2004: Review of the Year 2004 – Part III (July-Sept)

30 Dec 2004

How was it for you? Did the green shoots of recovery spring up within your business? Did new technology deliver its promise? Take a roller-coaster ride through the year that was: the highs, the lows and the never-ending e-voting debacle.

Bell Labs, a Lucent subsidiary, rang in with a €69m R&D venture. PricewaterhouseCoopers claimed the European initial public offering market was the healthiest it had been in years.

In Ireland the majority of activity was around communications and internet-based technologies. Barry McSweeney moved from the director of the Joint Research Centre to become Ireland’s first chief science advisor. The Tanáiste said the new role would ensure a “whole of government” approach to promoting science and technology.

Intel enjoyed an 18pc revenue jump while iPod helped Apple to triple its profits. The Government finally delivered on its budget promise and introduced 20pc R&D tax credits.

Vodafone launched its next-generation Mobile Connect Card, the first 3G products and service in Ireland. Meanwhile, O2 did its bit to get a bigger slice of the business market by announcing a new bundled offering with Fujitsu Siemens encouraging small businesses to get a Wi-Fi card and use its burgeoning wireless hotspots.

The Communications Minister said that the 19-town broadband rollout was just the start and pledged to take it up to 61 towns by the end of next year. Almost one in every two software programmes installed in Ireland was illegal, according to a study by the Business Software Alliance.

More European governments are drifting towards Linux, according to an IDC survey. At AIB, 7,500 workers were moved over to Sun’s Java Desktop System.

Xerox signed an all-Ireland services deal with Esat BT worth €6m. Modem hijacking become public enemy No 1 in the never-ending adventures of online security.

A report by security software firm Sophos revealed that 70pc of virus activity in the first half of 2004 could be linked to German teenager Sven Jaschan, the author of the Sasser and Netsky worms.

Gardaí began to automate the penalty point system with a little help from Fujitsu Services while Vodafone and Púca mobilised the Department of Agriculture with a new text messaging system for farm inspectors.

The Higher Education Authority and Science Foundation Ireland announced an investment of up to €20m in a joint initiative aimed at boosting research facilities across Irish universities.

O2 entered into a partnership with Warner and sundry other labels to offer a music download service. Meteor finally got to claim it had nationwide coverage after a roaming agreement to use O2‘s network infrastructure.

The broadband in schools initiative was somewhat undermined when Digital Ireland revealed that schools are largely left to their own devices when it comes to deploying their internal networks. “Trudging through a field to get to the motorway” is how one consultant described it.

Noel Dempsey TD has to fulfil Ahern’s pledges after he was appointed Communications Minister in the Cabinet reshuffle. Also of interest to the tech sector was Mary Hanafin’s appointment as Education Minister and Mary Harney’s move to Health.

In another long-running story, a US federal judge finally gave enterprise software giant Oracle the go-ahead to take over smaller rival PeopleSoft. The OECD higher education report called for greater transparency in appointments to governing bodies but was generally upbeat about Ireland’s third-level institutions.

Just in case we got too carried away, it emerged from a grants conference in the UK that some 4,000 Irish students were going to Britain to do their PhDs.

Ireland may be ‘neutral’ but the US high-tech multinationals keep coming back for more. HP announced it was to establish a €21.4m R&D centre in Leixlip and Dell chose Limerick as the location for its EMEA Enterprise Command Centre.

Microsoft opened an office in Belfast. ESB awarded a three-year €2.3m contract for IT equipment to Dublin-based network integrator LAN Communications.

Damovo got €500k from Iarnród Éireann to implement an interactive voice-response and speech-recognition solution — talking timetables to you and me.

Version 1 Software landed €200k from the Department of Defence for a new IT system. Digiweb announced plans for a WiMax grid that will cover 50pc of the country by early 2005 while Perlico created 30 jobs. UTV launched a new 32-county residential phone service offering free weekend and evening calls. The skills issue came into sharp focus when a survey revealed that half of Irish directors were worried about an IT skills shortage compared to just 2pc in the UK or 8pc in Germany.

Pictured is Barry McSweeney who became Ireland’s first chief scientist in July

By Ian Campbell