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.....technobabble .....for the week of December 18, 2000

.....technobabble.....the PC industry is really not in very good shape at all right now, folks. You can see this in a variety of ways. Retailers are reporting slower sales. Stock prices for PC manufacturers have fallen drastically, and have dragged down investors in related firms, including the big chip makers such as Intel and AMD. And certainly, many technology-related companies are being affected beyond the CPU manufacturers. Heck, even good old Microsoft is reporting that operating system sales have slowed, and they too have taken a beating on Wall Street. (Dean Kent provides a great analysis of the market's woes in his latest industry update, incidentally.) This slowdown is really not a big surprise, at least not to me. The big question is whether the changes represent a temporary blip, or a long-term trend.....

.....I am not the sort to jump on "The End Is Nigh" type bandwagons; obviously, I wouldn't keep writing about PCs if I didn't think they had an important future. At the same time, it's becoming clear to more and more in the industry what I discovered years ago: you just do not constantly need the latest and greatest in your PC. While manufacturers would love you to think that replacing your 600 MHz PC with a 900 MHz machine will change your life, for most people it simply will not make all that much of a difference--gamers would be the primary exception, and even there you are often better off spending your money elsewhere. (I discuss this thoroughly in this area of The PC Buyer's Guide.) Considering that most people use their PCs for Internet connectivity, office applications and other similar work, upgrading every year is not really necessary. I guess you could say that PCs have, in some ways, become too fast.....

..... hmm. I guess I haven't even introduced the column yet, or explained what it is, which is pretty poor manners on my part! This column is called .....technobabble and is my opportunity to talk about whatever news or happenings interest me in the world of technology--or beyond. It's much more open-ended and casual than the rest of the site, a place I can relax and just babble about technology, if you will. I describe it in a bit more detail here, though you don't really need to read that page, because you can see what the column is about just by reading it. Really.....

.....speaking of the PC industry .....one of the companies that got waxed on the NASDAQ a couple of weeks ago when it announced less than stellar results was Gateway. I've been a Gateway customer for many years; I bought a tower 486 PC from them back in 1992 that is actually still in use, or at least, parts of it are--it's been upgraded so many times that I think that all remains of the original machine are the case, power supply and floppy drive. :^) My current notebook PC is also a Gateway (I'd build my own but that's not too feasible for notebooks). Anyway, Gateway has spent the last several years opening "Gateway Country Stores", which are essentially showrooms for those of us who prefer a more "hands-on" approach to buying a PC. These showrooms are used for sales only--they don't stock any product or perform service there, for example. Well, it seems the recent poor sales have left them with so much inventory that they are now going to stock some models at their stores to get in on the "instant gratification market", which I found interesting. I also found it curious that Gateway is the only one of the big direct-market PC retailers to open brick-and-mortar stores; it seems to me that either Dell and the others will copy them, or Gateway will end up closing these stores, after a few years have passed. See this CNet article for the full story.....

.....if the PC industry is doing poorly, the online community is doing even worse. I'm sure you've seen the stories in the news about "dot com deathwatches" and stock prices falling 95% in less than a year. And as I discussed on my front page on 12/18/2000, my site has certainly been affected as well: online advertising revenues have plummeted. Of course, none of this comes as too much of a shock--though it's always a surprise when it happens to you, rather than the other guy. :^) Still, if you look at things objectively, the valuations of many online companies had reached truly ridiculous levels over the last two years. I recall hearing mention, on a recent 60 Minutes special on this subject, of a company that after its IPO (initial public offering) had a stock price so high that its company valuation was about a billion dollars, despite having sales of less than a million! What goes up, must come down, I suppose, and I fear we have not seen the worst of it yet.....

.....my alma mater (or one of them anyway) produces a magazine called Technology Review that sometimes has some very interesting articles. In the January/February 2001 edition, they have a piece called The Technology Review Ten, which provides a look forward at a half score of fascinating, emerging new technologies. This includes a look at subjects such as brain-machine interfaces, flexible transistors, biometrics and something called "microfluidics". This article should be considered a must read by anyone interested in technology.....

.....and now, my thoughts on the just concluded U.S. presidential election. My thoughts are that you would appreciate being spared another insightful commentary on the election except to say "Thank goodness it's over".....

.....if you have cable or satellite service, check to see if you get techtv, formerly called ZDtv, and affectionately known as "geektv" by yours truly. The only TV channel I know of that is dedicated to PC and other technology news, tips and assistance, the people on this channel actually, for the most part, really know what they are talking about--a refreshing change from the technology illiteracy of 99% of mainstream reporters on the tube....

.....as the old expression goes, everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. :^) I actually like some variety in my weather, which is why I don't live in southern Florida, for example. But I do think thunderstorms and 55 degrees here in Vermont, while it is snowing in Atlanta, is a bit much. My heart also goes out to the families affected by unusual December tornadoes in the South.....

.....with that, I think I'll call this first issue a wrap. Did you like this column? Hate it? Did I get something totally wrong? Give me your feedback, please!


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