Past, present and future

Feature

Past, present and future

We grilled a number of industry members on their feelings about 2001 and 2002. Read on to find out what the vendors had to say

Here are some years that stick in people's memories for decades. More often than not, those years are memorable for the wrong reasons - 2001, it transpires, was one of those years for many in the IT community.

"It sounds a terrible thing to say from an existential viewpoint, but I'm glad to see the back of 2001," remarked Hugh Jenkins, vice president of marketing at Compaq.

MicroScope expected a questionnaire reflecting on 2001 to contain a degree of melancholy, but we hoped there would also be some humour and a few insights into - and sideswipes at - the companies and individuals that make this industry great.

We also prayed that from the ashes of a war on recession and a war on terrorism would come some predictions for 2002 that would fill us with hope and maybe a little mirth too.

MicroScope readers will be familiar with most of the vendors surveyed. The odd piece of marketing has slipped through the net, but we have tried to stick to the answers that tell us more about the year, the individuals or their companies.

The event of the year was, unsurprisingly, that of 11 September and the weeks that followed. Several of the panel described the events of that day as the hardest thing to deal with in 2001, personally or as a company. That feeling was perhaps more acute for George Kafkarkou's Computer Associates (CA), which is based in New York. A third dubbed Osama bin Laden as the anti-hero of 2001, while others thought the unsung heroes of 2001 were most likely to be found among the rescue workers in New York.

When asked what they felt was the greatest disappointment of 2001, one of several philosophical replies came from Nick Watson, director and head of the unified partner organisation at Cisco, who felt it was the fact that "the world has still not learned that words are mightier than the sword".

Then there was the economy. And nowhere did the recession bite harder than in the technology and telecommunications sectors. Hence it is not surprising that talk of restructuring, redundancies, maintaining market focus and morale was a common theme.

Such hurdles accounted for two-thirds of the hardest things to deal with in 2001 and one-third of the greatest disappointments of the year. This theme also cropped up in several other categories, including the unsung hero of the year, who for Alan Tyler, vice president of channel business markets UK at Cable & Wireless, was: "All the people in the industry who fought hard to minimise redundancy levels by driving down costs in other ways."

Recession brought many corporate casualties in IT and telecoms. Roy Howitt, channel manager Emea at Savvis Global Internetworking Solutions, listed the demise of former employer Aduronet as his biggest disappointment of the year.

Managing director Bob Jones named his rescue of Equiinet from struggling parent company DICA - to whom he sold the business in August 2000 - as the high point of the year. He listed the biggest disappointment of the year as "the length of time it's taking for confidence to be restored to the technology sector, following the misbehaviour of a few in the dot com era".

Gotta have it
Whatever happens in the world, there are always must-have gadgets, games or personal applications. In 2001, the resounding favourite was the PDA, with the Compaq iPAQ getting three mentions and Microsoft's Pocket PC receiving one - from a loyal Gordon Graylish, director of the business and communications solutions group at Intel.

PlayStation2 received two votes, with McafeeASaP.com marketing manager at NAI, Jack Clark, picking the PS2 game Tony Hawk 3 as his must-have. The AvantGo and the streetmap.co.uk applications also got a mention. Showing they have lives outside IT, Jenkins mentioned his 400-capacity CD player and Howitt picked a clock that projects the time onto the ceiling or wall.

These themes were carried forward into 2002. Planning to embark on a second childhood, Kafkarkou went for the Nintendo Cube, Microsoft Xbox or PS2, while Watson sought to better

himself with e-learning. 3G, combined with PDAs and mobile phones, wireless LAN hotspots and peer-to-peer networks, were suggested by others.

Broadband Internet was singled out for special treatment and presented another strong theme throughout the questionnaire. Jones listed broadband as the must-have for 2001 and named 'always on, always vulnerable' or ADSL as his buzzword or acronym for 2002. Broadband received two further votes from Clark and Graylish as the must-have this year.

The latter then made the outrageous prediction that "broadband will really happen in the UK" this year. And it might happen if Jones gets his wish for 2002: that OFCON finally does its job.

British Telecom was unlikely to escape a direct mention or two. In fact, Tyler picked two anti-heroes for 2001: "Homer Simpson and Kenny", aka Lord Simpson (ex-chief executive of Marconi) and Peter Bonfield (ex-chief executive of BT). Jones picked Bonfield's resignation from BT as the best thing to happen to someone else last year.

EWW - England will win
No industry, bar the armed forces, has such a capacity for inventing new buzzwords and acronyms. Running in last year's race were SMS, traction, disruptive technologies, post-dot com, and "Wassup!". Howitt went for the rank outsider 'business development manager', which you almost always find is a misnomer when you take the job. But in a close race, the favourite was: "Wall Street's obsession with the word 'bottom', as in 'have we felt it?', 'is there one in sight?' and 'we think we're now touching it'", according to Jenkins. "This is an endless source of amusement for an ex-pat Black Adder fan living in the States."

Nominations for this year's buzzwords and acronyms included heavy lifting, adaptive infrastructure, Web services, mobility, e-learning, GPRS and MPLS. It wasn't clear how many of these would disappear without trace, except MPLS which, according to Howitt, "nobody really understands" anyway. Since the acronym stands for multi-protocol label switching, it is difficult to argue with that logic.

There weren't any questions about football, but when the ladies who were asked to participate politely declined the questionnaire, it was inevitable that with the World Cup looming it might get a few mentions. Maybe more. In fact, no less than 25 per cent of Kafkarkou's answers involved football. These included unsung hero for 2001: Sven 5:1 Eriksson and grand wish for 2002: Arsenal to go down.

Jenkins believed the buzz-phrase for 2002 'World Cup Heroes' would happen whatever the result. He went on to make the outrageous prediction that England would win 3-1 in the final against Germany and was most keen to avoid penalty shoot-outs. On the other hand, Jones would prefer to avoid the World Cup altogether.

Winners and losers
Contenders for the biggest flop in 2001 were WAP, which Graylish and Clark thought was quite CWAP. Also mentioned were free and unlimited bandwidth, bandwidth-on-demand services and dot com-style business plans. Watson went for public transport improvements in London.

With the actions of Osama bin Laden and the ongoing recession already covered, could there be any biggest disappointments left? Well, according to Tyler's children, there was one: Steps. It was unclear, however, whether the answer was regarding the existence or the break-up of the pop group.

Despite a sterling effort, Bill Gates had to play second fiddle to Osama bin Laden in the anti-hero stakes, with only two votes. For Howitt, this was personal as Bill's new operating system Windows XP had screwed up most of the applications on his home PC. Jones not only backed Gates as an anti-hero, he also predicted XP would be the biggest flop of 2002, with no hope of living up to the hype. Always the gambler, Jones then selected Microsoft as his tip for success in 2002 "despite everything". Clark also tipped Microsoft for success this year. Meanwhile, Graylish believed Gates had become 'almost cool again' with the launch of XP.

For Kafkarkou, the anti-hero was Gary Bloom, the Oracle veteran who is now running Veritas. Coincidentally, he then picked Vince Blackall's return to CA from Veritas as the best thing to happen to someone else in 2001.

Clark named himself as an anti-hero "anytime I'm featured in the press". Despite this, his grand wish for 2002 was for Kylie Minogue to turn up on his doorstep.

Among other choices for the best thing that happened to someone else in 2001 was the success of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and the round-the-world yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur.

You can't ask an IT man whom he expects to struggle and expect him not to have a pop at the competition - Intel and Compaq put the boot into Sun, as well as into each other (even though in this case they had no idea who the rest of the panel were).

Watson expected "all those who refuse to embrace change" to struggle, while Jones predicted it would be those "companies which have built huge bureaucracies and are incapable of changing at the speed the market requires, eg BT, Cisco, Lucent, Nortel". Jenkins thought it would be tough "for any server start-ups".

Asked who they would most like to see get the boot in 2002, counterfeiters, politicians who ignore terrorism and the competition (again) were listed. Sympathetically, Kafkarkou thought too many people had been given the boot in 2001.

Jones thought John Prescott should get the boot and sticking with a political theme his most outrageous prediction for the year was that Tony Blair would tell the truth about his government's commitment to technology (or about anything, for that matter!).

Messages for the channel
Among the highlights for 2001 were Cisco's restructure of its channels and the appointment of Paul Mountford as vice president of channels worldwide, C&W's promotion of Peter Green, the architect of the channel operation, to president of business markets globally.

Intel is planning to take a different approach in 2002, with a "lot more excitement and focus on the channel - new programmes, prestigious events" and would like to avoid product shortages.

The Panel
Jack Clark:
McafeeASaP.com marketing manager, Network Associates [NAI]. He is Kylie Minogue's biggest fan.

Gordon Graylish: Director of business and communications solutions group, Graylish (Intel) Emea. Over the years, Graylish has regularly been seen on stage preaching the Intel gospel.

Roy Howitt: Channel manager Emea, Savvis Global Internetworking Solutions. Howitt's picture appeared regularly in MicroScope when he was at Business Systems Group. He has since worked for ISPs Easynet and ITG and briefly for ill-fated Aduranet.

Hugh Jenkins: Vice president of marketing, industry standard server group, Compaq. Before Jenkins was enticed over to the Houston headquarters to use his marketing skills for Intel-based servers, his name cropped up regularly in the British trade press, both on behalf of Compaq and, during a brief defection, HP.

Bob Jones: Managing director, Equiinet. Jones was being quoted in the press as UK serial entrepreneur when most of the so-called e-tycoons were still in short trousers. His latest venture, Equiinet, manufactures multifunctional server appliances.

George Kafkarkou: General manager of indirect sales Emea, Computer Associates. When Kafkarkou is not taking responsibility for CA independent business, he likes to keep his eye on the (foot)ball.

Alan Tyler: Vice president of channel business markets UK, Cable & Wireless.
Tyler is leading C&W's courtship of the UK channel.

Nick Watson: Director and head of unified partner organisation, Cisco. Watson is clearly the philosopher of the group.

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This was first published in February 2002

 

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