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Technology Bright Spots in 2003

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, January 2, 2003; 11:00 AM

Break out the bubbly. A new year is upon us and the tech sector is hoping it will be a fresh start indeed. Nearly three years after the Internet boom started to crumble, the crash is not over yet. But there are many bright spots on the horizon. I've polished off my crystal ball for a glimpse at some tech trends to watch out for in 2003.

1. WiFi: Not a name for a high-tech game, but a cool technology that allows for high-speed Internet surfing via wireless Local Area Networks. Look for the buzz about WiFi security to continue this year and for the WiFi-Goes-Corporate race to heat up. Microsoft, AT&T and IBM have already thrown their hat in the ring, along with Starbucks and some mom-and-pop shops to give computer geeks another reason to hang out. Look for more WiFi wanna-bes in 2003. Do you doubt that WiFi will match the hype? College kids sure don't, according to this Scripps-McClatchy Western Service piece.

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
New Year's Hacks (washingtonpost.com, Jan 13, 2005)
Apple Goes Budget Friendly (washingtonpost.com, Jan 12, 2005)
Big Blue Opens the Patent Vault (washingtonpost.com, Jan 11, 2005)
An Apple a Day (washingtonpost.com, Jan 10, 2005)
Microsoft Spies a Whole New Market (washingtonpost.com, Jan 7, 2005)
More Past Issues
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2. Web Services: Spiffy names aside, look for more clarity -- and competition -- in the Web services arena. Web services encompass connecting and transferring data to various systems and devices, theoretically with a smoothness so slick, it will be transparent to users. The aim is for Web services to allow people to tap into data anytime and anywhere. Sun Microsystems with its SunOne and Microsoft's .NET initiative are duking it out right now, but look for more companies to market their services into this space.

3. Technology IPOs: Dare I say it? Technology initial public offerings have been as common as rain in the Sahara lately, but there will likely be some light at the end of the dark IPO tunnel this year. Computer disk-drive maker Seagate Technology of Scotts Valley, Calif., started the trend with its $870 million IPO last month, the biggest tech IPO in more than a year. Small Washington wireless software firm InPhonic has plans to go public, and search engine Google is part of the IPO rumor mill. Information technology providers that sell services to the federal government have provided the one bright spot of IPOs (SI International of McLean, Va., is just one recent IPOer). Look to the government-contracting sector for more IPOs this year.

4. Tech-Related Defense Marriages: If you can't beat 'em, join them. That's going to be the continued motto in 2003 with the growing defense sector. Mergers and acquisitions involving IT government contractors will ramp up as companies angle to take advantage of cheap market prices and fat federal government spending in the IT arena. Last month kicked off some big deals in the sector and is a glimpse of more deals to come: Computer Sciences scooped up DynCorp for some $677 million in cash, and Northrop Grumman, followed up its bid to buy TRW with a purchase of Fibersense Technology. General Dynamics announced last month it is plunking down $1.1 billion in cash for the defense business of General Motors Corp.. These deals sound like the halcyon days of the Internet. Bring 'em on. Investment bankers are salivating already.

5. Security, Security and More Security: Closely related to No. 4, Homeland security has been the battle cry of the federal government to bolster the nation's physical and technological borders. The ramping up of homeland security initiatives will equate to some big business for tech companies in 2003. Cybersecurity is a major piece of the homeland security puzzle. Expect some more wrangling between industry and the White House on official guidelines for cybersecurity. A draft was released in September. Regardless of the rules, more companies will be looking at ways to beef up security (or sell their magic potions) to ward off hacker attacks, worms and internal shenanigans.

6. The Spread of Blogs: Blogs and blogging, terminology for online Web sites featuring musings, links and personal rants, will continue to grow. MSNBC and The San Jose Mercury News are just two of the many news organizations that have already embraced blogs as a form of official communication. Look for more corporate blogs and mainstream outlets using the free-for-all, online tools to spread information.

7. Uncle Sam. No. 1 Bill Payer: Over the last two years, more and more tech companies started to steer their marketing and sales efforts toward the federal government (and state and local governments too). This year will be no exception, as Uncle Sam becomes a top customer for many companies. Unlike dot-coms, the feds are known to pay their bills.

8. Telecoms, Take 2: WorldCom has already begun cleaning house under the tutelage of new leader Michael Capellas. WorldCom's board of directors has a clean slate now that the old guard that stood watch during the period when some $9 billion in accounting mishaps occurred is out. The company's new contracts with the federal government are just one glimmer of hope as the mammoth telecom company tries to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. WorldCom isn't the only major telecom that could emerge debt-free in 2003, potentially sparking new life into the embattled sector.

Do you have your own ideas of what this year has in store for all-things technology? Send an e-mail my way and I'll include selected musings in an upcoming Filter. Thanks to reader David Cohen of Cincinnati, Ohio, for sending along his tech trend ideas. A few of his humorous predictions: Wireless virtual pop-ups and Microsoft re-invents the wheel (and gets the usual credit).

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