Lack of killer applications
slows technology momentum
by Alan Zisman
(c) 2002 First
published in Business in
, Issue #688 Dec 31, 2002- Jan 6, 2003
High Tech Office column
2002 was a year when the High Tech Office continued in a
of a slump; with a few exceptions (more of that in a moment), business
and home users saw less need to add new systems or upgrade existing
systems than vendors would have liked. Security and privacy were
concerns, with spam, viruses, hacker intrusions, and pop-up browser
windows acting like potholes on the Information Superhighway.
Guess what! If you want to know what to expect for 2003, look at 2002.
Expect modest improvement in sales as at least a few users replace
systems purchased in the flush of Internet-fueled growth in the late
1990s. The years of 20-30% growth are long gone, however, and
unlikely to return anytime soon.
There will be incentives to upgrade in 2003, of course. Inevitably,
next year’s computer systems will be faster than ever with larger hard
drives. If you’re working with digital video, (or if your kids play the
latest games), you’ll welcome the added power and drive space, but for
the majority of users, there won’t be any ‘killer-application’
requiring this much added performance.
Some of the pressures to upgrade will be negative ones, however.
Microsoft, for example, will be dropping support for Windows 98 on June
30th; no longer routinely providing security-patches for that
still-widely used operating system. And it appears that the next
version of MS Office (currently being referred to as Office 11) will
not run on Windows 98 or ME systems.
Some areas of continued growth: Recordable DVD and flat-screen displays
will come down in price and become increasingly common features of new
systems, with more manufacturers emulating Apple in making these
standard features of their higher-end models. As high speed Firewire
and USB 2 become standard on new computers (again, pioneered by Apple),
expect to see gadgets making use of these technologies to become
Consumer sales of digital cameras will continue to grow, spurring sales
of related products such as CD (and DVD) burners, and photo-quality
inkjet printers. With prices dropping and improved setup experience,
wireless networks will become the standard way to connect multiple
computers in homes and small offices and will sneak into larger
enterprises. Their convenience will overshadow the real security
concerns with wireless networking.
Notebook systems will continue to make inroads into sales of standard
desktop computers, but expect relatively slow adoption of new systems
featuring Microsoft’s new Tablet Windows. Sales of handheld PDAs will
slow, as most of the people who want one have one. Palm’s adoption of
new, more powerful processors will help it slow (but not stop) the
inroads into its market domination from Pocket Windows-powered PDAs
from a variety of manufacturers. Products merging PDAs and cell phones
will stay too high-priced and awkward for mass acceptance.
The more users know about computers, the more they will continue to
grumble about Microsoft and its domination of operating systems and
office suite software. Alternative operating systems including Apple’s
Macintosh OS X and Linux and office software such as OpenOffice will
post modest gains but will not really threaten to replace Microsoft’s
hegemony in 2003. (One ironic sign of Linux’s mainstream acceptance has
been an increase in the number of security concerns for this
alternative operating system; in October 2002, 16 of 29 security alerts
issued by the Carnegie Mellon CERT Coordination Center were for open
source or Linux products). Nevertheless, Microsoft’s biggest
competition will remain users of older versions of Microsoft products
who see no need to upgrade to the company’s current products.