, I'm sure I join with everyone in hoping that it will be a more peaceful and prosperous year than 2001.
Drew Bird (MCT, MCNI) is a freelance instructor and technical writer. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years and currently lives in Kelowna, BC., Canada..