Y2K Fails To Live Up To Its Hype
By Stephen M. Lawton
face it things have gotten downright dull in the tech world since
Armageddon failed to show up on New Year's Day. Last year we had the
Y2K scare, the beginning of the Microsoft trial, the opening rounds
of UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act), stock market
records on a daily basis and, generally speaking, lots of excitement
and drama. Here we are nearing midyear and, well, there's just not too
much going on right now.
On the political front, the Microsoft
story has gone from big news in 1999 to old news. Microsoft recently
suggested slapping its own wrist. Wow, that was high drama. There was
an amusing point to Microsoft's most recent filing, however. When all
of this started, Microsoft spoke passionately about how Internet Explorer
was an integral part of Windows 98. You can't separate the two, said
one Microsoft executive after another. Now, as part of its "punishment"
for being the computer industry equivalent of the Evil Empire, Microsoft
is suggesting that it would offer different versions of its operating
system one with and one without the browser interface. I suppose
the word integrated has a new meaning. Quick, call Websters!
A mildly amusing story recently
noted the loss of notebook computers from the State Department. No organization
is ever completely secure but leaving a notebook with unencrypted
national security secrets laying around that's almost as bad
as taking one home with national security information on it and then
using it to access questionable Web sites over an unsecured phone line.
Wait a sec that's been done too, but not this year.
What we need is something to galvanize
the industry. From a hardware standpoint, all we're getting is faster,
smaller and cheaper, and that's not generating much excitement anymore.
Even the launch of the 1GHz microprocessor has been generally a dud
of a story. Sure, there are some graphics-intensive applications, such
as CAD, that benefit from the blazing speed, but one systems vendor
told me recently that the No. 1 application for the gigahertz-class
machines was get this games. Are you telling me that these
super-fast behemoths are being used for Doom and the like, I asked.
Yes, indeed. It seems that general-purpose business software is still
so far back in the dark ages, it can't even make good use of those ancient
700MHz systems, in many cases.
But we do have some exciting new
products on the horizon. How often do you get the chance not only to
blow up the bad guy on your PlayStation, but also launch real thermonuclear
missiles? The Japanese government warns us that the new PlayStation
2 console (that's PS2 in gamer talk, as opposed to PS/2 in IBM-speak)
is powerful enough to be a military weapon. Now kids have a way to put
it into practice the mayhem they learned.
What we are facing here is a serious
lack of drama and intrigue. We might be forced to look for humor, gratuitous
sex and character assassination in something a little more traditional
you know the November elections.