IT HAS been a torrid 12 months for the technology industry. Weak demand, rising debts and a general backlash against the overheated market of the previous year has led to bankruptcies, lay-offs and project postponements.
So what are the chances of 2002 heralding a change of fortune? Although much will depend on the recovery of the world economy, there are some likely interesting developments worth mentioning.
In the music industry, several projects will come to fruition that underline the record companies' determination to use the internet as a valuable means of distributing music. All the major labels have formed alliances to enable listeners to download music from their websites.
Most notable is German music and media giant Bertlesmann, allying with Napster, the pioneer of free downloadable music which was pursued through the courts by the record industry. The reformed Napster will charge a subscription for its service.
However, the former Napster model, which allowed users to swap files with each other, enabling the company to claim it never had possession of any recordings, has been copied by others. They, too, are facing litigation, but the fear among record executives is that the viral nature of the internet will mean that illegal file-swapping will never be eliminated.
Nevertheless, the internet offers the music industry the opportunity to completely change its business model with the prospect of MP3, the technology standard for music online, eventually becoming the dominant listening medium. Small wonder the industry is fighting so hard to keep the pirates out.
If only internet users would pay as much attention to 3G, telecoms executives would probably sleep better at nights. Europe's major telcos have invested billions of pounds in licences for 3G, a technology that enables broadband services to be offered on mobile networks. …