Changing the numbers and predicting the future

The editor's wife finally persuaded me to tidy up my office at home. I started on a pile of old magazines and newsletters. But it's funny how you get sidetracked on these projects. Some of those old publications looked too good and interesting to dump. I began leafing through them, re-reading articles I'd forgotten about, although, in many cases, I'd written them.

I'll dwell on just two of those old publications, because they illustrate the incredible growth of the IT industry and its equally incredible dynamic nature.

The first came from 1986. It was a four-page newsletter from the AIIA -- essentially the vendors' local organisation and lobby group. Listed were its members. There were 93 company names. It started with ACI Computer Services and went down to Wordplex. Both are long gone.

For comparison I downloaded the current list of members and began counting. I'd barely got into those beginning with 'E' when I'd reached 93.

Of that original list, four are on the current list in a slightly different format: Australian EDS, now EDS; Burroughs, now Unisys; Computer Sciences of Australia, now CSC Australia; and Rank Xerox, now Fuji Xerox. Just 11 of the original 93 are still around. Of these just nine are still AIIA members today: Apple, Cincom, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Logica, Microsoft, NCR, Storage Technology and Toshiba.

Leaping forward to 1995, I came across a magazine to which I was asked to contribute -- along with 49 other assorted industry figures, analysts and journalists.

Each of us was asked to gaze into the future and describe how the IT industry would look in 2000.

Of the 50 in that lineup just four years ago, only two are still in the same job with the same company: Russell Bate, MD of Sun Microsystems; and Ian Penman, MD of Compaq. There was just a further handful, who are still with the same company but in a different role.

We were all asked to name the top five hardware and software companies that would be around in 2000. I was in good company. I picked IBM, HP, DEC (oops!) and Compaq for the hardware companies. On the software side I said Microsoft, Oracle, Computer Associates, plus two, back in 1995,we'd never heard of. I was in good company. IBM was named by 40 of us and Microsoft by 45.

But it was the answer to another question that really intrigued me. We were asked: "Will the internet play an important role in business?" Of the 50, 42 said yes -- one way or another. I was with this bunch, although I remember I still had reservations about the internet phenomenon at that time. Three hedged their answers, including my current boss, Steve Ireland, then editor of Computerworld. Two said it would be limited, including Ian Penman; and two said an outright no: Chris Kelliher, then MD of Microsoft; and Roy Brady, then MD of Gupta.

The 50th said: "Definitely not." He was then marketing director of Acer and now works for IBM's marketing department. I hope they don't let him get too close to developing Big Blue's marketing plans.

John Costello, editor

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