Regrettably, the crystal ball has little good news for distributors.
Margins will be calculated in percentages of a point requiring the use of the mantissa in all cases. Spiff money will disappear totally. The reasons for that will become apparent later in the piece.
Worse will come. In 1999, as predicted by Mother Shipton, late of Knaresborough, the world will come to an end. Not for everyone, mind, but certainly for distributors. There will be a string of EU directives which will hit the distributor trade badly.
The first will be a wide-ranging directive concerning the shape of things to come. This will not only affect boxes but computers, buildings and suits. Boxes will have to be no bigger than 18x11.5x7cm. Although this will not have a significant impact on boxes of All Bran, it will hit the distributors very hard indeed. Even though computers will, by that time, be much smaller, they will still have to come with Microsoft Natural keyboards.
But the most significant edict, at least as far as the distribution trade is concerned, will ban anything but small electric lorries from every motorway in Europe and insist that countries use existing canals and build new railway tracks to ship their goods.
How will this affect dealerships throughout the country? The two which remain in 10 years' time will wear an insouciant air. This will be because of a landmark keynote at the Comdef event in 2002.
On a hovercraft between Dover and Calais, the 15 dealer attendees will hear a veteran vendor advising them to get small, get niche or get out.
Thirteen dealers will promptly liquidate their businesses while the other two will start selling cakes instead.
Cakes, it will turn out in 2006, will command a far higher price than computers. Because of a massive building splurge across the world in the mid-1990s, DRam output will rise to an unprecedented level with a 32Mb part costing just 10p by the year 2001.
Indeed, a fully fledged consumer P15 running at a moderate 25,000MHz clock speed, with 400Mb of memory, a 7,000 terabyte hard drive, built-in satellite dish, video conferencing facilities, artificial intelligence, Oracle System 23, ability to show the 2,000 channels available from Sky TV and weighing a chunky 14 grammes will cost only 50p. The crystal ball shows that this unit will plug into the average electric family car and using the GPS satellite system will ask you, using Windows 2005, where you want to go today.
It will not be to the office, because by then everyone will be telecommuting.
Instead, your computer companion will drive you to one of the omnipresent theme parks populating the South East, including Kentucky Fried Chicken World, PC Dealer World and McDonald's World of Toys. The latter will be filled with all the free toys the company used to give away with their burgers. Visitors will be able to marvel at the vast array while eating their macrobiotic meals. By then, of course, boffins will have discovered BSE can be passed on to pigs, fish, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, hops, oranges, tobacco, parsley, horses, eagles, sparrows, woodlice, ants, daisies, dealers, distributors and vendors.
Although vendors will be pretty hard to find in 2006, most will not have disappeared because of BSE: a different kind of mania - merger mania - will put paid to them by the end of the century. The ones that will manage to sell their businesses by then will, by 2002, live in vast, guarded estates in North Africa.
In the United States of Wintel, president Bill Gates and VP Andy Grove, getting on a little, will have enacted legislation making it a capital offence to use any other than Microsoft software or Intel chips. It looks entirely possible that anyone who has in their possession a PC actually made by IBM may also have their fingers, at least, rapped. And when Canada joins the American federation in 2002, it will mean there is no hiding place for rogue software developers or errant chip designers.
But, alas, the glass grows misty as the wraiths of evening start their insistent calling and their infernal knocking on windows. Instead I turned to some other soothsayers of the business for their visions of the future.
Terry McDonald, MD of distributor Sphinx Level V, thinks most people are still groping around in the dark to find good business process technologies for the future. 'The days of RDBMs is not over, and although the time will come when you can store all sorts of data types, the majority of businesses still use character based applications,' he predicts.
'Developers will build decent multimedia APIs and at that stage character-based applications and dumb terminals will be on the decline.'
Distribution is unlikely to disappear for some reasonably straightforward reasons, McDonald thinks. 'They'll stack up in the future. Today, we're looking hard at both the CD-Rom and Internet side of the business. I believe the Net will change the way we do business, but we're still quite some time away from it.'
He thinks it's hard to look into any crystal ball and predict the future.
'I sold PCs in the 70s. In those days we had to do four presentations just to convince people to buy them. The same case is true of the Net today.'
Sphinx, he says, is projecting its future by looking at the business application side of the Net. It is asking fundamental questions about sales. It's unclear, so far, how any business can make money from it but he thinks there is a case for improving a firm's business processes using applications based on control management software. 'The Net is inevitable and more and more people will use it from a business process point of view.'
A major distributor is less optimistic about the future. 'I think Intel and Microsoft will corner the market completely,' he says. 'I see boxes being sold by them not in 10 years, but in two years. They'll be boxes with subscriptions to Microsoft Office. It means a lot of dealers and box shifters will be in a lot of trouble. Intel is getting so strong these days.'
He thinks monopoly means little or no choice for anyone. 'A lot of dealers and builders will leave the market and it will be sewn up by the equivalents in 2006 of Dixons and Currys,' he says.
Alan Stanley, MD of memory distributor Dane Elec, sees a number of things to come in future. 'I still think PC vendors will put machines in big boxes whatever the size of the PC,' he says. 'Memory technology will change but at the moment 64Mb of DRam is pretty massive, but a lot of manufacturers are looking at mounting the silicon on the motherboard.'
More will arrive later this century with ball array surface mounted memory.
The twenty-first century will bring additional things. 'I assume in time memory will get smaller but it's the pinouts that are the problem. You never know, in 2006 you might have a bag of liver which is the equivalent to the number of memory cells if neural networks take off,' says Stanley.
That leaves vendors. What do they think? PC Dealer was unable to get through to Microsoft to find out its thinking and Intel spurned the very idea of discussing its technology 10 years on.
How will the super chips of the future be cooled? One firm which currently supplies fans for Pentiums thinks if we ever reach the highest speeds silicon is capable of, there could be an argument for putting Cray supercooling-like fluid into one of the little boxes which holds the chip.
Mystic Mike went home in a bit of a daze. It seems that sitting at a crystal too long had caused him to predict things that were actually happening.
Reluctantly, he took the ball and thrust it into the hand of a stranger passing in the street. 'I'll stick to astrology and Tarot cards from now,' he said.
Deloitte has been appointed as administrators for the struggling distie
It's been announced that billionaire tech pioneer Paul Allen died on Monday from non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Your latest edition of CRN
Air-IT founder Todd McQuilkin imparts the first 10 of his golden nuggets for MSP owners