Memo: 10 January 2000
Throughout the day, on Dec. 31st, I worked in
my office, while watching live television coverage of 2000 sweeping across
the planet. I felt like a world citizen, connected by both what I was
viewing on TV and what I was reading and responding to from emails sent
by colleagues worldwide. I was privileged to witness the following, as
it was happening: a native celebration on a South Sea Island, fireworks
in New Zealand, a reporter making a cash withdrawal shortly after midnight
from an ATM in Australia. The world was safe. On went the coverage through
India, the Middle East, Paris, London, and Times Square. Midnight arrived
here on the East Coast of the US -- the power stayed on and the computers
kept functioning. As our computer dates rolled smoothly over to the year
2000, we toasted each other with a grin and a glass of champagne. Let's
look at what's happened of significance, what's occurring of importance,
then sum it up as to how that will effect us in the year 2000 and beyond.
LOOKING BACKWARD: In 1999, we saw a year where Linux went ballistic, computers got cheap, online disk space got free, and OpenSource got respect. No doubt the coming year will hold equally unexpected surprises. Welcome to the new year, new century, and new millenium...
Here's some of what made 1999 an exciting year and some predictions of what's yet to come: Analysts say investors who rode the wild Internet IPO roller coaster last year may be in for another breathtaking experience in 2000. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 86 percent--its best performance ever. The best-performing tech stock was wireless company Qualcomm, which surged an unbelievable 2,600 percent.
LINUX & OPEN SOURCE: IBM is refocusing its corporate wide Internet software efforts around Linux, an evolving, high-growth market that will give customers the choice of a flexible open environment they've been asking for. The Open Source movement proposes a new, innovative business model. Anyone can contribute new features -- the source code is open for reuse or modification. Companies make money by distributing the best new features and then selling service and support. The concept achieved its first big success in the Linux world, with companies such as Red Hat. Now it is spreading.
INTERNET TAXES: Analysts who've studied the idea of net taxes are not convinced that the states will or have lost revenue from the growing trend of online buying, saying it does not account for the increased revenue that has flowed to every state's treasury during the technological revolution. They point out our economy is stronger as a result of this booming sector, the State and Federal treasuries will continue to grow by virtue of the indirect benefits of the technological boom, and the private sector will grow even faster if the Internet remains tax free. Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, one of the government and industry officials on an Internet policy panel, agreed there should be no taxes on e-commerce -- pointing out that business is good, parking lots were good during holiday shopping, and yet e-commerce is growing.
E-COMMERCE NEWS: The number of visitors to e-commerce sites jumped 27 percent Christmas week, compared with the same week last year. Amazon.com was the most-visited shopping site for the holiday season. Nearly three-quarters of experienced Web buyers ranked Internet shopping the highest in terms of overall satisfaction compared to brick and mortar stores and catalogs. Rapid and responsive customer service is the key. Successful online ventures will be akin to shopkeepers who are passionate about serving their customers the instant they enter the store, striving to keep the business open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not wanting their local and global customers to wait for more than a few seconds when they ask to see an item. These stores will be on the Web and will not replace, but will compliment current brick and mortar businesses, offering the time saving and convenience features driving e-commerce.
MEGA MERGERS: America Online's $350 billion stock deal with Time Warner is the first company put together fueled by the Internet. Capitalizing on the convergence of media, entertainment, and communications, the merger is slated to speed the delivery of media-rich broadband services and drive the growth of advertising and e-commerce. As CEO Steve Case said, "In less than a decade's time, the Internet has revolutionized our economy and our society, but still we are just scratching the surface. We are already seeing an explosion of new technology that is moving the Internet beyond the PC to the television, the telephone, and an array of other connected devices. This merger will launch the next Internet revolution, building on those technological advances and making the most of them."
BROADBAND: The big local phone companies must soon convince the world that they're Internet-savvy. Phone companies have now bet on their new high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) technology, which allows regular phone lines to receive voice calls and high-speed Net transmissions simultaneously. DSL technology is still young and is competing in the "broadband" market with cable Net access. Meanwhile, other broadband providers will shift their focus away from pure access services and more toward broadband applications, such as sending phone calls across the Net and streaming media content.
DISTANCE LEARNING: Online learning is poised to become the new standard. Last century's training techniques just won't make it very far into the next millennium. Driven by demand for cheaper, more interactive courses, online learning will become standard operating procedure in the next few years. 55% of respondents to InformationWeek's survey of 300 IT executives rank distance learning as a key business priority this year. It's the only way to bring new and current employees up to speed on new technologies without spending a lot of time and money in the process.
MOBILE BOOM: More than 219 million people, or one-third of the European population, will access Internet services using mobile phones by 2003, according to Forrester Research. Nearly 120 million Europeans already use mobile phones and they exchange more than 2 billion short text messages each month. Ninety percent of ecommerce executives interviewed for the report, "Europe's Mobile Internet Opens Up", plan to launch sites that will be accessible with mobile phones. These sites will offer news and personalized content and will allow consumers to buy and sell stocks, book holidays and bid at auctions using their mobile phones. Get ready for a wireless world!
VENTURE CAPITAL & IPO's: If this past week's deals are any indication, 2000 will turn out to be yet another blockbuster year in venture capital. Business-to-business Internet commerce and data- networking companies are the focal points of venture capital as funds pour into new Internet companies at a furious pace. The 1999 IPO market was astounding. Hundreds of companies went public, prices soared, and billions were minted faster than you could say "capital gains tax."
Y2K FEARS ASIDE: Wal-Mart picked January 1 to introduce its new and improved Web site to customers, touting not only 600,000 retail items but also an online travel reservation service, a photo center that offers e-mail delivery, and a pharmacy that can refill prescriptions online. In its first 30 minutes online, 15,000 people visited Wal-Mart's new site, more than twice the traffic they anticipated.
COMPUTER CRIMES: A computer hacker stole credit card numbers from an Internet music retailer and posted them on a Web site after the retailer refused to pay a $100,000 ransom. The New York Times reported the hacker claimed to have taken 300,000 card numbers. American Express Co. said today that its online fraud guarantee will protect its customers from responsibility for unauthorized online charges. In general, credit card holders are responsible for only up to $50 of any unauthorized charge. The hacker, a self-described 19-year-old from Russia using the name Maxim, used a Web site called to distribute up to 25,000 of the stolen numbers after he was turned down. The site was quickly shut down.
MSN PC-PLUS: Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and new CEO Steve Ballmore want to send you an e-mail to let you know when your laundry's done, your stock is sold, or your cat needs to see the vet. And he wants to send you that e-mail wherever you happen to be at the time, on whatever device is handy, whether that's your personal computer, handheld organizer, or cell phone. This interconnected world is at the heart of a new strategy at Microsoft. Called "PC-plus" by company insiders, while it's been a year in the making, it's just making its public debut. It has three main areas: giving everyday devices computing power, providing the software to allow those devices to communicate, and investing heavily to help build wireless and high-speed Internet access throughout the world to link it all together.
TECH STRENGTHS: In August, Ty Inc said it would retire their popular line of Beanie Babies, but later announced it would let consumers decide via an online vote whether the company should continue to produce them. The Internet vote saved the bean bag animals from extinction. Now the creator of the plush toy has introduced a new line of slightly larger beanbag animals called Beanie Buddies, and has announced on its Web site a line of pastel-colored, terry cloth toys called Baby Ty. Tech votes count!
INTERNET "THE WORD" There is no doubt that the development and meteoric growth of the Internet will be remembered as one of the main events of the century just ended. 'Internet' has been officially dubbed *the* word of the 20th century, by the compilers of the Webster dictionary in the United States. The Internet is not only changing the way people shop, it's changing the way people do business with one another.
technotouch.net TRENDS: What can we expect to happen in cyberspace in the first year of this new century? Ecommerce will continue to grow at a tremendous pace but will also evolve. Business-to-business (technotouch.net) ecommerce will become far more important in terms of revenue than business-to-consumer (b2c) retailing. Forrester Research predicts that technotouch.net companies will reap ten times more revenue than their b2c counterparts by 2003, while Boston Consulting Group predicts one quarter of all technotouch.net purchases will be made online by then. Ecommerce penetration around the world will triple. Because of the competition, providing excellent customer service to visitors is the only way Internet companies will stay in business.
GLOBAL ONLINE STATS: Over Forty Percent of Australians now online. Over 15 percent, or Nine Million Italians now Online. The number of Chinese people with access to the Internet tripled in 1999, with almost seven million Chinese Internet users. Europe is set to bridge the ecommerce gap with the United States by experiencing ebusiness growth rates of over 100 percent a year for the next three years.
SOHO MARKET: Twenty years ago, the folks who worked for themselves were the odd ones. Today, entrepreneurs look good. Then we had Michael Dell, starting a business in his dorm room and taking it big time. And Bill Gates. And Steve Case. And Jeff Bezos, starting a business in his parents garage and winding up as Time's Man of the Year. It's now become chic to tell folks you work out of your home. The reason for the boom is technology. Personal computers make it possible to run a business with a minimum of staff support. Portable computing, and email, and wireless phones and pagers mean you can work just about anywhere. The web makes it possible to have your marketing materials available all the time while saving money on printing and postage. Hey, we're legit now!
TOP TECHNOLOGY OF CENTURY: Technocopia Inc. has conducted a survey of 248 individuals over a four month period, asking them what they would nominate as the top home technology of the twentieth century. Here are some results. 30% of respondents picked the PC. Television came in second at 22%. The big difference between TV and the PC (besides the active/passive difference) is that TV was easy to use from the get-go while the folks who develop PCs and software begin with the assumption that everyone should be willing to learn to use their system. PCs will have an even greater impact when the technology becomes almost transparent.
AUTOMOTIVE TECH: Ford Motor Co., the company that put the world on wheels powered by gasoline, will soon sell a plastic-bodied hatchback, a golf cart and bicycles - all powered by electricity. The line of electric vehicles, under the brand name Th!nk, will become the company's home for vehicles powered by something other than internal combustion engines. It will not only build vehicles, but act as a research center for Ford. Th!nk, the name of a Norwegian electric car that Ford bought a year ago, will sell its models over the Internet as well as through Ford dealers. As more companies go online to reach customers, General Motors and Ford Motor announced marketing alliances with AOL and Yahoo.
CYBER CRIME: Rolling out details of "LawNet", Attorney General Janet Reno announced that cyberfraud, hacking, and e-kiddyporn -- new crimes that are a menacing side effect of the Internet age -- require creation of a national computer network that would allow law enforcement to swoop across jurisdictions and catch cybercriminals in the act. "LawNet" is an online law enforcement agency that could cross local, state and even international borders with warrants, subpoenas and requests for information, able to work quickly and without red tape.
WIRELESS FUTURES: 3Com Corp., maker of the popular PalmPilot, has developed a way for personal communications to follow you as you travel about. The company is in the process of testing something called Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, which will allow users of Palm organizers to register their identity with devices, such as an Internet phone, allowing communications -- such as phone calls -- to follow them. The announcement underscored a recurring theme at the Consumer Electronics Show, as several companies talked up plans for networking an array of electronic gadgets. Having your phone calls forwarded to wherever you are is part of what's being billed as a "more connected life."
YEAR 2000 PLUSES: Most of us have have money in our pockets, worthwhile goods and services to sell, and relatively minimal problems in making things work for the benefit of ourselves, our customers, our co-workers, and our investors. This will inspire a loosening of the pocketbook strings. We'll buy more, invest more, and initiate projects that were waiting for Y2K to pass by. The economy will heat up again. More jobs will be created, many in high-tech areas, and competitive recruiting will intensify. Get ready for an exciting ride!
PERSONAL +'s: There's nothing as important to me as my family. My son was home for a week between holidays, and we got to spend some wonderful moments together. My Mom was delighted with the little stuffed reindeer I brought to the nursing home. Spent some wonderful phone time with my daughter in CA. The other daughters and partners gathered here to celebrate Christmas and participate in the play Rachel Marie had been planning for months. Trevor James loved sitting at "his computer" in Grammy's office and playing Star Wars.
PROFESSIONAL +'s: Several web sites I designed for clients "went live" with their shopping carts in time for the holidays, and other sites have been nominated in the top 10 in an International Web design contest. A client I presented a Future Trends keynote for gave me a signed bat from Cooperstown as a special thank-you. Another client has placed me on his Board of Directors for an exciting new Internet venture he's brought me on board to help bring to fruition. Work and life are good.
WRAPPING UP: I'm looking around my office at numerous pictures of family and mementoes of clients. I think about what a wonderful time it is to be alive, and how much I have to be thankful for, including my family, my God, my profession, my clients, my Rotary colleagues. All of us will be remembered for the relationships we've made and the memories we leave behind. The traits of perseverance, patience, action, compassion, a sense of urgency in an era of "you snooze, you lose", combined with planned direction, a caring approach, and a sense of humor make it exciting to get up each day and use talents to the best of our abilities. Happy year 2000.
INTERACTIVE: Check out our award-winning web sites - Winning Web Sites Designs. Add your site to our Free Links page. Add your favorite quote to our Quotes page and Submit the Guests you'd invite to a Millennium Dinner. Enjoy our holiday and Music page (you'll even find Rachel's Nutcracker Suite & Trevor's Star Wars on there!)
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