Thought for the day: A month to forget

Broadband seems the only bright light leading us on, as Simon Moores makes it through the rain (and snow) of January.

Broadband seems the only bright light leading us on, as Simon Moores makes it through the rain (and snow) of January.

Black January hasn't even ended, but from where I'm sitting we're balanced very precariously on the edge of an economic abyss.

I blame the Slammer worm for taking us so close to the edge, as news filters out that it wasn't only the "Stars & Stripes" Bank of America that lost its cash machines. Apparently, Slammer caused havoc over here as well, but our own banks aren't quite as willing to admit to a server "meltdown" - makes the punters nervous, you know.

As the stock market loses another £30bn and continues its relentless collapse towards a singularity, I calculate that the present value of my own technology investments might stretch to a family-sized bag of Walkers crisps.

Two more UK technology companies are on the brink of collapse, with friends in senior management laid off suddenly on Monday. Only Rentokil, it seems, is defying the market's slide, the rats are doing rather better than software as a growing business opportunity.

Bill Gates told the Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he saw "no big up-tick" in 2003 and Michael Dell admitted the PC outlook was "OK, but not good".

So having coloured your day with despondency, is there any light at all at the end of the tunnel as we close off the first month of 2003?

Broadband is about the only thing I can feel confident about. Broadband Britain is growing quickly and broadband penetration is acting as a catalyst for further technology demand among consumers, which starts among the shelves of PC World.

If broadband is growing as quickly as the government and BT say it is, then there has to be a consequential "pull-through" effect in other sectors which, quite possibly, won't be seen until mid-year.

However, while the accelerating broadband effect might be enough to jump-start a spluttering Nissan Micra, it's not enough to kick the Jumbo-sized engines of a faltering enterprise computing economy back to life.

What I've seen this week is growing evidence of previously "solid" businesses facing the consequence of the domino effect, as larger strategic customers default or struggle over payment. The ripples move along the supplier food chain with the result that the medium-sized IT companies, which represent the greater part of the industry in this country, are starting to stall in ever-increasing numbers.

You see, there's a theory doing the rounds that two years ago, the world of big technology ran out of customers and what counts for business today is simply the result of companies attempting to steal other people's customers. It's a law of diminishing returns and, if you subscribe to it, then the technology sector could be an increasingly arid and unfriendly place to work in 2003.

What's your view?
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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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