More of the same in 2002, but at lower prices

by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in Vancouver,  Issue # 636, January 1-7, 2002, The High Tech Office column

We all have a sort of fetish about the start of the new year; we seem compelled to look back at the old year and look forward to the new. I reviewed 2001 in my last column of that year. (In case you missed it in Issue #634, subscribers can find it, along with other fine content, online at

If you want to know what to expect in 2002 take a look at 2001. In other words:

  • Security concerns will continue. Virus and hacker attacks will especially aim at vulnerabilities built into Microsoft?s e-mail and web server programs. Again, Microsoft will promise to address these concerns and will to release patches for its programs. But most users will be too lax about applying these patches and will remain vulnerable. Take security seriously. Use firewall and anti-virus programs and keep them up to date. Consider replacing those free but insecure Microsoft programs with less-vulnerable alternatives. And above all, stop opening unexpected e-mail attachments! 
  • Privacy concerns will continue. Personal information will continue to flow from our computers to who knows where. And in the post-September 11 enviroment, there will be a continuing tension between desires for privacy and for security
  • Microsoft will continue to reign supreme. Minority tastes will continue to promote alternatives: other office suites such as Corel Word Perfect or Sun?s Star Office. Apple will remain a niche player despite stylish hardware and an advanced operating system. And while Unix-derived operating systems such as Linux will continue their growth in the network server market, they will have minimal impact on the vast numbers of desktop users. 
    And unless there is a big surprise from the court cases still being pursued by several US states and by the European Union, expect that Microsoft will have learned nothing from its inconclusive but drawn out battle with the US Justice Department. Expect the company to put increased pressure on corporate and individual users to sign on to plans that guarantee users regular upgrades while guaranteeing Microsoft a steady cash-flow.
  • Computers will continue to get faster and more powerful. This will put some downward price pressure; expect to find low-end and mid-range models (but still more powerful than what most of us are using today) increasingly affordable. The market for new computers will remain in the doldrums, however, as most business and home users see less need to replace their current hardware than was true in the past. Look for stronger sales in notebook models, as lower prices for these models drop to the point make them increasingly attractive as desktop replacements.
  • One growth area to watch is wireless. But there?s an important ?but?. The buzzword ?wireless? covers a lot of territory, some of which is more hype than substance. Wireless networking, using the 802.11b (WiFi) standard is here now and is an increasingly affordable alternative to traditional Ethernet cabling. Resist temptation to move to new-to-the-market .11a devices, as their faster speed is incompatible with the more established 11b standard. Due out later this year is the .11g standard, combining faster speeds with backwards compatibility. Just remember that faster speed equals a shorter effective range.
?Wireless? also refers to the cell phone network. While digital phones have been, in theory, Internet ready from the beginning, they?re not an ideal tool for viewing web pages or for trying to enter text. Expect some growth, however, in the use of phones and other devices for short messaging.
Proponents of using the cell phone network to exchange digital data have been waiting for the big speed increases promised by 3G, the third generation. In 2002, they?ll still be waiting: we?ll see some modest increases with 2.5G, but no dramatic leaps this year.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan