Slow news season not so slow


Forget the run-up to the Sept. 11 anniversary for a moment: in IT, at least, the amount of actual news has been very scant of late. But look again, and you might notice something rather odd. There’s a barely detectable rumbling underneath the industry’s surface, one that’s almost not worth noticing. Almost.

Lately, it seems the little guys of the IT industry, the bit players, the technologies not often heard from, are making a bit of a comeback.

For starters, take the PC – that stubborn little piece of equipment support staffs love to hate, and that refuses to just be nice and become extinct. Now, keep in mind, this is 2002. We’ve already slain Y2K, we routinely deal with software worth millions of dollars and we’re even seriously talking about quantum computing. So, what did I read the other day? That several IT vendors, including IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. got together and formed a new working group to study and promote methods of improving the PC data-migration experience.

“You should have this (capability) as part of your out-of-the-box experience. When you get a PC, this should be just part of the regular set-up process. That’s our ultimate goal,” said Intel’s ease-of-use initiative manager, Alex Gefrides, the group’s chairperson.

I agree, and this sounds like a worthwhile effort. But is it just me, or is this particular problem hardly new? All the headaches associated with migrating data when it comes time to change PCs are as old as, well, some of your children. And it looks like, even now, it will still take an army of IT’s finest minds to lick them.

Next there’s Corel Corp. When Michael Cowpland finally split after nearly running his baby into the ground, I figured the company would shortly become a small outpost in someone else’s software empire. Well I figured wrong. A few months back, and seemingly out of the blue, the Ottawa company launched a services arm. Sure, it’s not like it’s planning to go head-to-head with IBM Global Services, and one observer at the time called the move a “survival tactic.” Still, it’s pretty gutsy when you consider how crowded the Canadian market already is with services firms.

Then in August the company scored another coup: both Dell and HP announced that they will bundle Corel’s WordPerfect and related products instead of Microsoft Office on some of their new North American PCs.

I’m not saying that Corel will ever put a dent in Microsoft Office, and why would it – that product that works just fine. But it’s good to know that some choice exists for those who want it.

Next came the quiet but unexpected announcement that the SCO brand name is being resurrected from the dead. Linux specialist Caldera International Inc., which bought Santa Cruz Operation in 2001, recently announced it is changing its name to The SCO Group, or simply SCO, pending shareholder approval. SCO UnixWare will also be coming back (Caldera had renamed it Open Unix). For those of you who don’t know, SCO forged a reputation as a provider of Unix on the Intel platform in the 1980s and 90s.

The early buzz on this decision from industry analysts and some still-sore UnixWare users is that it’s too little, too late. Still, no one really knew Caldera, but lots of IT folks know SCO. This is one of those decisions that, from Caldera/SCO’s point-of-view, can’t hurt, might help.

Then there’s the HP e3000 server. HP recently announced that it will stop supporting the server stalwart by October 2003. At the time, few users seemed surprised by the move, although the consensus was that the e3000 was a solid product with an OS that rarely a cause for concern. But the industry hasn’t heard the last from the e3000. this month HP announced it will provide those users that still rely on the platform with faster processors and more software tools to help them make the transition to new equipment.

And then, finally, there was some good news for the IT industry – a sign that the current doldrums can’t last forever. Last month it was revealed that tech companies dominate the top 10 list of Canada’s hottest start-up companies, according to Profit magazine’s annual ranking.

Eight of the top 10 enterprises were in the IT field, and 14 of the total 50 businesses listed were IT-related companies.

Sometimes, as that hoary clich