back to the high-tech future
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
January 6-12, 2009; issue 1002
High Tech Office column
Business in Vancouver
A look back at 2008 provides insight into the trends that could drive
the high-tech market in 2009.
major news events last year generated a pair of key market byproducts:
hope following the U.S. election, fear from the ongoing economic
On top of those ongoing stories was the failure of
Microsoft’s Windows Vista to catch on, despite improvements in
performance and stability and the release of Vista Service Pack 1.
Regardless of what the company does, its Vista brand may be
irretrievably poisoned in the marketplace. Perhaps recognizing this,
Microsoft is increasingly shifting attention to its Vista followup:
Windows 7, which will move into public beta in 2009, perhaps being
fast-tracked for release before year-end.
With its Vista
misfire, its bid to buy Yahoo squelched and Bill Gates completing his
move to full-time philanthropist, Microsoft seems uncertain about its
direction and future, but it’s too early to write it off. Wait and see
whether Windows 7 and the long–awaited online versions of Microsoft
Office prove successful.
While Microsoft struggled to find its
direction, Apple continued its strong performance in 2008. The iPhone –
which was finally released in Canada – retained the lust factor for the
company’s products and generated continued growth in sales of Macs,
particularly notebooks. With businesses unwilling to move to Vista and
Apple’s models rating high for reliability, even corporations are
becoming increasingly open to buying Macs. But it remains to be seen
whether Apple’s premium pricing will prove problematic as the economy
turns down and whether concerns about the health of Steve Jobs will
limit continued growth.
Instead of buying a $2,000 Mac laptop, users are increasingly being
tempted by $500 lightweight netbooks.
netbook sales to continue to rise in 2009, forcing Microsoft to keep
Windows XP available if only to keep netbook buyers from opting for
Linux on these lower-powered portables.
Google looked strong
throughout 2008, but it’s not clear whether its efforts to add services
will be able to continue unabated. Online Google Documents are useful
in some circumstances, but not yet a real challenge to Microsoft Office
and, like too many of Google’s efforts, lack a real way to generate
revenue. The addition of subtle ads to search results has been a big
money machine for Google, but that was more of an accident than a well-
thought-out business plan.
Online, the biggest news was the
continuing popularity of social-networking sites such as YouTube and
Facebook – which has replaced e-mail and become an online home for
many. For 2009, however, the unresolved question will be whether
popularity can be converted into a viable – and profitable – business
model, especially in the face of the economic slowdown.
was a concern in 2008 and will continue next year, as malware too
evolved away from traditional e-mail viruses and spyware and into
“Threatscape 2.0” – infections using vulnerabilities in unpatched web
browsers, applications such as Adobe Acrobat and social networks.
often, infected computers are assembled into large networks that are
rented out to circulate spam e-mail – all without the knowledge of the
computers’ owners. At the end of the year, a newly uncovered
vulnerability in Internet Explorer brought about a quick response from
Microsoft. That highlighted the need for users to ensure that they keep
all their software – and not just Windows – patched and up to date.
next year, expect more attacks built around the new generation of “rich
Internet applications” like Adobe Flash and Air, Google Gears and
Coming at you: the lessons of the Barack
Obama campaign‘s effective use of the Internet will be felt as
politicians and marketers in Canada and the United States try to
duplicate its use of online resources for everything from fundraising
to mobilizing volunteers to shaping public opinion. •