From Infoworld, suckers:
EVERY CAB DRIVER in Las Vegas grumbled about the poor attendance at November's Comdex. "The economy must be in worse shape than I thought," one driver mused. "Some of these big hotels still have vacancies on the second day of the show." Normally I take whatever a cabbie says straight to the bank. I nodded politely, but didn't share his gloomy outlook. In fact, Comdex was the last bit of evidence I needed that the recovery is truly under way. As always, Comdex 2002 reflected the current state of IT: Starved almost down to the bone, but wiser and tougher for the missed meals. Vendors that made it this far have put customers back in charge, and a crop of affordable, innovative products shows the market's influence.
IT shops of all sizes are hiring again, albeit tentatively, and they're pulling bargains from a pool of motivated, experienced talent. Productivity is skyrocketing as workers sharpen their skills by studying and experimenting. The graybeards are shouldering their share of the load, right alongside the recent college grads who will never take the economy, or the value of hands-on experience, for granted again.
It has not been a pleasant couple of years, but in the long run the fallout from the recession will be beneficial. Some of the changes the recession wrought border on astonishing. Earlier this year, Intel bet its bankroll on a strategy that sharply delineates servers and workstations. But customers, buying to consolidate, are showing a strong preference for flexible hardware. So Intel surprised us with a dual-role Xeon machine that balances the manageability of a server with the performance of a workstation.
The inside sales divisions at IBM and other major vendors have done a lousy job at taking care of midsize accounts. IBM knows that those accounts will be the first to go active when the recovery kicks in. To target that market, IBM marked down key elements of its software product line, restoring simple, one-price licensing for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. IBM has slashed prices for new Unix systems based on the 64-bit Power CPU (hello, Moto?). Now WebSphere, DB2, and pSeries servers are within the reach of customers that could only afford PCs, and they'll be sold by resellers and integrators who serve the midsize business market best.
Surely the brightest spot in this dull economy is Apple Computer. After years of pumping out great-looking niche machines, Apple took the chance that the general market would go for a Unix box if it was done properly.
Apple picked the worst possible time to take the biggest risk imaginable. Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server are unqualified hits on everything from $999 notebooks through entry servers. Developers are climbing onto the platform in droves, as well they should. I can't say it emphatically enough: Apple is a serious player in the broad IT market now. As did the other success stories of this recession, Apple got there by turning to its customers instead of putting the squeeze on them when times got tough.
As IT budgets slowly ramp up, turn to vendors that improved products and strengthened customer relationships during the down economy. But never let suppliers forget: Even in times of plenty, IT is a buyer's market.