A year of drama and romance

Mergers, job cuts and ASP - few things went according to plan in 2001

Mergers, job cuts and ASP - few things went according to plan in 2001

It has become something of a tradition for me to ring out the old year and welcome the new by looking at the events of the past 12 months. You may remember that a couple of years ago I predicted, with some scepticism, that Linux and ASP (application service provision) were the up-and-coming new religions.

Of course, history proved me correct - well, almost. Windows has not quite disappeared from sight and most of us do not rent our business applications over BT's broadband network.

Ironically, now the Government has made a positional statement on open source computing, Linux, which always looked marginally more respectable than marijuana in the eyes of some IT managers, may start to move into the mainstream of departmental consciousness. A good first step for the new year might be to eliminate any confusion caused by their appearance between senior figures in the Linux community and members of the Taliban - it is hard to tell the difference at times.

It has been a year of high romance and small betrayals. Hewlett-Packard and Compaq may yet still tie the knot against the wishes of an unhappy family and reluctant shareholders. HP's chief executive Carly Fiorina, convinced that she has found an ideal mate, has stubbornly chained herself to the Titanic's anchor.

Meanwhile, Compaq and partner Cable & Wireless poured the equivalent of the GDP of a medium-sized African nation down the drain when they walked away from their joint ASP project in November.

ASP is still hanging on by its fingernails and once the dust caused by the collapse of so many companies settles we will see it begin to move steadily towards a much broader and, perhaps, profitable managed service proposition (MSP) driven by the industry's largest players, among them Cisco, IBM Global Services, and new players such as Loudcloud.

Given the fall-out of the past 12 months, however, it is unlikely that we will see any real enthusiasm for the ASP message among SMEs. It is equally unlikely that the ASP industry's survivors will make any real moves towards this sector unless, like Equology, they have a uniquely vertical, simple and cost-effective proposition for small business.

Security will continue to be a pressing subject over the next year. If you do not have a personal firewall and up-to-date anti-virus software on your PC at home as well as at the office, then you should be thinking of it.

In the most recent Research Group survey only 50% of end-users admitted to the presence of e-mail virus scanning which, given the risk and the frequency of information compromise through virus attack, suggests either suicidal bravado or an unusual form of denial.

Perhaps we should finish one year and start the next with a moment's silence for those many thousands whose jobs evaporated in the face of a stumbling US economy. Unisys, EMC and many others lost good people to savage market conditions, I wish them and every reader well for what looks to be an uncertain year ahead.

Simon Moores is chairman of the Research Group.

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