Two years ago redundancy was a hardware selling point but today it is a word whispered with dread and foreboding. But there is still a shard of light cutting through the gloom.
We have spent so much time looking for the cloud that follows every silver lining that we seem to have lost all hope of finding something to be optimistic about. Where do we look for hope? Well, in true seasonal mode, it's behind you.
Thinking back to the start of the IT golden age, anything and everything seemed possible. Garage workshops spawned the hardware and software that built empires and nerds became their emperors. It was an age of pioneers hacking away at the frontiers with cutting-edge technologies.
Maybe there is a parallel today as we enter the new year with the promise of distributed Web services, a new world where ideas and vision will be the keywords.
Services do not have to be complex to be good. In fact, the simpler they are, the better. It is what they do that matters.
When I take clothes to a dry cleaners I only have two concerns: cost and results. I don't care what the dry cleaner does between collection and delivery as long as the service is affordable and effective. So should it be with Web services.
In the days when Corba was being shaped there was talk of markets where objects could be bought and sold. Prices would range from credit card sums down to micropayments. What was thought possible then is now eminently possible and, if there is a market for Web services, there is room for small entrepreneurs with coding ability who can set up shop for very little money. Perhaps this is a ray of hope for those who have been cut adrift from the corporate flagships?
In the US, Oracle's E-Business Suite users are up in arms about the ending of support for version 10.7. So incensed are they that the plan is to provide support among themselves, but this may bring problems of intellectual property rights infringements because reverse engineering is an offence.
However, in Europe the laws are different. It is an offence to reverse engineer to steal an idea but the law is less clear when it comes to using these techniques to tailor software or fix a bug. The fact that even Microsoft is publishing large swathes of code potentially opens the door to "repair shops" that will support applications long after their sell-by date has expired.
Perhaps the way out of the depression is just a case of looking at the world from a different perspective. The status quo is not working for many of us, so change the standard.
Talking of which, perhaps we can expect a new standard for pen computing. Microsoft reckons we should adapt our handwriting to suit the Tablet PC hardware. I would be pleased to do this guys but when is the company going to publish the Microsoft Approved Handwriting Standard for Pen Computing?
Microsoft argues that the ability for the user to teach the system their handwriting style is too demanding and seems to expect them to change their handwriting style. Hold the meeting while I write that down neatly, boys.
This was first published in December 2002