With: Shane Schick, editor-in-chief, IT World Canada; Dave Webb, editor, ComputerWorld Canada; Briony Smith, senior writer, ComputerWorld Canada; Rafael Ruffolo, staff writer, ComputerWorld Canada; Kathleen Lau, senior writer, ComputerWorld Canada; Greg Meckbach, editor, Network World Canada; Jeff Jedras, senior writer, Computer Dealer News
Editor’s note: The text below is a heavily edited version of the round table discussion. It’s accompanied by audio clips which are more comprehensive and, in some cases, address subjects that aren’t in the text.
MICROSOFT, YAHOO!, AND THE FUTURE OF SEARCH
Shane Schick: I think the biggest non-story was Microsoft trying to buy Yahoo, because it was the one deal that was supposed to change everything, even though it probably wouldn’t have changed anything. And now it didn’t happen and so the market is back to where it started with three players focusing on search and one of them that probably isn’t going to last.
Rafael Ruffolo: You can’t forget about Cuil, which also came out.
Schick: Cuil was a search engine that was trying to do things, almost like a box-type format from what I could see. But there were some stories about how it was actually bringing down the Internet by the way it was being run. It was such a drain on resources.
Jeff Jedras: Was that the one that was supposed to kill Google and it came out and it just sucked?
Ruffolo: Yeah, basically.
Jedras: And you didn’t hear anything about it ever again.
Ruffolo: If you tried to search Cuil on the first couple of days of its existence you wouldn’t have found anything of value, so I think it was a failed experiment. But we did hear recently that Google was potentially laying off thousands of people. There seems to be a cycle of boom-and-bust in the tech industry where a company gets very, very large and then they start to go down, or they get too large and lay off thousands of people, but those thousands of people go to other companies and they form start-ups. So we could have five new Googles in five years if these very smart people that are laid off start their own company.
THE STORY OF THE YEAR: HEWLETT-PACKARD BUYS EDS
Webb: I think actually (HP’s purchase of EDS) was probably the biggest story of year, to me.
Briony Smith: Yet again, it’s one of the bigger companies getting swallowed into one of the biggest companies. It’s like fish eating fish eating fish.
Schick: It was a case of HP trying to catch up with IBM. The only way they could do it was by buying a huge services company, and, in terms of predictions for next year, Dell might try that. Because Dell has talked about getting into the enterprise services game, but they don’t have nearly enough people on the ground in order to do it. But there’s not that many EDSes of the world left that I think you can really buy up.
Smith: Do they even have the same kind of confidence and enterprise love? I never really hear that much about Dell being a huge, huge player. Compared to the others, it seems kind of like a pinner.
Dave Webb: Well, Dell, for the most part, has always been about doing what someone else has already been doing. They don’t invest a whole lot in R&D. Instead, they do what somebody else is already doing and do it cheaper and more efficiently. So I think it wouldn’t be a big stretch for (an existing service company) to become competent as a Dell service organization.
Schick: While they have a lot of strength in the enterprise hardware, what they don’t have, really, is anything in regards to software. And that’s one thing that HP really did this year as well: it beefed up a lot of its business intelligence software offerings and its service management offerings, and I’d be interested to see whether Dell would make an acquisition for one of those kinds of companies this year. Dell doesn’t make a lot of acquisitions, I should point out, but I think this could be the year they might give it a try.
THE SUN ALSO RISES
Ruffolo: When I was at a Sun event, I overheard CEO Jonathan Schwartz say that software is really their fastest-growing business, and that’s what they’re the most concerned about as well. But that’s a company that’s struggling, too.
Smith: I remember when I first started working here two years ago, and Shane said, “Yeah, Sun’s had some problems…” And most of the times I’ve heard about it since, it’s always the same.
Schick: Well, the big Sun story to me this year is that they became a database company. They bought MySQL, the biggest open source database organization in the world, which was really weird, because, for the longest time, Sun was such a partner with Oracle, and I don’t know if MySQL and Oracle’s databases really competed, but it was just a bizarre move for Sun to buy that company. And I really don’t know what it is that they’re going to do with that.
Webb: Perversely, if other companies are focussing more on software for their revenue, you can give them a bit of a kick in the slats if you can suck away some market from them by offering stuff open source.
Schick: Do people go for that kind of strategy, though? I wonder sometimes. Like, just because you make something open source I don’t know if that’s really going to change your whole market, or whether your customers will gravitate towards that.
Kathleen Lau: I think what Sun was trying to do is woo users of open source to try and buy their hardware. Because I think one of the issues with Sun is that they have trouble expanding beyond their customer base, so then what they do with open source might help them get some new customers.
NEAT L’IL NETBOOKS Webb: Another big story for me this year was the rise of these netbooks. I think it’s a bona fide category now because, three or four years ago, there wasn’t the volume of applications in the cloud, and a netbook, with the solid-state drive, if you’re loading a ton of applications onto that, it’s useless. It’s meant to work in conjunction with Internet-based applications. And I think now there’s more of a critical mass of online applications that they can be used with. Schick: I think we’re seeing a lot more vendors coming out with more models. Desktops are tapering off, and laptop sales are increasing substantially. When I think back to when we’ve done predictions, the one thing that I think I feel safe in predicting won’t happen, because it still hasn’t happened after predicting it for years, is device convergence. I think there will be several devices, but I don’t know how many there will be, and I don’t know which ones will be predominant.
THE YEAR OF THE TOUCHSCREEN
Ruffalo: I think an interesting story that’s playing out and that’s going to play ou