So what

So what do I read when I open my Saturday newspaper on a Canada Day Monday? That BCE, hands chapped after years of hand wringing over convergence, is henceforth looking to the telephone as its core business.

Looks like all those ultra-hip guys and gals jamming with their favourite instruments via video connections on the Web (and using bandwidth I certainly can’t afford) that Bell used to feature in its commercials will have to buy some really good speaker phones instead. Back to the future, as the saying goes.

They won’t be alone. Because as sure as summer is settling in across the land, a series of news items that landed on my desk recently are highlighting another trend in the IT industry – everything old appears to be new again.

For instance, did you know that Intel is in the Web hosting business? It is – or at least, it was. Intel launched its Intel Online Services (IOS) hosting unit back in the heady days of 1999 after spending US$150 million to build a facility that housed 10,000 servers, three 1.5-megawatt generators and a 5,000-gallon diesel tank to fuel the generators. The company planned to open 12 similar data centres around the world.

Not now. It recently announced it’s shuffling its hosted customers off to other providers and canning the IOS facility. Why? Intel says it wants to re-focus on its chips. So much for that e-business experiment.

Then there’s some odd-timed news from Gartner Inc. that surely had some Mac fans outside dancing with Brazilians. In a recent study, the analyst firm found that Macintosh computers are cheaper to own and run than their PC counterparts. Not just a few cents, moral-victory kind of cheaper, mind you. Make that 36 per cent less expensive. Or to put it another way, an Apple system that costs US$1,114 to support per year would cost US$2,522 in PC dollars.

Granted, I suspect Steve Jobs would have liked to been armed with that data about, oh, 20 years ago. But there you have it – the tried and true Apple, the machine and GUI that pre-dates Windows, is apparently king of the desktops. Again.

While we’re on the topic: remember talk of the so-called thin desktop, the alternative to the fat client we all still know and love? Well, IBM Corp. recently announced it’s working on technology that could allow PCs and servers to access operating systems via IP networks, which could eventually lead to computers devoid of hard drives.

The iBoot technology, which IBM says is still in the research stage, is expected to allow computers to boot up using a number of operating systems from a SCSI over IP (iSCSI) hard drive accessed via a standard network.

IBM says this would support a wider-range of applications than the traditional thin client model, but the underlying idea is similar: ditch the C drive.

Then there’s spam. As long as there’s been e-mail, there’s been someone carping about all the free university diploma and viagra ads that come uninvited into our inboxes. And it appears they’re carping still. Because in the last week alone, several software companies, including Lotus and McAfee, announced tools that let IT staff battle spam from the server, having long since realized that end-users are happy to let their inboxes swell to gigantic proportions. Hey, we survived the rise of the Internet, dodged Y2K but it appears a few email messages still have us stumped.

Finally, there’s our ComputerWorld Canada lead story. Turns out that some of the folks happiest about HP eating Compaq are the old Tandem and Digital users. Bet you haven’t heard those names in awhile. Apparently tired of Compaq mis-management and lack of enterprise focus, customers using those technologies are looking forward to HP taking the reins.

Digital and Tandem, spam and telephones – part of the strange IT news scene of summer 2002.