Proud of a year's work well done?

IT historians are unlikely to view 2002 as a vintage year for the industry. Telcos have tumbled into the abyss, major outsourcing...

IT historians are unlikely to view 2002 as a vintage year for the industry. Telcos have tumbled into the abyss, major outsourcing deals have floundered, licensing issues have dazed and confused many, and public sector projects have staggered along with all the direction of a new year's eve drunk.

The global economic downturn has rumbled on, leaving a path of shelved projects and lost jobs in its wake and making this a year of frustration and thwarted ambition for users. This downturn has been especially hard to bear for contractors, as departments have looked to rein-in departmental activity and consolidate their employee base.

On the technology front, there was little to get excited about. IT watchers found the launch of the Tablet PC harder to swallow than Microsoft and its partners had anticipated; 3G proved unable to gee itself into action; and broadband, for all its promise, failed to excite the UK business community.

A weak ray of hope came in the shape of the Government's increased focus upon, and funding of, our "dark ages" public sector IT - though its botched attempts to deliver workable e-mail snooping legislation were less welcome. Meanwhile, the face of global cybercrime became ever more aggressive, and ever more threatening.

Yet, through the gloom, keener eyes have perceived in the progress of corporate IT in 2002 the likely shape of its future. If the results of a straw poll of Computer Weekly readers prove reliable, 2002 could yet turn out to be the year when the foundations were laid for a whole new IT landscape.

Asked to point to the defining event or development of the year, readers cited grid computing, Wi-Fi, Web services and XML as developments that really began to impress in 2002. The irresistible rise of the handheld - and thus of the "corridor warrior" - was also noted.

Greater consensus came over a more overtly political issue. "The biggest (but definitely not best) development" of 2002, wrote one reader, "was the costly new Microsoft licensing regime, which has forced virtually every business to reconsider its upgrade plans for the desktop. With open source now a viable alternative, has Microsoft killed the goose that lays the golden egg?"

Only time will tell, but clearly many users feel that 2002 saw us move a step closer to open warfare between Microsoft and the open source community for control of the desktop.

Tellingly, though, the development highlighted most consistently by our poll was not technological but cultural, and is neatly summed up by this reader's words:

"The biggest advance in IT in the past 12 months is the growing realisation that we work for the users and have to provide what they need, when they need it, to a budget, which should lead to more rigour in our work, and less likelihood of agreeing to put things in without thinking them through."

If 2002 really did see some healing of the disconnection between business and IT, we can all feel collectively proud of a year's work well done.

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