For the first time there?s stability at the top of Hot Topics in print, Business Computer World?s list of the most written-about IT issues in the press.
The number-one slot is still occupied by operating systems, and the year 2000 crisis has held on to second place, albeit some way behind the leader.
Year 2000 issues have been there or thereabouts in the chart for some months. And, as more companies come to recognise the problem and vendors produce solutions, it?s unlikely we?ve seen the last of it.
Back into the chart is Internet banking and commerce. A number of banks and well-known companies have gone online, and the press ? Business Computer World included ? has been quick to analyse the benefits and dangers of Net trading.
A new entry at number four is microprocessors (see page 102), and with Intel again reporting record results and releasing a new chip, it?s hardly surprising that the semiconductor industry is back in the news.
Into the top six again for Internet bandwidth. One or two stories have sparked interest in this topic, chief among them America Online?s problem with users unable to log on.
A further debate has arisen thanks to the increasing demand on total phone bandwidth from Internet users in the US. Some voice callers in California have even had problems getting a dial tone because of the millions of Net users staying online all day.
Finally, intranets have slipped one place to number six. The business press is still obsessed with them, certain that they will be a key technology for companies into the 21st century. Haven?t got one yet? Now is the time to get wired?
Last month?s media frenzy over the future of Apple?s operating system has abated somewhat ? but not completely.
While the focus had been on the nuts and bolts of the failed merger with Be Inc, and the successful one with Steve Jobs? Next, this month it has shifted to more considered analysis of the future for the Mac.
But the press has also taken up the OS story with other companies. Microsoft, principally with NT, and IBM?s OS/2 Warp also get decent billing.
Unfortunately for IBM, OS/2 continues to get a bad press and looks like becoming a real millstone around the company?s neck.
And who should be benefiting from IBM?s demise in the desktop OS war? Microsoft Windows NT, of course. A solid user base, promising upgrade predictions and the ongoing demand for applications which are happiest running under NT, are all conspiring to make it the enterprise OS solution of the future.
Perhaps the saddest thing is that many commentators seem to like OS/2 in principle, but agree that it?s becoming increasingly difficult to swim against the stream. And, as our graph (courtesy of Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group) shows, OS/2 has simply failed to take a decent foothold as a corporate client operating system.
OS/2?s brand manager at IBM, John Albee, predicts that the system can indeed come back from the dead. Suspicion still abounds that the Warp OS has gone into ?maintenance?, that is, development work on the product will stop, although some upgrades and bug fixes will continue to roll out. But Albee envisages Warp becoming the market-leading Internet and intranet server software. Even IBM?s Network Computers may provide a home for the OS under the company?s microkernel strategy.
Microscope 15 January
Sales of Windows 95 into the corporate market were 10 per cent lower than expected in 1996. The IDC figures show that while both Windows 95 and NT grew dramatically, sales of DOS and Windows 3.x continued to hold up. Microsoft owns 63 per cent of the PC operating systems market, while OS/2 dropped off badly.
PC Dealer 22 January
Macworld Expo finished on a high note: at least Apple now has a decent operating system plan, with a strong hand in the Web authoring market and better hopes for compatibility. But Gil Amelio and his fellow Apple managers need to boost the confidence of developers and customers if anything is to come of the recent activity at Apple and Next.
MacWeek 22 January
Office 97 comes in for some flak: IT managers not only have to upgrade the application suite, they have to upgrade all their users to the right operating system (Windows 95 or NT), which in turn means updating their hardware. Even the email servers in the enterprise really should be switched from Unix to NT Server to take advantage of the new Exchange functionality.
Computerworld 23 January
Lotus is to work with Sun Microsystems to make Domino 4.5 (the Notes server) more attuned to Sun?s Solaris operating system. This will strengthen Lotus?s claim that it can provide enterprise-wide and highly resilient groupware, and will mean Notes takes on some of Solaris?s fault-tolerance and availability functionality.
PC Week 27 January
Microsoft watchers are keeping a keen eye on NT. Although the OS doesn?t yet contribute nearly as much as Windows 95 or its application suites to Bill Gates? coffers, revenue from NT is rising rapidly as the business community begins to take it to heart. Sales for NT more than doubled (year-on-year) in the second fiscal quarter of 1997 to 300,000 units.
Infoworld 27 January
OS/2 often seems to be ignored by the press, mainly because IBM doesn?t seem to like talking about it. Some users rave about its ability to unfreeze applications and prevent desktops and networks locking up, something Windows has never done. But lack of sales means it won?t get the upgrade support it probably deserves.
Midrange Systems 27 January
IBM risks losing customers because of the lack of support under OS/2 for Lotus products, including cc:Mail and Domino. The company has announced plans to improve support under the ailing OS for it?s subsidiary?s products, but many users and analysts expect the shift away from OS/2 to Windows NT to continue.
Network Week 29 January
A global survey of 1,400 chief information officers shows that 7-out-of-10 companies see Windows 3.x as their most important client operating system, with only 16 per cent finding merit in OS/2 and just 5 per cent considering Macintosh essential. In the server market, Novell still dominates (it?s used in 68 per cent of companies), with NT a close second at 56 per cent and Unix in third place with 52 per cent.
Australian Financial Review 30 January
Anti-virus specialist McAfee claims it has discovered the first virus capable of infecting the Linux operating system. Called ?Bliss?, it has been spread around users of the OS through games on the Internet. In network Doom, for example, participants must play in administrator mode, which gives the virus a chance to get into the root of the OS.
M2 Presswire 7 February
Microsoft confirms it will definitely not be porting the next version of Windows NT to the PowerPC architecture; another blow for Apple?s hopes of seriously penetrating the corporate market.
Canada Financial Post 8 February
OS/2 continues to gather support from certain business sectors, such as financial services, and countries like Germany, but its future now seems fixed in the Network Computer world. Support for Windows 95 and NT should leave it in a strong position as a Java-enabled server platform.
Computing 13 February
Microprocessors and memory chips have stormed into the chart at number four, boosted largely by the arrival of the MMX Pentium chips from Intel.
MMX has been written about in most publications, from a variety of angles, but there have also been a number of other chip topics ? including the fortunes of Intel rivals AMD (with the K6 chip) and Cyrix, which featured last month.
Intel?s strategy for retaining dominance in the market has been exemplified by the arrival of MMX ? use R&D, marketing and market share muscle to keep all the other manufacturers behind the curve. MMX technology exploits the consumer desire for faster, better multimedia, but more than that, it will push the entry level for processors much higher, much quicker. And when the price premium disappears ? within the year ? Intel?s rivals will be struggling to keep up.
The other major concern of the press has been the fortunes of the specialist multimedia chip manufacturers: if MMX can dispense with graphics and sound chips elsewhere on the motherboard, what are their prospects now?
MMX represents the first major change in Intel chip design since the 386, 10 years ago. Fifty seven new instructions designed to handle multimedia mark it out from the linear progression of previous X86 generations. The performance increase over conventional Pentiums ranges from 7.4 per cent for some standard applications to 500 per cent for programs designed to take full advantage of the new technology.
PC Magazine 21 January
Intel again stunned markets with a superb fourth quarter. But reports suggest that the company is struggling to meet demand, and rivals AMD and Cyrix both had better than expected results as well. MMX may not make the difference Intel is expecting, but it does challenge the advance of its competitors. AMD?s hopes rest on the K6, an MMX-beater yet to be introduced. But challenging Intel?s annual sales of over $20bn will be tough.
Electronic News 26 January
Semiconductor manufacturers are rushing to market with 3D graphics chips to cash in on what may become a key business and consumer technology. Both existing graphics chip manufacturers ? S3, Matrox, ATI, Cirrus ? and the semiconductor big boys ? Intel, Philips, SGS-Thomson ? want to grab a piece of this fast-growing pie.
Electronics Buyer?s News 27 January
Taiwanese chip-set vendors are launching new configurations that support AMD?s K6, despite the fact that yields for the chip from silicon wafer and performance levels have not been released. Intel still dominated the third-party chip-set market, with 85 per cent of unit sales designed for its own Pentiums.
Electronics Buyer?s News 27 January
Intel?s Andrew Grove sees the next generation of chips giving the PC the video processing power to compete realistically with TV. But, unlike TV, the PC is already geared for interactivity. Replacing the TV would substantially boost Intel?s potential market for the chips.
Interactive Daily 31 January
Intel expects specialist multimedia chip manufacturers to be ?pretty bitter? about the arrival of MMX. After all, it was sound and vision from the likes of Creative Technology and Media Logic that gave the Intel-based PC any kind of entertainment value in the first place. When MMX Pentium Pro becomes mainstream, hard business applications will emerge: video over LANs, PCs installed where once there were graphics workstations, and better presentations.
Computer Business Review 1 February
DEC ups the ante in its fight with Intel by slashing the price of Alpha-based PCs and servers and cutting the cost of the super-fast processors to third-party systems builders. The Alpha is generally regarded as the fastest commercial processor, but sales have been stunted by shortages of the more popular varieties of Alpha.
Computergram 7 February
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