Issue #189, February 3, 1999  

1999: The Year of Access Computing

By Stephen Lawton

     In the early 1980s, one market research firm proclaimed the "Year of the Color Printer" three years in a row. This was not because of the growth of the technology, but in anticipation of it. One could easily identify the past two years as the Years of the Network Appliance, but not because of anticipation. (In this case, I do not use "Network Appliance" in the same manner of Oracle's Larry Ellison. Rather, I'm referring to any network-attached - or Internet-attached - device that is not necessarily a computer.) So much has happened to advance both the technology and the application of the technology, that such an annual moniker would not be inappropriate. 
     In recognition of this growing trend to access computing rather than process computing, MicroTimes is changing too. Our Mobile Computing and Computing Telephony sections, created just this past year, are merging into one simply called Mobile Computing. Here we will address such issues as PDAs, remote access, smart phones, Internet access tools and other device-oriented Internet issues. Generally speaking, these are the Access Computing devices. 
     Coverage of call centers, communications servers and other infrastructure-oriented computer telephony issues move to the Networking section. The former Desktop Systems section is being shortened to Systems in order to better identify and expand coverage of workstations, notebook computers, peripherals, and trends on the client side of client/server computing.
      If the Internet is the consummate server in the client/server paradigm, what is the corresponding client? That is a question that might well be answered during the next 12 to 24 months. Is it the Web-attached PDA? Maybe it's the notebook/desktop client? Could it be a new technology that has yet to come to market? Whatever it is, you'll learn about how it will impact you and your business here. 
     In the meantime, here are some access computing technologies and issues that we think are going to be standard fare by the end of the year: 
     · PDA Access Devices: PDA users know that keeping their telephone database and calendar in their pockets are useful, but connecting to the Internet to send and receive e-mail, as well as downloading pertinent Web pages, is critical. 
     · Wireless: We anticipate significant growth in the wireless networking market, bolstered by radio antennas small and powerful enough to be built into the PDA and notebook housings. 
     Of course, PDA vendors aren't the only ones looking at this segment. Nokia's 9000 already addresses this market, but the phone, with a $1,000 retail price tag, is still considerably too expensive and too large to dominate the market. It is, however, a step in the right direction. 
     · Voice/Data Networks: For the office, we anticipate wireless networks will begin to make more inroads and loose their identity as a "niche market" player. Although wireless will become more mainstream, it never will bypass wired networks for one very simple reason: convergence. 
     Look for mainstream systems vendors like Compaq and IBM to offer products in this market. Additionally, expect traditional telephony companies to offer more voice over IP (VOIP) services and continue to buy up the smaller VOIP vendors. Merger mania isn't ending - it's just changing. 

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