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Top ten trends for 2004

Since 1998, Mitchell Levy, a CEO and founder of more than 10 traditional and Internet businesses, has been using the Comdex expo as a venue to make annual predictions of the top ten trends in business/e-commerce. For 2004, he has collected 225 predictions from 80 industry experts, and presents the top ten …

Mitchell Levy, on behalf of CEOnetworking, an executive networking organization he founded with Thomas Hong and Joe Hughes, asked prominent individuals within the business community to comment on what the near-future holds for areas such as e-commerce, security, consolidation, and more. From CEOs to journalists, more than 80 industry experts contributed over 225 predictions relating to the trends Levy has identified as pivotal to the coming year.

Trend 1: Viruses and spam get worse, not better

“The window of opportunity for corporations to apply patches to protect against computer vulnerabilities will continue to shrink as corporations will have to battle more than 3,500 new worms and viruses. The major worms of 2004 will blow right past traditional standalone anti-virus and firewall products and continue to ravage corporate networks.”” – Thomas E. Noonan, Chairman, President, and CEO, Internet Security Systems, Inc.

“”Sadly, in 2004 we will have a so-called “”zero-day”” event – a case where a previously unknown exploit in the form of a virus or worm is unleashed broadly. Until now, all exploits have been based upon a previously disclosed vulnerability.”” – Tony Scott, CTO, IS&S, General Motors Corp.

“”Do-not-spam lists will become more popular than do-not-call lists, thus posing new challenges for all companies on how to use the Internet to reach and communicate with potential customers without offending them.”” – Edward Segal, Author, Getting Your 15 Minutes of Fame

Trend 2: Continued global economic dependency and a backlash against offshore outsourcing

“”Companies will become increasingly dependent upon the global market to achieve best-in-class services and minimize costs. The backlash against offshoring will increase as it becomes a political focus area and unions, politicians, and anti-globalists voice their concerns. As the U.S. presidential campaign heats up and the labor impact of recent large transactions are realized this will cause more outcry against offshoring.”” – Atul Vashistha, President and CEO, neoIt

“”Increased IT offshoring will backfire, especially in the healthcare and financial services verticals, when hidden costs – and bugs – come home to roost.”” – Nicole Kidd, Journalist, Author,

“”The shift of Silicon Valley-based employees to India- or China-based ones is only beginning. The 21st century will be Asian.”” – Patrick LeGranche, Chairman and CEO, Qarbon

Trend 3: Internet telephony continues disrupting the existing players

“”Internet telephony takes off, creating a huge disruptive event for any organization selling communications services by the drop.”” – Mark H Goldstein, CEO, Retail Presents

“”Public-access WLANs are going to be a huge success because cellular carriers are going to dominate this business. Far from being a threat to 3G, PWLANs are essential to the carriers, who need them to augment their data, and even voice, capacity. Look for combined WLAN/cellular handsets in 2004.”” – Craig J. Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group

“”Bill-to-phone solutions will provide significant profit areas for wireless carriers as well as third-party providers, when coupled with the present affordable hybrid devices capable of utilizing premium content such as MP3’s, games, and more.”” – Carol Erickson, CTO, YellowPepper, Inc.

Trend 4: For survival, companies continue to consolidate

“”Companies will merge to survive. Independent companies with small product footprints, marketing budgets, and shallow customer support will fail. Marketing strategy and financial strength will again become causative factors of success.”” – Jeff Karan, Managing Partner, Woodside Capital Partners

“”Supplier consolidation will continue to occur, especially as the number of new companies trying to enter the BPO market are not able to realize client wins soon enough to capitalize on their efforts.”” – Atul Vashistha, President and CEO, neoIt

“”There will be continued consolidation in the search [technology] space: however, this consolidation will generate acquisition opportunities for specialty search engines and search-related technologies.”” – Karen Howe, CEO, Singingfish

Trend 5: WiFi gets bigger

“”WiFi will become widespread worldwide in 2004. We expect homes to reach up to 20 percent penetration for wireless networking. In the office we will see new, rapid adoption now that standards, speeds, and security have advanced sufficiently enough for business-class deployment. For those on the road, we predict over half a million hot spots worldwide by the end of 2004.”” – Patrick Lo, Chairman and CEO, Netgear

“”IM and e-mail by wireless device will cause growth of message volume in the U.S. to accelerate. Wireline growth rates will not go down. This will be added growth.”” – Dave Anderson, CEO, Sendmail, Inc.

“”Free wireless hot spots will increase substantially. This is a no-brainer. Anyone who has blown hours in a Panera or Starbucks will tell you that a cool social ambiance plus free Internet connection is a successful recipe.”” – Daniel Anthony, Director, National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology

Trend 6: Business continues to evolve to the next level

“”Transparency will continue its ascendancy to being the overarching guiding principle for corporate behavior. Every corporate boardroom should have a goldfish bowl sitting in the middle of the table to remind the directors of the increasing scrutiny under which they operate.”” – Don Tapscott, Co-author of The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business

“”As a result of continued media fragmentation, the advent of new media platforms, and accelerated global competition, marketing and advertising functions will come under greater scrutiny to prove their ROI. The Internet, which is arguably the most measurable of all media, will set a new standard for media accountability in 2004. This trend is not a fad: it will continue ad infinitum.”” – Geoffrey Ramsey, CEO and Co-founder, eMarketer

“”In the wake of corporate scandals and a general disgust with greed, the best CEOs will increasingly revolt against the quarterly-earnings, make-that-number game, freeing them to focus on longer-term, deeper issues.”” – Kevin Maney, Technology Columnist

“”Intellectual property law will undergo a major overhaul, with more and more alternatives and extensions to traditional IP protection emerging.”” – Molly E. Holzschlag, Consultant, Molly.Com, Inc.

Trend 7: Some positive IT, economic, and stock market movement

“”The market downturn has pushed companies to become lean and agile. As the upturn begins, unprecedented growth in margins and new corporate agility will make mid-sized and larger companies provide greater returns to shareholders: meanwhile, they will find they can enter new market places and adequately compete with smaller companies and start-ups”” – Bill Widmer, Managing Partner, Diamond Hawk Ventures

“”The IT buying climate – not the entire economy – will improve, and healthy growth (though not necessarily hyper-growth) will return to large parts of the e-business sector, both in consumer and business markets.”” – Philip Lay, Managing Director, TCG Advisors, LLC

“”The tech IPO returns. It won’t be anything like the bubble days, but the long-dormant tech IPO will bust out of its shackles with a few big ones in early 2004, among them Google and”” – Kevin Maney, Technology Columnist

Trend 8: Security remains the number-one IT concern

“”Security finally reaches the boardroom. Boards of directors and top management will be held accountable for business stoppages as a result of information security issues. CIOs will be replaced in the event critical systems are brought down by foreseeable security problems such as failed patch management and worms.”” – Lawrence D. Dietz, Director, North American Enterprise Marketing, Symantec

“”Governments and private sector businesses will be driven by the need for greater security to take authentication beyond the device to authenticating the user as well. The $50 billion identity theft problem of last year will meet its match when PDAs, cell phones, and smart cards standardize on self-contained biometric solutions and cryptography.”” – James E. Biorge, Chairman and CEO, 1steTech

“”Security will get grounded in reality, which includes destroying the myth that everything inside the firewall is safe and everything outside isn’t. Security vendors will uproll their products so that intrusion detection, anti-spam, anti-virus, and personal firewall policy and management will have to be included on every desktop.”” – Greg Bolcer, CTO and Founder, Endeavors Technology, Inc.

Trend 9: Social networking takes off

“”Social computing – the shift from the solitary experience of reading a Web page to the social experience of human interaction, collaborative information sharing, and entertainment online. Blogs meet chat rooms, meet interactive games, meet MUDs, meet computer conferencing.”” – Don Tapscott, Co-author of The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business

“”The cutting edge software of the next generation will look more like a dating service that links people – rather than what we are used to [thinking of] as software”” – Andy Snider, Founder, Advanced Thinkers Forum

“”We will see the first IPO of social network technology companies like LinkedIn, Ryze,, and Friendster. This is the second generation of the online virtual community. This new wave takes advantage of the Internet to build a new social infrastructure. Rather than an egalitarian free-for-all, this is a technology that supports the formation of social networks based upon the premise that you will share contacts and make introductions with people you trust.”” – Mark Resch, CEO, Onomy Labs, Inc.

Trend 10: E-commerce comes back into vogue

“”E-commerce will continue to grow based on wider acceptance, reliability, and security, and that growth will accelerate on a multiplier to economic recovery. E-commerce as a route to market will gain disproportionately to economic recovery.”” – Jeff Drust, VP E-Business, Autodesk, Inc.

“”Like with the railroad industry in the early 20th century, Web-based businesses will emerge again from the ashes of their founding parents to contribute significantly as a channel of distribution for the 21st century economy.”” – Philippe Lavie, President, KeyRoad Enterprises

“”Some of the e-commerce survivors from the bubble will emerge as exciting, viable, profitable, newly public companies. This will drive a new wave of new investment in consumer e-commerce, although rather more tempered than the last time around.”” – Alex Osadzinski, Venture Partner, Trinity Ventures

Mitchell Levy is partner at CEOnetworking and director of the Silicon Valley Executive Business Program. This article was written for the Comdex newspaper, The Daily, which was produced during the Comdex expo in Las Vegas from November 16 to 21 this year.

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