Techscape: what in the world is going on?
The state of tech
Opinion What in the world is going on in the tech sector?
I'm a little concerned, and perhaps you are too. Even if you're not, in such a rapidly changing industry, it's worth stopping every now and again to have a look at the overall picture.
So, where have we been and where are we going?
The computing sector was plugging right along in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, albeit almost completely monopolised by IBM and Microsoft. People seemed happy with the way things were going, unaware that just around the corner the invention of the internet would change the world.
The internet brought new competition to the tech sector and leveled the playing field for smaller enterprise. Surprisingly, Microsoft was late off the mark, thinking the internet wouldn't come to much.
The internet also held much promise, and the arrival of email seemed the best invention yet.
The government, who financed the invention of the internet, sought to regulate and maintain some control over and ownership of it, citing national security or a need to police criminal activity.
But society wanted to maintain the independence of the internet, and this struggle still continues today.
With the rise of the internet came ecommerce. Brands like Netscape, Yahoo!, Amazon, Priceline.com and more recently eBay, Salesforce.com and Google emerged. Cisco Systems came out of nowhere, springing up and threatening the supremacy of giant industrial companies.
Then followed an era of rampant consolidations and acquisitions. AOL bought Time-Warner; Steve Case bought one of the world's largest media companies with what was once his little tech start-up, and Cisco Systems acquired hundreds of companies creating founder-billionaires.
It was a wild ride for those in the right place at the right time.
But then came the "Tech Wreck", "Dot-com Debacle", or "Telecom Meltdown". Beginning in March 2000 and continuing for more than five years, the NASDAQ composite lost 78 per cent of its value.
Public sentiment was a matter of wishful thinking: "It'll get better soon; it has to".
How do we account for this implosion? What did we learn, and how can it ensure it never happens again?
If you believe in the adage that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", then we will undoubtedly be experiencing this same fate at some point in the future.
I saw a magazine cover recently, its lead article about the perceived return of the tech sector to health and wealth, which boldly claimed: "Happy Days are Here Again".
I don't buy it.
I think the renewed spending by IT purchasers is temporary, certainly not permanent. This could easily be creating a red herring that, when factored in with the absurd prices being paid again for giants acquiring ants, could ruin everything again. Tech Wreck 2.0?
If you are as apprehensive as I am about what this new-found consolidation means, and what it means to the workforce, middle-management or even tech entrepreneurs when eBay buys Skype; Oracle buys Peoplesoft and Siebel; or when tech giants such as RIM and Nokia are getting sued by small companies claiming they've had their IP ripped-off; then you'll welcome this visit to what can happen when we all lose our heads and forget any kind of common sense.
Because things are crazy right now; a little too crazy.
Bill Robinson may be reached at: [email protected]
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