Where"s the buzz?

Von Chee Sing

When, as a bright-eyed student, I first dipped my toe into the technology industry, I felt like the protagonist in Edgar Allan Poe?s "A Descent Into the Maelstrom". True, I was working in a hive of slick public relations professionals all smoothly handling the highly-anticipated yet manic launch of Microsoft?s Windows 95, codenamed Chicago. But I felt as though I was being dragged and tossed around by a whirling raging torrent.

Coverage in local media was piling up daily (I know, I was in charge of the clippings) and the product was still only at codename stage with official release not due for at least another six months. But I?ll be mightily surprised if Longhorn--now called Vista--generates the same kind of fervor within the local IT media.

I remember the general buzz and industry-wide excitement that any new technology release would bring about. Each would be the next big thing, each having potential to reshape business and offer a clear competitive edge.

It?s odd to think that technology vendors themselves have veered away from such statements of promise and folly. Today?s objectives are more likely to be the more mundane "lower TCO" or "allow firms to focus on core competencies".

What?s happened to that buzz that was felt in anything to do with technology? Enterprises have been burned by overzealous raves about technology?s all-too-often-empty promises. Media have become more realistic and this reflects why technology is written about in a more circumspect manner today.

Emerging technologies simply do not generate the same excitement as before.

Gartner?s hype cycle is almost a given: new technology inevitably rides the up curve to the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" and down into the "Trough of Disillusionment." Then as hype drives the technology to maturity it mounts the "Slope of Enlightenment" until it rests contently at the "Plateau of Productivity".

Since we believe businesses already view technologies following a cycle of hype and eventual return, Nostradamus-style prophecies are rather pointless.

So, should we in the IT media pack our tents? Is there nothing to get excited about anymore? We think not. One phenomenon which intrigues me, but yet to really spark in the media, is the "semantic we.b"

The semantic web is a set of connected applications for data on the Web in such a way as to form a consistent logical web of data or machine-understandable information. The Internet was designed for human-to-human communications but if computers or machines could effectively communicate via the Web without human involvement then a whole new dimension could be applied to today?s applications. Yes I know this is the premise for the "Terminator" movies, but never mind.

Semantic web technologies would boost e-commerce would really deliver on its vision. I could grab my GPRS mobile and punch in "pizza" ?round midnight and an electronic agent--perhaps Google--would zap my pizza preferences to Wong?s Prosperous Pizza (or Lee?s Happy Golden Pizza if Wong?s is closed) in Causeway Bay, resulting in my favorite pie--pepperoni, anchovy and chillies--arriving at my door 30 minutes later.

This would be possible if machines could read information on the web and discern the context of that information. Currently all web information is in HTML which cannot convey context to all necessary parties. No promises on the next big thing. but I think this will make a few waves in the not too distant future.

Back to the present: this month features a technology issue that CIOs struggle to fully understand and even when they do, struggle to implement properly. This month?s cover story highlights the requirements for delivering reusable loosely?coupled services independent from technology.

New this month: "ChannelWatch"--a view into the often-misunderstood world of distributors, resellers and systems integrators. These important middle men between enterprises and the vendors face critical market challenges. How they overcome these challenges will have a bearing on how end-users purchase and acquire their technology.

Elsewhere, we delve into 64-bit computing, another paradigm that promises much to enterprises. The special topic this month is office automation--how document management systems can assist small and large businesses.

As the weather cools down and the maelstroms known as typhoons stop spinning across the South China Sea, we remain bullish on technology. But there are days when we miss the buzz.