A Month to Forget

Black January hasn’t even ended but from where I’m sitting, we’re balanced very precariously on the edge of an economic abyss.

Personally, I blame the ‘Slammer’ worm for tipping us over the edge, as news filters out that it wasn’t only the ‘Stars & Stripes’ bank of America that lost its ATM machines. Apparently, Slammer caused havoc over here as well but our own banks aren’t quite as willing to admit to a Server ‘meltdown’; makes the punters nervous you know.

As the stock market loses another £30 billion and continues its relentless collapse towards a singularity, I calculate that the present value of my own technology investments might stretch to a family-size bag of Walkers crisps.

Another two more UK technology companies are on the brink of collapse with friends in senior management ‘laid-off’ suddenly on Monday. Only Rentokil, it seems is defying the market’s slide. Rats are doing rather better than software as a growing business opportunity and Bill Gates told the Economic Forum in Davos, that he saw "no big up-tick" in 2003 and Michael Dell admitted the PC outlook was "OK, but not good".

So having coloured your day with despondency, is there any light at all showing at the end of the tunnel as we close off the first month of 2003?

Broadband is about the only thing I can feel confident about. Broadband Britain is growing quickly and Broadband penetration is acting as a catalyst for further technology demand among consumers, which starts among the shelves of PC World. If Broadband is growing as quickly as government and BT says it is, then there has to be a consequential ‘Pull-through’ effect in other sectors, which quite possibly won’t be seen until mid-year. However, while the accelerating Broadband effect might be enough to ‘jump-start’ a spluttering Nissan Micra, at the current speed of decline, it’s not enough to kick the Jumbo-sized engines of a faltering enterprise computing economy back to life.

What I’ve seen this week is growing evidence of previously ‘solid’ businesses facing the consequence of the ‘Domino effect’, as larger strategic customers default or struggle over payment. The result ripples along the supplier food-chain and the median size IT companies which represent the greater part of the industry in this country, are starting to stall in ever increasing numbers.

You see, there’s a theory doing the rounds and this says, two years ago, the world of big technology ran out of customers and what counts for business today, is simply the result of companies attempting to steal other people’s customers. It’s a law of diminishing returns and if you subscribe to it, then technology could be an increasingly arid and unfriendly place to work in 2003

It's time for government to come up with a cunning plan to stop the slide. Perhaps a foreign war, somewhere warm, is the answer?


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