Yes, it's holiday time here at the IDG Communications ranch. There's a hammock on the Coromandel with my name on it and nothing is going to stand in my way. Still, it's been an interesting year -- we've had a new government's first tentative steps into the world of IT (R&D tax breaks are on, no they're off, no they're on again) and telecommunications (still waiting on the response to the report from the Inquiry into Telecommunications... should be a goodie). We've survived Y2K (although maybe not the leap year bug) and we don't all have to be in the office listening to the fireworks and excitement on the telly instead of partying with friends and family.
We've seen the launch of the Southern Cross Cable and an upgrade to the country's backbone that should see bandwidth for all this Christmas. On top of that we've had an upsurge in the number of wireless operators in New Zealand, although plans to take Walker Wireless onto the stock exchange didn't come to anything and Radionet's deal with investor Jump Capital fell through. Still, the recent round of bandwidth initiatives, including not-quite-so high speed deals means the user can find a much better connection than simple dial-up. Ihug, Telecom, Telstra-Saturn (well, maybe not Telstra-Saturn -- they can't seem to decide) will offer packages around the $50 to $60 mark that gets you at least twice the speed of the best dial-up.
And hasn't the spectrum auction been a lot of fun? I've enjoyed it immensely, the highs, the lows, the swings, the roundabouts. I found an old Computerworld story from November 1999 quoting Telecommunications Associations (TUANZ) chief executive Ernie Newman saying "We're unconvinced there are adequate rules in place..." which seems fairly accurate. Once the players worked out they could withdraw bids and then bid again at a much lower level, the fun really began. Sadly the government decided to freeze the whole thing until it announces its response to the Inquiry report. Ah well. Something to look forward to in the New Year.
And what a strange year it's been
Especially if you're an American. The presidential election shambles has really only finished off an exciting year for the world's only super power. This year has been brought to you by the letter N and the number minus several thousand. N as in Napster and NASDAQ, both of which were, I have to say, winners on the day.
Napster is a fantastic idea. Cut out the middleman entirely by networking together users all over the globe. As I write this there are 7.95 gigabytes worth of music files available for (ahem) downloading. I myself have 341 files available (including three different versions of Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway as a young man, middle age and then old -- absolutely brilliant) and it has quite revolutionised the music world, if not the world of data itself. IBM is one of many companies interested in the idea of P2P (peer-to-peer) file transfers and aside from the obvious security issues, it could help manage update rollouts a lot better in future.
Oh and it also spells the end of the music industry as we know it. Here's a quote I've stolen of David Zanetti's email signature:
"The growing and dangerous intrusion of this technology" threatens an entire industry's "economic vitality and future security". Sounds nasty. Best of all, this quote is actually from Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Associate of America but he's not talking about Napster, he's talking about VCRs in 1982. That's right, rather than viewing video as a new market Valenti only saw a threat that needed a battery of legal beagles to quash. We know different now, and I'm glad to say Napster could well survive this current round of litigation.
As for the NASDAQ, well! A roller coaster ride of thrills, spills, chills and kills, if I may quote from The Simpsons. April saw the slide begin when the judge ruled in favour of the US Department of Justice's case against Microsoft. Yes, it's a monopoly, ruled the judge (doesn't that seem like aeons ago?) and the next thing you know "dotcom" became a dirty word. And it wasn't just the wannabe companies that faltered, even those with an actual business case found themselves in trouble. Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco all found themselves reeling from the sudden loss of faith in the tech stocks.
What with One thing and Another
FlyingPig, Beauty Direct, Lacey Lee, E-force... it's life, Jim, but not as we know it. John Blackham is taking his e-commerce company, X-sol, to the US. Exo-net told us it was leaving New Zealand to set-up in Singapore, then changed their mind, then got bought by Solution Six. But they won an award in Australia, so that's nice. E-force is history. FlyingPig is a shadow of its former self with its founders moved on and support from its owners dwindling. Recruitment firm Lacey Lee has been bought by Monster.com which brings about visions of Bride of Frankenstein if you ask me. The shake up and shake out looks set to continue next year -- speculation over ihug's future (will it ever find someone to dance with?) continues and questions now have to be asked about Clear Communications and its owner British Telecom. New CEO Peter Kaliaropoulos is a BT man and with his aim to not only make a profit this year but to push sales through the roof and BT's plan to retreat back beyond the
Suez Canal, you have to wonder at the long-term ownership of our second largest telco.
Sadly, this year also brings us the last quote from Trevor Eagle, who passed away earlier this month. Trevor was one of the industry's true characters who could always to be relied on for saying something provocative about government policy, technology in general or pretty much anything else at all. Trevor was one of the original founders of the New Zealand IT industry, working for IBM before founding Prime Computing in 1969. Prime became Eagle Technology and as it grew in stature, so Trevor went on to preside over the IT Association (ITANZ) and was chair of the high tech council. The future just won't be the same without him.