The growth of internet usage next year will still depend on two major, but unrelated, factors. The first is security and the second is the cultural background of new Net users. While providing a trustworthy environment on the internet will become a billion dollar business in the next few years, there is no sign that UK resellers are taking the internet seriously. Website developers are still the ones making money and dealers are still sitting on the sidelines. This is despite rumblings from the top floors of corporates as they start embracing telecommuting.
Some would say this has as much to do with traffic congestion in our major cities than any conscious change, but that is debatable.
One of the problems that corporates and resellers can anticipate is the slim nature of their systems departments. Once telecommuting becomes the norm and users have Apple Macs and PCs set up at home plugged in to the corporate intranet, they will start putting pressure on the systems department.
That network of floor-by-floor experts who are called on to fix minor problems are just not available when you try to connect to the network and your modem just cannot get through.
Resellers that have been reciting the litany of the service provider will have to stand up and deliver those services just as quickly as they will have sold the PCs, modems and ISDN equipment.
Faced with the security needed to keep out intruders and the complexity of some remote networks, users will be on the phone quicker than they made that morning cuppa. And the reseller that has already helped train users and support staff can make money out of that situation as corporates will look to an outsourced solution, not an in-house one. Those who don't think ahead will lose out.
The battle of the giants continues next year with Scott McNealy CEO of Sun Microsystems spending the latter quarter of this year making as much noise as he has the rest of the year attacking Microsoft. He's doing the whole industry a necessary service - he is also doing Microsoft a service.
No one company is always going to be right, particularly in that dominant a market position. And McNealy can't be accused of not carrying out his own advice within Sun, he has almost institutionalised the role of corporate rebel. But there is another dynamic driving Suns' Java bandwagon of Oracle, Netscape and IBM - fear of failure.
McNealy has not forgotten the mistake of failing to unify the Unix market and allowing Microsoft to confidently take the opportunity to march into the gap with NT. And as the server wars hot up and Microsoft prepares its next attack on the corporate market with its new database successor to SQL7 - Shiloh - it is a battle to the end. Larry Ellison's spectacular $2.2 billion loss on the stock market may be an early omen. Have a Happy Christmas and a Guid New Year.
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