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Tech wreck fallout dominates the year in IT

THE effects of the tech wreck in April 2000 were still being felt by the world’s IT industry well into 2001. A reduction in investment in the sector, combined with poor consumer confidence and a general tightening of the corporate belts on IT spending, pushed many local tech companies to the wall.

Multinational IT companies announced massive job losses throughout the year. In Perth, home to many small branch offices and solutions providers, staff were shed in the tens rather than the tens of thousands. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, with e-business and B2B applications becoming the next big things, offering companies real cost savings in the way they did business.

January

Employees returning to work in the New Year were greeted with a new version of the Snow White email virus. While previous worm viruses only caused minor irritation to computer users, the W95.MTX virus deleted files and even stopped users from downloading the latest virus updates from the Internet.

February

Wavenet, the Burswood-based developer of wireless cradles for Palm Pilots, signed a lucrative $US3 million deal with US data network firm Motient Corporation.

March

Perth-based PieNetworks reached an agreement with NWP Communi-cations Ltd, the UK’s largest provider of public payphones, to ship 100 Internet kiosks to Britain. The kiosks were installed in service stations, hotels and shopping centres as part of a trial.

April

The Internet Industry Association called on the Federal Government to scrap the datacasting licence auction after three of the original bidders pulled out, leaving just three companies in the race. The IIA was concerned the valuable spectrum would be sold at rock bottom prices after the Federal Government introduced rules restricting the use of the technology, making it less commercially attractive to the bidders.

May

The IT industry’s night of nights, the Yellow Pages Asia Pacific IT & T Awards, honoured small players such as Albany’s iiTowns and local GPS manufacturer Micronics, alongside more established technology firms. adultshop.com won the Interactive Marketing award for the promotion of its Big Boy Briefs product.

June

CHROME Global moves to acquire leading public relations firm PPR in a deal it hopes will add instant cash flow to its web design operations. By October CHROME is in voluntary administration and the acquisition is on hold. WA’s largest ISP, iiNet, moves several of its offices into one location on Adelaide Terrace.

July

The Business Software Association of Australia’s offensive against software piracy and licence breaches comes to a close. The BSAA, representing Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and other software makers, launched a 60-day amnesty to publicise the issue and persuade businesses to update licences and remove pirated software from their systems. “A lot of people don’t understand the liabilities they face and the issues surrounding intellectual property when it comes to software,” BSAA director Andre Pravaz said.

August

The effects of the tech wreck continue, with the number of technology jobs on the Net continuing to drop despite a rise in the number of advertised non-IT positions. The only area to record an increase was hardware systems positions, which rose by 5 per cent.

September

The tragic events of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US are watched by millions of people worldwide. Millions more receive up-to-date vision, audio and text via news websites. Telstra reported call volumes to the US were 40 times higher than normal on the night of the attacks, while Optus said calls on its network were up 70 per cent.

October

With the Federal election set for November 10, Australia’s political parties embrace the web with various degrees of success to get their message across. The ALP scores the first points with its Political Big Brother website, modelled on the popular television program. The Coalition is less than impressed, with Federal Treasurer Peter Costello saying, “I think we should be using the Internet largely as an information tool rather than an entertainment medium”.

November

Sun Microsystems HR guru Crawford Beveridge is invited to Perth to deliver a keynote speech at the Working Visions employment conference. Mr Beveridge told Business News that IT companies should consider alternatives other than mass sackings as they looked to reduce costs. He cited cancelling performance bonuses, reducing travel and decreasing annual leave liability as examples.

December

Optus is the latest technology company to force staff to take annual leave in a bid to cut costs. In a first for the company, about 50 Perth staff will take leave from December 24 until January 12.

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